My field trip to Secret Garden Tea Company let me cross off a third establishment on my to-do list of afternoon tea. Apologies that this is only the first that I am detailing in words for the High Tea Series.
The occasion was more special than most. The adventure fell on Easter Sunday, making it doubly wonderful to be able to spend it with 6 ladies of the Vancouver Twitterverse and our rep from the maler sex, Jon.
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On the tea
With 8 people in attendance, we were able to sample a good portion of Secret Garden’s sizeable tea menu:
- Secret Garden Secret: vanilla and “secret sweet ingredient” (Jon, Annika)
- Grammy’s Darjeeling (Carol)
- Lavender Earl Grey (Moj, who normally swears by Secret Garden’s Buckingham Palace)
- Jasmine tea with flowers (Jules)
- Creamy Earl Grey (Rachel)
I was drawn to the Dragon’s Tears tea: jasmine leaves with blossoms that were plucked within an hour of sunrise. This tea was the only one that carried a premium price tag on the normal menu ($5.95). For afternoon tea, the extra cost is waived. It therefore made sense to my sometime frugal self to try it that day.
After my first few sips of the Dragon’s Tears, I changed my tune. It was a beautiful, floral, and delicate blend – one that should be enjoyed on its own – but it was overpowered by food that we ate. Besides, it’s more fun in an atmosphere of scones and tea cosies to be able to stir in cream and sugar as you chat with your companions.
Another nice touch was the mismatched china that Secret Garden employs to serve tea and lumps of sugar in. Someone in our group mentioned that the cups are often donated by regulars.
Thanks to Emme’s Easter salute in the form of bunny ears, bunny slippers, and pom-pom tail, our table was treated to a complimentary take-home pouch of Secret Garden’s Spring Blend. As it turns out, the owner also dresses up for Easter and the day’s staff felt like she would have wanted to reward a person with similar fashion sensibilities. Good call, Emme!
On the food
Secret Garden came out with several 3-tiered trays to the delight of all at the table. It was enough for 9, even though we were only charged for 8 spots. We were happy to take the rest home.
As with most tea services in the city, treats vary with the seasons and the whims of the kitchen. Our favourites from the selection we received included the roast beef croissants, the blackberry and almond bread, and the raisin scones (which were the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant setting).
Compared with the other afternoon teas I’ve had this year, Secret Garden excelled in presentation and sweetstuffs, even though the chocolate pumpkin cheesecake was awkward to eat without forks.
They fell a little flat with their bottom tier options, as evidenced by a lack of consumption of the egg salad pinwheels. Bacchus had better savoury offerings; T Room is still the winner for me in terms of overall taste.
Secret Garden’s signature lemon tarts were also a bit controversial — some guests questioned whether the lemon curd was store-bought. We never did confirm with the kitchen. Do any of you know?
Secret Garden impressed everyone with its chintz charm, patient service, and tea selection. Of the three places I’ve been to, it was the most accommodating for large groups, even with frequent fluctuations in RSVPs (note the 17% gratuity that comes with parties of 8 or more).
Another good sign was that the regular tea enthusiasts in our midst only had good things to say about Secret Garden. One such enthusiast is Carol Sill of Cha-Cha-Cha, who sat across from me during our stay. Carol was nice enough to put together a video summary of our tea party on her site, which is embedded below for your convenience:
Secret Garden Tea Company
5559 West Boulevard | Kerrisdale
Comments and photos from our table
Enjoy the visuals and comments that others from our party have already published:
Tea party guests – I want to hear from you. What did you like? What could have been better? Where are your photos? Post a comment below.
Next up: The Fish House at Stanley Park
I had so much fun having tea with this many companions that I may just make future afternoon tea outings into official Tiny Bites events. Rather than organize it as a tweetup or online invite, the next ones will be done offline, in order to minimize fluctuations in attendance as much as possible.
So should you be interested in joining me at the next tea party at the Fish House at Stanley Park, pencilled for the month of June, contact me now so I can keep you in mind when we set things up.
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