The British tradition of afternoon tea in Victoria is tremendously popular with both visitors and locals alike, and the choices offered in this city are indeed plentiful.
Springtime celebrates the season of new life, and nowhere showcases this better than Butchart Gardens, where thousands of flowering bulbs and trees are bursting with color as the gardens awaken from their winter slumber.
The fascinating history of tea at Butchart Gardens started as a token of hospitality to guests. With a warm cup of tea, Jennie Butchart (1866 – 1950) welcomed friends to the lavish flower filled paradise. Small rustic tea houses where one served themselves were scattered around the property, supplied with hot water and tins of tea. Jennie Butchart’s welcoming gesture from many years ago has flourished into an award-winning afternoon tea experience.
Although this incredible experience is now a century too late to be personally served by Jennie, the iconic tradition lives on and is served in the historic home of the Butchart family. Mrs. Ross, Jennie’s granddaughter in law, opened the Benvenuto Tea House in the original family residence in 1946 and guests having been enjoying the tea experience here ever since. The atmosphere today remains warm and welcoming just as though you had been invited to their home for tea.
The cozy tea room has many windows that look out to the gardens, and during the summer months there are tables outside on the large porch in addition to the inside seating.
The time of year will determine what type of tea service you will enjoy. October to March serves high tea and features more plentiful eats and warm, savory pastries. April to the end of September serves afternoon tea consisting of lighter, fresher, and more fruit forward choices.
Chef Travis Hensen and Pastry Chef Keith Tran are the fabulous team that oversee this iconic operation, and take great pride in maintaining the quality and traditions of the restaurant. They strive to use the very best ingredients created with local Vancouver Island products. No matter what the season, there is always one thing you can count on to happen at tea time. A sumptuous layered English trifle arrives minutes after you settle into your chair. This “heaven in a glass”, as is often referred to by guests, may seem like an unusual choice as a starter, however the story behind makes total sense. This is part of the heritage. Jennie Butchart used to serve this treat to her guests and the team want ensure that this charming tradition is kept alive.
The tea platter is made up of three tiers with an abundance of sweet and savory treats. The bottom layer offers homemade sausage rolls as well as a variety of sandwiches such as Cowichan Valley chicken curry, Berryman Farms ham and wild caught B.C. smoked salmon.
The treats reside one level up with delicacies such as strawberry lemon Napolean, peach vanilla pound cake, and a bergamot chocolate truffle. These are carefully placed with love into a white box that is embellished with a gold “The Butchart Gardens” logo.
The top tier showcases the pièce de résistance which is Butchart’s signature candied ginger scone. This famous treat is served with Devon-style cream and homemade preserves. The original recipe for this divine scone was found while researching the archives of the Gardens.
The Gardens culinary team are passionate as well about their loose-leaf teas to be enjoyed with this culinary experience and have sourced a diverse array of tea offerings suitable to please any palate.
Special dietary restrictions including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free can be accommodated with 24 hours’ notice.
This is an afternoon tea experience to remember. How incredibly fitting that the Butchart’s residence, where one enjoys tea, is called “Benvenuto” which is Italian for welcome.
Address: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay