If you fancy a cuppa with a little pomp and circumstance, order the high tea take-away from the Secret Garden Tea Company in Kerrisdale.
After all, if it’s good enough for Camilla Parker-Bowles — she particularly liked their lemon tarts — it’s good enough for Will and Kate.
The Duchess of Cornwall even took her leftover goodies on the flight home after enjoying the Secret Garden’s high tea in 2009, at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
“Camilla had miniature croissants with roast turkey and homemade cranberry relish, mini scones with Devonshire cream and our signature lemon tarts with hand-pressed shortbread crust,” says Kathy Wyder, who started the Secret Garden Tea Company 21 years ago. Co-owner and sister-in-law Erin Wyder came on board in 1999. The Secret Garden recently moved from West Boulevard to West 40th Avenue.
Should Prince William and wife Kate Middleton pop by the Secret Garden this month during their royal visit, they’ll be served Buckingham Palace tea and “all of our best selling items,” Kathy says, laughing. With the exception of bread (Moore’s Bakery in Kerrisdale has a special slicer for tea sandwiches) all baked goods are made from scratch. The tea shop also offers a gluten-free high tea.
Their Buckingham Palace — a blend of several estate teas with Earl Grey (citrusy bergamot and black tea) and jasmine — is second only to Creamy Earl Grey, with a hint of vanilla but no cream. In third place is Secret Garden’s Secret, a fruity black tea and, you guessed it, a secret ingredient.
Serious tea drinkers have a ritual. Anyone brought up in England, including this writer, knows it’s woe betide anyone who serves tea in a mug. Always milk before tea and there’s a reason for this — scalding tea could crack a delicate teacup. (Although some are appalled that anyone would add milk to tea.) The wrong cup would ruin most cuppas. It has to be thin porcelain with a smooth, white surface inside. And again, never a mug.
“I drink Irish breakfast during the day and switch to Earl Grey at night,” says Kathy Wyder. “I watch Midsummer Murders on Netflix and just before they serve tea [in almost every episode] I pause the TV, make a pot of Creamy Earl Grey and drink it with them.”
Meanwhile Erin Wyder sticks to Early Grey, morning, noon and night. Like mother, like daughter, Jordan, her 11-year-old, insists on Early Grey with a vanilla bean cookie every day after school.
In celebration of Prince William and wife Kate Middleton’s royal tour of Canada, the Secret Garden is offering high tea to go, either boxed for travel or complete with china rentals for a picnic in the park. Some customers drop off a thermos and picnic basket the day before an event while others pick up their high tea goodies dressed in hats and fascinators. One “regular” ordered high tea to go for a marriage proposal and tucked the engagement ring amongst the box of delicacies.
Many families enjoy high tea celebrations, from baby showers to birthdays.
“One lady has brought her daughter here since her fourth birthday and this October will mark her 17th birthday,” says Kathy. “Some of our regulars drop by for a cup of tea and scone every day. Our staff knows that Wendy always drinks plum and cottage pear tea. And she always picks a fancy tea cup from our shelf.”
High-tea in the tea room is served at noon, 2:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. every day and reservations are recommended.
“The Red Hat [Society] ladies often come in for high tea, you always know when they’re here,” says Erin. “And there’s plenty of room for the ladies at their new location, which has seating and table service for 75 people. “We grew out of our old location — that could only accommodate 15 customers — a decade ago, when our customers asked for more seating. So we are excited to be in this brand new building.”
Both Kathy and Erin have created a space for people to slow down. Loyal customers — and there are many — tell them the Secret Garden is their oasis, their refuge. They say it’s a place where you put “devices down and pinkies up.”
The new location of the Secret Garden Tea Company is 2138 West 40th Ave.