Tradition. It’s about taking a moment to step out of the present and into the past; it’s about savouring a memory while honouring a legacy. And for The Fairmont, which celebrates its 100th year, it’s important.
To mark the birth of the Fairmont brand, the hotel chain commissioned The Metropolitan Tea Company to craft its 1907 Centennial Tea — a centrepiece to its time-honoured tradition of
“Afternoon Tea.” The exclusive loose-leaf blend trotted the globe, bringing authentic flavours from Sri Lanka, China and India, to arrive in the porcelain cups of the Fairmont’s daily tea service.
John Cordeaux, former executive chef of the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and now director of food and beverage, reminisces about his childhood in England where “taking tea” every afternoon meant the delight of finger-sized sandwiches and the fragrance of his grandmother’s pound cake, fresh from the oven. Cordeaux says the tradition of the tea ceremony is as much about savouring the centuries-old drink as it is about savouring the moment.
“I’m a great believer of slowing down,” he says. “We rush all day, we go from A to Z — these days you’re lucky to get a breakfast at Starbucks. Taking tea is a graceful, relaxing time to converse. There’s an elegance to it.”
And the experience is opulent in itself. The deep ruby drink is presented with a selection of traditional finger sandwiches — cucumber and cream cheese, watercress with egg salad and smoked salmon with dill, to only name a few. Scones, still warm, gently flake as you open them but soften into a creamy, buttery smoothness on the tongue. Something as simple as this, a recipe for scones, encapsulates the Fairmont’s legacy in tradition.
“A lot of these recipes have never been written down,” Cordeaux says, “they’ve just been passed from chef to chef. The scones are a traditional recipe we’ve used for many, many years — I don’t even know how many.”