Enjoying an afternoon tea at the Fairmont Château Frontenac is an immensely popular tourist activity in the stunning city of Quebec. Truth be told, as a Quebecoise, the notion of partaking in this tea ritual never really appealed to me, given that it isn’t a typical part of our French-Canadian culture. My interest in afternoon tea only piqued when I began working as a tour guide and discovered that it was offered as a shore excursion for cruise-ship passengers. Initially, I dismissed it as a mere tourist gimmick – why would visitors want to engage in an activity that isn’t practiced by locals? To me, it was akin to seeking out the best French baguettes in Tokyo; it just didn’t make sense.
In early January, I received an invitation to join some of my fellow tour guide colleagues for Afternoon Tea at Chateau Frontenac. The invitation was extended by JPDL Quebec, a local destination management company and conference organizer that I work with a few times a year. Working for JPDL provides me with the opportunity to try out various activities with groups, such as golf, biking, and – my personal favorite – white water rafting (since I get to partake in the rafting with the group!). Every year, JPDL treats their team of tour guides to a special activity. Instead of hosting a formal Christmas Party, JPDL prefers to give us the chance to experience our own city as tourists and try out something new each year. I absolutely love this concept!
AFTERNOON TEA HISTORY
The celebrated habit of evening tea started in 1840 in England when the seventh Duchess of Bedford grumbled of “having that sinking feeling” around 4pm. At the time it was common to take just two meals daily, breakfast, and supper at around 8 o’clock at night. The seventh Duchess of Bedford started to arrange tea with bread, butter and cake to her room to give her back energy for the rest of the day. Before sufficiently long, she welcomed her companions to appreciate it with her. By the 1880s, evening tea had become a high design occasion served with silver tea kettles, fine linens and teacups, and high quality teas
A Real Foodie Experience in Quebec City
Upon arriving at Chateau Frontenac, we headed down to Place Dufferin, located on the lower level of the hotel. The staff at Chateau Frontenac were incredibly warm and welcoming, providing us with a detailed explanation of how our Afternoon tea would be served. To start off, we were offered a refreshing seasonal glass of kombucha and a selection of fresh fruits. Afterward, we were given the opportunity to choose from an extensive range of high-quality Lot 35 teas, which were complemented by traditional scones served with jam and homemade Devon cream. For my tea selection, I opted for the Grand Bazaar Spice tea, which is a Black Tea originating from Sri Lanka, India, and Kenya. The tea boasts a rich cardamom scent and an intoxicating aroma of cloves and cinnamon, with a touch of citrus from the added orange pieces. It was absolutely delicious! In fact, it reminded me of the mulled wine typically served during Winter Carnival.
Shortly after, our waiters brought out some afternoon tea classics such as cucumber sandwiches, mini-hamburgers, shrimps, and various amuse-bouches. Each bite was bursting with flavor! Just when I thought the service was coming to an end, our waiters surprised us with the Chateau’s signature mignardises. Simply put, WOW! My previous assumptions about the afternoon tea at Chateau Frontenac were completely off-base. I was completely blown away by the entire experience. It was truly enjoyable to indulge in the delicious food and tea, while also feeling like royalty for a moment!
Did you know? The very first tea shipment to arrive in Canada was imported by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1716 and took over a year to show up!
If you’re anything like me, then you’re sure to appreciate the whimsical and colorful tableware used for the afternoon tea service at Chateau Frontenac. It’s reminiscent of something out of Alice in Wonderland! I couldn’t help but admire their custom-made porcelain tea service, which was specially crafted for them in London by William Edwards to commemorate the hotel’s 125th anniversary. If you’re interested, you can find this charming tea service, as well as all of their delicious teas, available for purchase at the Fairmont store. It’s the perfect souvenir to take home and remember your wonderful experience at the Chateau Frontenac.
DID YOU KNOW?
You can make your Afternoon Tea experience even more delightful with a glass of champagne!
About the Chateau Frontenac
The Chateau Frontenac, with its stunning castle-like architecture that calls to mind the grand chateaux of France’s Loire Valley, first opened its doors to guests in 1893 and was immediately recognized as one of the most exceptional hotels in the world. Initially boasting a total of 170 rooms, the Chateau Frontenac has undergone several expansions over the years, including the addition of its main tower. Today, this impressive structure boasts 610 recently restored guest rooms and suites, offering guests a luxurious and unforgettable stay in the heart of Quebec City.
Chateau Frontenac during war time
For over a century, the Château Frontenac has been known for its tea and has helped to build the hotel’s reputation. While many of the events held at the Chateau were festive, what many people don’t realize is that one of the most significant gatherings held there was the meeting of the Western allies during World War II. Quebec City was one of the safest places for the Allies to meet during the war, and it was during this important conference that the Normandy Landing was planned. I like to discuss this historical event during my Quebec City tours because I know that even many locals are unaware of it. It is especially important because thousands of Canadians were involved in the Normandy Landing.
The First Quebec’s Conference
In August of 1943, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the United States President Franklin Roosevelt, and the Canadian Prime Minister William Mackenzie took over the entire premises of the Chateau Frontenac for a war summit known as the “First Quebec Conference,” which included more than 700 diplomats and staff. The second conference was held in mid-September of 1944 and focused on the reconstruction of Europe after the end of the Second World War. Despite the extreme security measures taken during the conferences that greatly interrupted the hotel’s regular routine, the afternoon tea tradition continued with full tea services prepared for 200 guests each day at 4:00. As you can see, the history behind the afternoon tea at the Chateau Frontenac is truly fascinating!
How much does it cost to have the afternoon tea at the Chateau Frontenac?
Teatime at the Chateau Frontenac costs $74 CAD per adult, taxes and service extra. There are special prices for children.
Now that you know all about the afternoon tea at Chateau Frontenac, should you give it a try? Is it a must-do in Quebec City? Is it worth it? Here are my thoughts…
Reasons NOT to book the Afternoon Tea at the Chateau Frontenac
If you are looking for a budget activity or travelling with kids… maybe not….The fare is $74 CAD per person so it might not fit every traveler’s budget. If you are looking for a traditional activity (the one that locals actually do)… than no… the Afternoon tea is not part of the French-Canadian Culture. Sorry.
Reasons why you should book
If you’re searching for a foodie and relaxed activity away from the bustling Old Quebec, then absolutely YES! If you want to indulge yourself and feel like royalty, then YES! Even if you’re not staying at the Chateau for the night but still want to experience the chateau vibe, definitely book it! All in all, I highly recommend this activity. It’s memorable, enjoyable and one-of-a-kind. It’s even tour guide approved!
Afternoon Tea at the Château:
A gourmet break
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac’s Place Dufferin restaurant is the ideal spot for a delightful afternoon break. Indulge in their Afternoon Tea, which features a variety of LOT 35 teas by Metropolitan Tea, a gourmet tower of open sandwiches, freshly baked scones with Devonshire cream and homemade jams, as well as an array of pastries and sweets prepared by their expert pastry chefs.
Will I have the chance to show you around on a Quebec City Tour?
Bonjour! I’m Marie-Pierre Lessard, and I’m a tour guide, blogger, and tour company owner based in Quebec City. It would be my pleasure to show you around this beautiful city and share all of its secrets with you!