Toronto’s best afternoon tea experiences

Toronto’s best afternoon tea experiences

Including classic service, cake-filled makeup cases, teapot cocktails and tea on a train

Monarchist, Bridgerton buff or just loose-leaf enthusiast: one thing everyone can agree on is that afternoon tea is a fabulously lavish way to spend a Sunday. And, while our royal obsession isn’t quite at its 2011 peak, when Kate wed a Windsor, a coronation is as good an excuse as any to get those pinkies up. (Mind you, we think any afternoon is an excellent excuse for bubbly and finger sandwiches.) Here, 14 places offering tea services sure to add some pomp—and maybe even a dollop of circumstance—to your life.

The Drake Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Drake Hotel
The Drake

For an unabashedly funky, non-frou-frou take on this British constitutional, head to Queen West for the Drake’s High Tea and High Tops. A tiered tray of bites is the only thing orthodox about this service. Instead of bone china, expect eclectic oversized enamel teapots. Instead of finicky finger sandwiches, there’ll be bold savouries like a five-bite jerk chicken slider that packs a scotch bonnet punch. A trifecta of sweets—madeleines, sponge cake and a twee yuzu tart—rounds out the filling spread. The tea selection (by Foodpreneur Lab, which also provides a bunch of the condiments) is phenomenal, but those hankering for something stronger can opt for teapot cocktails or bottomless mimosas. Served Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Live music starts at noon. $45 per person. 1150 Queen St. W. 416-531-5042

W Hotel Toronto
Photo courtesy of W Hotel Toronto
W Hotel

This isn’t your dowager aunt’s afternoon tea. On a Netflix scale, it’s more Bake Squad than Bridgerton. A makeup kit opens to reveal trays filled with Keith Pears’s joyously irreverent confections that resemble lipstick, blush, night creams and Jacquemus purses. Don’t be fooled by the kitsch—these fun-sized bites are expertly crafted and served alongside more traditional sweets (the rose-and-lychee macarons are decadent yet feather-light). Those who prefer savoury over sweet will be wowed by fussed-over canapés (the crackle choux stuffed with foie gras and haskap is a delight). Served Thursday to Sunday. $95 per person, minimum two people. 90 Bloor St. E., 416-961-8000

Photo courtesy of Epoch
Epoch at the Ritz-Carlton, Toronto

The Ritz is synonymous with glitz and glamour. When DesignAgency (the Toronto-based firm behind the Drake Hotel and Minami) was hired to update the Ritz-Carlton, they leaned in to the company’s gilded century-long history. Epoch is a space fit for a queen, with antique-mirror insets that cast the room in a golden-hour glow all day long. Even the carafes are gold-rimmed here. The service itself is a classic tower of butter scones, finger sandwiches (cucumber, coronation chicken) and three-bite sweets, like a blood orange and raspberry tartlet. Served Monday to Friday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m, and Saturday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $75 per person. 181 Wellington St. W., 416-585-2500

Photo courtesy of Joni
Park Hyatt Toronto at Joni

Joni’s Tea at the Park is a lavish multi-course affair rather than a tiered one. Although guests are free to choose from more than a dozen different teas, a suggested pairing for each sweet and savoury course is provided. Nibbles start with delicate canapés, which include teeny shrimp rolls and squash tarts. A mango-turmeric gelée cleanses the palate before a half-dozen desserts (and a refreshed teapot) descend upon the table. Served Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. $188 for two. 4 Avenue Rd., 647-948-3130

Dbar Toronto
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Toronto
Four Seasons at D-Bar

At D-Bar, this very British tradition gets a soupçon of French flair courtesy of Daniel Boulud. The menu changes seasonally, but guests can expect a three-tiered tray that starts with small but satisfying savouries, including a très mignon lobster roll. There’s no trace of the Norman victory when it comes to the English scone and hot crossed bun tier, but the Four Seasons’ sweet finale brings guests back through the Chunnel to modern-day Paris. Pastry sous chef Kevin Levionnois’s petits fours are exquisite—all French in construction but bursting with bold tropical flavours like guava, coconut, mango and calamansi. And no fête would be complete without bubbles: both Perrier-Jouët and Moët & Chandon are available by the glass. Served Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $95 per person. 60 Yorkville Ave., 416-964-0411

Photo by Rick O'Brien
Clockwork at the Fairmont Royal York

With its sepia-hued lighting and railcar-inspired banquette seating, Clockwork transports guests back to the golden age of train travel. (A pianist playing Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” helps complete the illusion.) Although there are no windows to gaze out of, there’s plenty of eye candy to distract. Even the crockery is regal: stunning Japanese bone china rimmed with gold. Service begins with a pot of Lot 35 loose-leaf tea—there are nearly a dozen teas to choose from, although the creamy Earl Grey is particularly heavenly. House-baked scones are followed by the pièce de résistance: a cubist tea tray decked with delights. Highlights include Fogo Island shrimp quiche, citrus-thyme duck confit served on a tiddly croissant, and a sachertorte amuse bouche that’ll have you hankering for an even bigger one despite being very, very full. Served Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. $80 per person. 100 Front St. W., 416-368-2511

Photo courtesy of Kitten and the Bear
The Kitten and the Bear

The Kitten and the Bear will deliver its goodies—including afternoon tea—straight to your door. Somehow, owners Sophie Kaftal and Bobby Zielinski have managed to package their special brand of dainty enchantment in a box. Their Afternoon Tea for One comes with one of their oh-so-flaky buttermilk scones, but that’s just one of many delights. Also inside: pristine finger sandwiches (the smoked salmon with preserved lemon and herbs is a standout), a slice of buttercream-slathered tea cake and seasonal sweets like a lilac shortbread cookie. For the true British experience, pay a bit extra for some UK-imported clotted cream. Available Friday to Sunday. $29.50 (delivery extra). 1414 Dundas St. W., 647-926-9711

Photo by Renée Suen

While afternoon tea in a massive shopping mall may not be up to Marie Antoinette’s standards, it doesn’t mean Ladurée’s tea isn’t let-them-eat-cake fancy. This Parisian patisserie—done up in a Wes Anderson palette of pastel pink and turquoise and decked out with a crystal chandelier—delivers some serious energy. The brand’s afternoon tea may be decidedly un-English, but it’s also decadent—especially the dessert portion. An order comes with an embarrassment of sweet treats, including macarons, freshly baked madeleines, financiers and petits fours. It’s all served with coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Available every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $55 per person. Yorkdale Shopping Centre, 3401 Dufferin St., 416-629-2391

After Tea Queen Shop

This twee 10-table tea shop is tucked inside a strip mall, its entrance nearly hidden by a Longo’s. With its floral-printed wallpaper and mismatched wall-mounted porcelain plates, the cozy space feels more Notting Hill than Thornhill. The gold-framed painting of the Queen Mum and the antiques strewn about complete the Victorian look. Tea is served in vintage English china and comes with the traditional nibbles: scones, macarons, cucumber and egg salad sandwiches. It’s by-the-book British afternoon tea, and in this case, that is a very good thing. Served every day except Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $35 to $48 per person. 7355 Bayview Ave., Thornhill, 647-627-8580

Photo courtesy of Shangri-La Toronto
Shangri-La Toronto

Inspired by Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza, this avant-garde tea service aims to delight (and occasionally trick) the senses. Even before a drop is poured, the Shangri La’s lobby—with koi fish swimming in the floor and an enormous fireplace over which Rhianna’s canary-yellow Met Gala gown is displayed—removes those who enter it from reality. The first plate to hit the table surprises: what looks like a sweet amuse bouche is in fact savoury—a poppyseed and brown butter madeleine topped with a red pepper gelée. Next, a tiered tray of scones, canapés and cubist petits gateaux descends upon the table. (Guests can challenge their palates by trying to guess which fruits and spices were used to create these bijou boxes.) The entire whimsical affair is bookended by a dish (raspberry gelée and lemon-vanilla madeleine) that looks identical to the opening act but delivers on expectations—it’s food theatre at its best. Also included is a complimentary glass of sparkling or a select mocktail as well as a chance to win free tickets to Kooza. Concept changes June 18. Served Thursday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. $98 per person. 188 University Ave., 647-788-8888

Photo courtesy of St. Regis Toronto
Astor Lounge at the St. Regis Hotel

The St. Regis isn’t shy when it comes to pomp. Here, even Monday evenings kick off with champagne sabrage, but the weekends are when the hotel doubles down on its American aristocratic traditions with a thematic afternoon tea service. The hotel’s themed tea this spring celebrates all things Toronto. Each Lilliputian bite is inspired by a different neighbourhood: Yorkville (a pat of foie on brioche), Little Italy (fluffy focaccia topped with mozzarella and fresh truffles), East Chinatown (raspberry-and-lychee tart) and the Distillery (whiskey-chocolate profiterole). And that’s but a third of the city’s pockets represented in this edible delight for the urbanist. If a flute of André Clouet or Louis Roederer doesn’t tempt, guests who still want to splurge can switch out the included pot of Sloane tea for a rare pu’erh, a type of fermented tea that’s left to age somewhat like fine wine. One of the teas on offer was harvested in 1980 and will add a casual $125 to the bill. Concept changes in July. Served Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. $95 per person. 325 Bay St., 416-306-5800

Casa Loma
Photo by Edwin Luk, SVPhotography
Casa Loma

Nothing says grandeur quite like a Gothic Revival mansion. Or at least that’s what financier Henry Pellatt thought in 1911, when he began construction on his never-to-be-completed-yet-still-incredibly-ostentatious Toronto estate. This Mother’s Day, make like an upper-crust Edwardian—blissfully unaware of the depression about to wipe out your fortune—and enjoy a tea service in the castle’s Library, Conservatory, Oak or Billiard Rooms (insert Clue joke here). Expect a traditional British spread of scones, finger sandwiches (smoked salmon, egg salad, cucumber, coronation chicken) and miniature sweets, including a mini Eton mess. Served on May 13 and 14, three seatings per day. $75 per person. 1 Austin Terrace, 416-923-1171

Photo courtesy of Reid's Distillery
Reid’s Distillery

If, on first blush, a former CrossFit gym turned distillery doesn’t sound like a place to take tea, banish your preconceptions. Reid’s strikes a balance between industrial chic and British pub elegance. Think copper pot stills juxtaposed by tufted velvet sofas and lush tropical plants. Their afternoon tea service features food from Daniel et Daniel (scones, finger sandwiches, two-bite quiches, miniature sweets), Pluck teas and teapots full of cocktails made with Reid’s house-distilled gin. Served every day at noon and 3:30 p.m. $45 per person, cocktail teapots extra. 32 Logan Ave., 416-465-4444

Tea on a train

All aboard! Take in the lush greenery as this historic coach winds its way through the Oak Ridges Moraine. Service includes a three-tiered spread of scones, pastries and finger sandwiches. The 90-minute experience, which departs from Uxbridge, is run by the York-Durham Heritage Railway Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving trains and promoting railway heritage. Served on select days in May at 11:30 a.m. $90 per person. Uxbridge Train Station, 19 Railway Street, Uxbridge, 905-852-3696