Maybe you already high tea annually during the holidays, or maybe you’re eager to try out this tradition. Either way, these spots offer both classic favorites and innovative twists that make for a festive — and filling! — holiday experience. Read on to find out where to enjoy holiday high tea in the Pacific Northwest.
The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia
Seeking a side of glamour and grandeur with your tea? This is the place. Right smack in the middle of downtown, with a view of Vancouver’s skyline, the Fairmont’s Nutcracker Tea (December 20 + 21; $64 per person, $27 for children) includes delicate honey yogurt panna cotta, curried chicken finger sandwiches, crab cakes, and a live pianist playing favorites from the score of the ballet. And while you enjoy a glass of port, Prosecco, or wine, kids are treated to the Prince or Princess tea service with bubblegum tea, scones, and Black Forest ham and cheddar sandwiches — all in a building that genuinely looks like a castle. Someone cue the sugarplum fairies!
Neverland Tea Salon, Vancouver, British Columbia
Neverland’s whole vibe is about whimsy, accessibility, and excellence. Accordingly, the High Tea service respects some traditions (the tea tower, small portions) and upends others (servers wear jeans and t-shirts and sport a relaxed attitude). Also central to the Neverland experience: food worth eating. “We’re not a place where the ambiance outshines what’s being served,” co-owner Terri Tatchell says. “Our food is actually worth indulging in.” To that end, the Holiday High Tea (offered through December 31, at $38 per person) features flank steak on focaccia with green peppercorn aioli, an insane macadamia and salted caramel brownie, and gooey sticky toffee bread pudding with brandied caramel sauce. Pots of tea are never-ending, and Neverland takes gluten- and dairy-free options seriously. In fact, the special order towers so closely resemble the standard ones that customers often think their requests haven’t been honored. “We want those with special needs to enjoy the full Neverland experience,” explains Tatchell. So while the ingredients have been tweaked, the taste is just as dreamy.
The Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
Here, the setting’s the thing. There are 55 acres of lush gardens, plus the dining room is located in the Butchart family’s Craftsman-style former residence. Admission tickets to the garden are required for tea, but they’re worth it because they grant access to ice skating, strolling carolers, and a proper carousel. The traditional High Tea (served through December 22; $33.75 per person) features classics including egg salad sandwiches with watercress and Cornish pastry. But it’s the Flavours of Christmas High Tea from December 22-27 ($39.50 per person, $18.95 for children) that really screams happy holidays. Heavy on regionally sourced items such as Salt Spring Island goat cheese brioche and a Dungeness crab salad sandwich, the festive high tea can also be paired with wines from three Vancouver Island wineries to make it a hyper-local experience. Pro tip: Make a late afternoon reservation for tea, but arrive early. That way, you get to appreciate the garden during daylight hours and also see it dressed up at night.
The Salish Lodge & Spa, Snoqualmie, Washington
Thirty minutes from downtown Seattle and overlooking the stunning Snoqualmie waterfalls in the Cascade mountains, the Salish Lodge offers a holiday tea with a view (Saturdays and Sundays through December 20 and daily December 26-30; $39 per person, $18 for children). There’s also a lot of honey. Thanks to the property’s four-hive, 120,000 honey bee apiary, the lodge features its own honey in its spa treatments and on the Holiday Tea menu in the roast beef sandwich served with honey ale spread, the honey-cured salmon, and the Salish honey bee cookie. Not to be missed is the honey butter that’s served alongside bread and (should you decide to stay the night) the Honey From Heaven, where servers brandish honey dippers high above your plate of fresh breakfast biscuits and somehow drizzle on a perfect amount.
The Heathman Restaurant, Portland, Oregon
During the month of December, the Heathman serves up 8,000 tea services (at $32 per person, $14 for children) — some to multi-generational families that have been coming for years, others to fans of E.L. James’ novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which was set in part at the Heathman hotel. And though the Tea Court’s eucalyptus wood paneling, crystal chandelier, and 35-foot Christmas tree might seem straight up old school, the 14-item tea tower is sprinkled with international influences such as Machu Picchu chocolate mousse and Maui banana bread. Still, the classics are favorites. “Items like deviled eggs and chicken salad aren’t everywhere anymore,” explains Randy Noia, the Heathman’s general manager. “So, people are overjoyed to come across them, especially when they’re done to today’s standards.” And since kids who dig salmon hash are rare, there’s also the Peter Rabbit Tea for Little Sippers ($14 per child), which features peanut butter and jelly pinwheels, carrot sticks and ranch dip, and cheddar cheese blocks. Most importantly: everyone gets fresh marshmallows rolled in powdered sugar. Bet Christian and Anastasia loved those.
Audrey D. Brashich covers pop culture and lifestyle issues for outlets including Yahoo, The Washington Post and The Vancouver Sun. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyBrashich.