20 February 2018

An Elegant Tea Garden

Last year the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival added a new tour to the repertoire of events taking place during the festival, the Royal Tea Garden Tour. While there had been a tea garden tour available on select days for several years, this addition, which comes with a fee, doubled the amount of tour time, provided guests with the opportunity to ensure their spot ahead of time, and provided food and beverages. The Royal Tea Garden Tour proved so successful that it has returned to this year’s festival. It proved to be one of my favorite experiences during the festival last year, and I’m hopeful that the minor hiccups have been smoothed out this year. With this year's festival a little more than one week away, let’s take our own tour of the tour and give you an idea of what you’re in for should you decide to partake in this experience.

For starters, the tour starts in the early morning before World Showcase is open. Now, if you are aware of how World Showcase actually works, you’ll know that guests are permitted to walk through the UK pavilion at park opening as it sits along the walkway to International Gateway. However, it is still rather quiet at this time, with other guests not wandering amongst the tour group causing distractions. The tour itself meanders along the garden path behind The Tea Caddy exploring the various tea producing plants that make up the garden. The tour is presented by a Twinings of London representative that is well-versed in the history, craftsmanship, and flavor profiles of all things tea. Black, green, herbal, and white teas, how they are processed and created, are all covered in this tour. In fact, the tour even goes into the history of how tea came to be in bags rather than loose. There is a lot to cover in only a 45 minute tour, but you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn.

As an avid tea drinker, coffee and I aren’t friends, I can credit this tour with turning me on to two of my favorite teas: Earl Grey with Lavender and Buttermint. Aside from Christmastime, these two teas have become my morning and afternoon staples, and it is all thanks to what I learned and sampled on the Royal Tea Garden Tour.

Speaking of samples, the tour may last less than one hour, but you’ll definitely want to make sure you’ve given yourself enough time for the snacks that are available at the end. For starters, you can choose from a variety of flavors for your own hot cup of tea. Paired with this cup are traditional English scones. The scones come in a pair and feature a savory Irish cheddar scone and a sweet scone with raisins. The little snack boxes also come with two accompaniments, clotted cream with jam and an earl grey butter.

This year’s set-up for the food seems to have taken into account the crowding issue that seemed a regular occurrence last year when participating guests had to make their way through The Tea Caddy to collect their to-go boxes and tea, all of which was arranged in one of the smaller rooms of the shop. This year, the tea and scones will be served in the Rose & Crown Dining Room, which feels like a well thought out shift in location.

The only other concern I have from the first version of the Royal Tea Garden Tour was the ability to hear the presenter. Guests were constantly jostling to get closer to our guide as the ambient sounds of the park and distance from the guide all led to participants regularly asking for sections to be repeated or grumblings about not being able to hear. Many tours at Walt Disney World utilize earpieces to ensure everyone has the same experience, and I hope this change is considered for this year’s version of the tour.

It is hard to argue with those who are fine with the free tours provided during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The addition of more time isn’t much of a selling point, nor is the fact that the tour happens during one of the quieter times of the day. I also can’t say that the cup of tea and pair of scones are, on their own, worth the $18.00 cost of the tour. However, when taken as a whole, I think there is a definite value being provided by the Royal Tea Garden Tour. Not feeling rushed, being able to ask all the questions I care to, actually going through much of the history and process of tea making, and having tea and scones at the end, all make this a truly worthwhile excursion in my book and definitely something I will be looking to take part in again this year.

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