One of the bonuses to visiting Walt Disney World so often is I can take the time to enjoy the many “extras” that exist on property that if you need to be running from one park to the next, or from one Fastpass to the next which is probably most accurate, you might not want to take advantage of. The tours WDW offers (and there are a lot!) are some of my favorite extras. I don’t do them as often as I would like but when I have the time, they are some of my favorite memories.
The Royal Tea Garden Tour is a relatively new offering, only available during Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival. I missed catching it last year so made sure it was on the agenda for this past trip. As a tea nerd and someone who will never say no to a scone, I braved the WDW tour phone line to book a spot.
The first bonus to the WDW tours is you often get to see areas of the park devoid of people. One of my favorite memories is walking through Epcot to get to the front of the park for my Backstage Magic tour before the park was open (I even got a rose from one of the horticultural staff that time!). This time, while the park was open, I was in World Showcase before anything else was open so most people weren’t headed in that direction. I got to enjoy empty France and United Kingdom pavilions and also just enjoy all the blooms of the Flower & Garden Festival without all the crowds aiming for the food booths.
The Royal Tea Garden Tour has a check in starting at 9:30am at the Rose & Crown. A friendly cast member will check your name on their iPad and hand you a badge. You’re told you can wander more if you’d like and just reconvene at 9:45 on the Rose & Crown patio. A lovely couple from Pittsburgh adopted me for the morning and we chatted until our tour guides arrived. Rick from London and Owen from Northamption (of Kinky Boots fame) then introduced themselves and took over us to the tea gardens. Now, the tea “gardens” are a bit of a misnomer. If you’ve ever visited during Flower & Garden, you’ve seen the teapots gracing the gardens behind The Tea Caddy in the UK pavilion. These are individual tea gardens growing the different plants Twinings uses to create their different blends of tea.
Rick began by sharing the history of the Twinings company and telling the group about the current company and its main flagship store in London, his hometown. Rick then started in explaining how tea is grown on plantations, what the process for creating the tea leaves is once plucked and the difference between black, green and herbals teas. He then started explaining all the different blends currently being grown in the UK gardens. With each teacup garden, he explained the blend, the different plants grown to create the flavor and how it was best brewed and asked if anyone had tried the blend and if they’d liked it. In this way, we worked our way through the garden. You could ask questions at any time. I appreciated one person asked about how to officially pronounce “Twinings” – Rick reminded the group of the history of Thomas Twinings, the founder. He family traditionally had produced twine and the name was originally spelled “Twynings” so that is the correct pronunciation. Rick and Owen were both engaging speakers and clearly enjoyed the tour though they both thought it was fairly funny they’d come to the States to learn so much about tea.
The tour is fairly short, and you aren’t given the usual Disney tour earpieces, so in the small garden, if you weren’t close to the cast member speaking, it could be a challenge to hear them. Rick and Owen were aware of this and projected well and often did “sound checks” to make sure everyone could hear them. Luckily, the gardens themselves mean the group needs to stay cozy (close together) so I did not have a problem hearing at any time. It was also chilly and windy, though sunny, the morning I took the tour so the wind often carried the speaker’s voice helpfully.
Following the tour, you return to the Rose & Crown patio for tea and scones. They have all the different blends of tea currently being grown to try as well as two scones per person. One is a savory scone, cheddar and herb, served with a bacon butter and the other sweet, a traditional golden raisin scone with clotted cream. Rick and Owen also circulated the entire time, trading our tour badges for a little bag of Twinings tea to take with us and answering any other questions about the tour or themselves and where they were from in the UK. You’re welcome to have as much tea as you’d like, though the official ending time for the tour is 10:30am. If you wanted more hot water after that time, Rick and Owen could get it for you if you asked.
The tour is held only once a day, every day and does go rain or shine. For $18, no AP discount, I enjoyed the chance to learn more about the tea gardens, try new and different teas (as well as find a new favorite – I’m currently obsessed with the Twinings green tea with pomegranate, raspberry, and strawberry blend) as well as spend some time with two of the UK cast members. They were well versed in the teas being grown, had tried them all, had favorites to recommend and could answer questions about the growing and drying process. Obviously, Twinings is the tea WDW uses so it’s the only one mentioned but I liked the aspect of the tour where we learned the history of the company and how it grew over time. A new life goal? Become a master tea blender someday by taking a master class at the Twinings flagship store in London!
This ranks high on the list of tours I’ve taken at WDW. It’s affordable, fun and has a delicious treat at the end of it (that was really quite filling!). If you enjoy tea, gardening or just the ambiance of the UK pavilion of Epcot, I would recommend this tour highly during the Flower & Garden Festival.