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Life at Lake Agnes Tea House

One could say that the Alberta Rocky Mountain tradition of having tea on a mountain top began at Lake Agnes. Since 1905, the Lake Agnes Tea House has been serving, with pride, fine loose leaf teas to visitors from around the world.

Lake Agnes was named for original First Lady of Canada - Lady Agnes MacDonald, the wife of Canada’s first Prime Minister. In 1886, Lady MacDonald visited Lake Agnes and was delighted by the beauty of this idyllic lake and the hanging valley it sits in.

The Lake Agnes Tea House was originally built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, as a refuge for hikers, and started serving tea in 1905. The log building was replaced in 1981 but still features the original windows, tables and chairs.

Situated near Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, at an altitude of 2,135 m or 7,005 ft, our Tea House is located in a lovely hanging valley on the shores of Lake Agnes. After a forested 3.5 km hike, with an elevation gain of 400 m or 1,300 ft, the valley opens to reveal spectacular Lake Agnes. Together with Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, these lakes are often referred to as the 'Lakes in the Clouds'. For those preferring a less strenuous approach, horses are available for hire at Brewster or Timberline Stables in Lake Louise.

A family run tea house, which was an Alberta Pride Alto Award finalist, Cynthia Magee's grandchildren will be joining her with their Mum, Joanna, and Dad, Pierre Luc, to welcome you at Lake Agnes with hearty homemade soup, sandwiches on freshly baked bread, and more than 100 varieties of delicious tea. Will the little ones have to hike down to school? Ask Jo!

Most of the staff are university students or high school graduates, who live at the tea house for the summer months before school starts again. The tea house provides staff accommodation in the loft above the kitchen and two rustic cabins behind the tea house.

The staff walk up to work from Lake Louise on the hiking trail and usually walk the trail 2-4 times a week.

The staff hike up the fresh supplies two to four times a week. There is also one helicopter supply run a year, which flies in all of the flour, sugar, propane and other dry goods. This usually takes an entire day as it takes 20-30 trips to fly 10 000 pounds of supplies up. The helicopter uses a long line with a large net attached to drop supplies just of the tea house porch. Sometimes horses are used in the spring and fall prior to helicopter day, this allows for some flour and sugar to be brought in for baking.

We carry out all of our garbage and recycling on our backs. Every time a staff member goes down, they carry at least 2 big bags of garbage. Usually this happens every day in the summer and if you are hiking down early morning or in the evening, you may spot a staff member running down with the garbage.

The water is pumped from the lake and then held in a tank that is gravity fed to the tea house. All of the water must be boiled for service, which includes boiling the water before lemon aide or cold drinks are made.

The baker begins everyday at 6:30 am in order to bake our oatmeal brown bread, tea biscuits, lemon poppy seed loft, apple crumble and soup for the day. The next staff member arrives at 8:00 am and continues setting up for opening at 9:00 am. The days are long at Lake Agnes as all jobs are done by hand as there is no electricity. This means the staff are constantly washing dishes, making sandwiches, waiting on tables and baking.

Most of the people who come to work at Lake Agnes are there to enjoy the Rocky Mountains and the outdoors. After dinner is made and the tea house is cleaned for the night, staff are usually doing short hikes to the back of the lake or to Little Beehive. Longer adventures happen on days off, where staff summit the surrounding mountains: Devils, Thumb, Niblock, Mt. Saint Piran or hike down to Lake Louise to scramble up Temple, Fairview or go camping. A trip to Banff on rainy days to buy supplies or catch a movie is also an adventure when you live on top of a mountain.