Deb's Top 5 Favourite Afternoon Tea Places in Toronto!
Afternoon tea is my favourite thing in the entire world. Since the very first afternoon tea I went to back in 2010 during my food blogging days, I've been noshing on cream, jam and scones, nibbling on petit fours, and, for lack of a better term, stuffing my face with tea savouries and finger sandwiches! While my tea and travel loving heart has taken me to the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa and overseas to Whittard Chelsea and the Dorchester in London, England, my food blogging and photography has always had its roots right here in Toronto and I have had many an afternoon tea here in the city! On the heels of Dessert by Deb's Afternoon Tea Collection launch, I am sharing my top 5 favourite places in Toronto (with one that's a wee bit outside of the Toronto) to have afternoon tea!
The Fairmont hotel franchise is renowned around the world for its world-class afternoon and high tea experiences and lucky for us here in the city, The Fairmont Royal York serves an impeccable afternoon tea spread. Served in their quaint and lush Library Bar, their afternoon tea menu changes periodically throughout the year, usually with the seasons and every so often there are special themed ones, such as the special Royal Wedding tea they served in honour of Prince Harry and Meghan's nuptials in 2018!
Why do I love afternoon tea at the Fairmont? The atmosphere is so relaxing, peaceful, and comfortable and the structure of their menu is as classic as they come. You get equal savouries and sweets, which is great for those who truly want a balanced afternoon tea experience (some places may lean a little heavier on the sweets, for example) and their scones are super soft and fluffy, which is a must! No dense hockey puck scones! (How stereotypically Canadian of me to throw hockey into the conversation, ha).
What sets them apart though is the inventiveness of their food. Even though the structure of the menu is very classic and traditional, they mix it up by having 5 different styles of tea sandwiches and 5 different styles of desserts. For example, you'd find a mini croissant sandwich, a savoury tart, an open faced savoury, and so, and with the desserts it's a great mix of cakes, cookies, and patisserie style sweets. In recent years they have also freshened up their tea selection with a carefully curated collection called Lot 35. I'm smitten with their Bohemian Raspberry! Afternoon tea at The Fairmont is classic elegance with a delicious twist.
Come here if you're looking for: a classic afternoon tea with the best well-rounded menu with great variety in an elegant environment. $55/person.
Ah, the Shangri-La, the epitome luxurious elegance! In the heart of the downtown core in Toronto, sandwiched between the financial, shopping, and art districts, the Shangri-La Hotel hosts afternoon tea daily in their lobby lounge which oozes contemporary flair. Their menu consistently changes and is almost always themed. I've personally had their Chinese New Year afternoon tea, their Italian themed tea, and their Red Carpet themed tea in honour of our annual TIFF festival (Toronto International Film Festival). They've done chocolate teas, Easter and garden/botanical themes, and many more, so if you're looking for something a little out of their ordinary, the Shangri-La is always on deck with something unique and luxurious!
And I do mean luxurious. Afternoon tea at the Shangri-La is NOT for the faint of heart! Let's put it this way, it's fancy pants (it varies depending on the style of tea and prices have definitely gone up over time; it could be anywhere from $60-$80/person currently) and it is pricier than many other afternoon tea establishments. Given the price tag, I do love the Shangri-La for the EXPERIENCE and fantastic food. They do a fabulous job with the quality of their food and presentation and I've enjoyed all the ones I've done in the past.
Come here if you're looking for: unique themed afternoon tea menus with a contemporary twist, and a posh atmosphere in the heart of the city. Price varies, call the Shangri-La to inquire about the current menu's pricing!
Do you love scones and jam? Excellent! Kitten and the Bear, located west of the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood, is your haven for all things cream tea! I've been going for their iconic and signature buttermilk scones, devon cream, and rainbow of jams since 2014 and while some things have changed (once located on Queen West in the Parkdale for starters!), their tea and jam service is what afternoon tea lovers flock to time and time again.
Jam and preserves is what Kitten and the Bear is famous for. With a number of different collections and ranges that change seasonally, their jams focus on fresh local fruits right here in Ontario. I've had the pleasure of having over a dozen in the many years I've been coming here including Blood Orange and Passionfruit; Meyer Lemon and French Blue Lavender; Banana, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean; Peach and Orange Blossom; and my personal favourite: Damson Plum and Earl Grey! Now, if you'll look at the picture up top, you will see that their scones are quite tall. How you make the most of the cream and jam: cut the scone in half crosswise (like burger bun). If you can, carefully cut each half in half again. This way you maximize your surface area for the devon cream and jams!
Their jam and cream tea service is made that much more lovely with their bright and airy, quaint and dainty ambience and atmosphere, with pastels, muted colours, and delicate teacups, china, and vintage wares adorning their space.
Come here if you're looking for: a tried and true cream tea, scrumptious, giant buttermilk scones to sink your teeth into, and a plethora of jams to slather on those scones! $24.50/person.
If I had to give everyone here just ONE afternoon tea recommendation that I feel would work for just about anyone, it would be T-Buds! T-Buds ticks the boxes for everything you could want in a great afternoon tea: fabulous tea sandwiches (my personal favourite!), delicious scones, desserts (which I will elaborate on below), relaxing, casual atmosphere, and above all else, AFFORDABILITY. I have so many friends and online tea lovers who ask me where they should go for afternoon tea here in Toronto that won't break the bank but that will still give them a great teatime experience with all the bells and whistles of the 3-tiered stand and I always, always recommend T-Buds because it truly is the place that works for everyone.
Located in uptown Toronto in the Yonge-Lawrence neighbourhood, T-Buds is one of the best places in the city for afternoon tea not only because of its affordability but also for their menu selection. They do cream tea. They do the full 3-tiered stand with savouries, scones, and sweets. They do a savoury tea with just the sandwiches and scones (MY PICK!). They do a full blown CHOCOLATE TEA! The variety is second to none and their tea menu is one of the largest out of the afternoon tea places in the city. I typically get a pot of milk oolong or their black ginger peach, but there are at least over 30 others others to choose from.
My personal preference is the savoury tea, followed by the chocolate afternoon tea for those with a sweet tooth simply because I feel this particular set menu is even more bang for your buck than the regular tea set with more food and out of the ordinary sweets.
The staff here is so nice and so sweet and every experience here is a fun and positive one.
Come here if you're looking for: affordability, menu options and selection for different tastes and appetites, and delicious food in a casual atmosphere. Price points vary based on tea set! $20-$34/person.
For those who are afternoon tea lovers and diehards, you are willing to travel for it and I'm right there with you! Luckily, The Old Curiosity Tea Shop, located in Markham, is just outside of the 416 Toronto - slightly further for those in the downtown area but not far at all for those who are from north Scarborough and if you're a happy visitor to Toronto, the drive is very much doable. No matter where you're from, having afternoon tea at The Old Curiosity Tea Shop is WORTH IT.
In addition to its location in a quaint, historic area of Markham with teapots and beautiful china and linens adorning the tearoom in every corner, it is unlike any other afternoon tea venue simply because of its bread and butter focus: British and Victorian style tea! Adam, the owner, is adamant about keeping the menu very British in look and feel. You'll find the afternoon tea classics such as currant scones with devon cream, cucumber cream cheese finger sandwiches, and the most delectable shortbread cookies and sweets; their empire cookies are incredible. Their tea selection is also very vast with some special in-house blends that are special just to the tearoom. My personal pick is a ginger Earl Grey!
The great thing about The Old Curiosity Tea Shop is their consistency and their comfort food style. You can have their tiered stand afternoon tea, or you can have a cream tea of scones, cream, jam and tea alongside a heartier warm meal, like steak and kidney pie, shepherd's pie with baked beans, and other Victorian and British style fare.
The icing on the cake? (Or maybe the cream on the scone?) The Old Curiosity Tea Shop carries a selection of Dessert by Deb's tea stationery and gift products! Make a day trip here if you're from the city for a heartwarming, memorable afternoon tea experience.
Come here if you're looking for: classic British and Victorian style afternoon tea in a dainty, homey, and relaxing atmosphere, and affordability. $25/person.