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Boozy Tea Service at Bar Pendry
Photograph: Courtesy of Rachel Bires

8 ways to enjoy afternoon tea in Chicago

Celebrate a special occasion or just treat yourself to afternoon tea in Chicago

Written by
Cate Huguelet
&
Morgan Olsen
Contributor
Lindsay Eanet
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There's something intrinsically luxurious about afternoon tea, and Chicago's best restaurants and hotels go to great lengths to elevate the experience. If you're looking for something traditional, turn to the city's age-old tearooms and downtown hotels, where aromatic beverages are served alongside tiny sandwiches, colorful pastries and canapés. For those who crave a modern twist, places like LondonHouse and Bar Pendry are breathing new life into the tea-time ritual. A few of these spots are even trying bold, boozy tea-infused cocktails for guests who want something stronger. Whatever your preference, you'll find the perfect tea time at the best places to go for afternoon tea in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: The best tea in Chicago 

Best afternoon in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • River North

There's no denying it: You'll feel like a million bucks as soon as you walk through the doors of the Langham. Elevate the feeling further when you grab a seat in the Pavilion for Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood, a tradition that started back in 1865 at the Langham’s London outpost. The hotel offers themed experiences for holidays like the Easter and Mother's Day, as well as a changing seasonal menu—spring's delights include shrimp rolls, cherry blossom macarons and a blackberry-lemon basil éclair. $50–$120; Saturdays and Sundays, noon–4pm (Easter and Mother's Day teas served Friday and Saturday).

Palm Court at the Drake
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Streeterville
  • price 3 of 4

A dedicated children’s menu and a sensitivity to the importance of giving one’s doll a chair of their own make afternoon tea at this Mag Mile grand dame one of the city’s most family-friendly. It’s also one of the busiest teas, particularly during the holiday season, when the room’s central fountain wears a shimmering crown of silver boughs and the standard entertainment is augmented with a band of roving carolers. Tea service here is no mere tourist gimmick; rather, it features a nice menu of sippers from French outfit Palais des Thés and a selection of food composed with care. $62 for adults and $29 for children; Saturdays and Sundays, noon–4:30pm.

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  • Restaurants
  • Russian
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

A suspended-in-time quality hangs about this long-running Loop tearoom, which boasts white tablecloths, brass chandeliers and folk music. A tri-level tray practically sags with the weight of multitudinous sweets and savories. As you might expect, it’s the Russian-accented items—an oniony little potato piroshki, napoleon torte rich with pastry cream—that are most memorable. Opt for the Queen Tea Service for upgrades like raisin scones, blinis with jam and cream and tea sandwiches with salmon roe. $35.95 per person or $55.95 for Queen Tea Service; served all day Tuesdays–Sundays.

  • Hotels
  • Chain hotels
  • Loop

Sweeping city views are a free perk included with tea service at LondonHouse Chicago. The posh riverfront hotel serves a contemporary take on high tea, with a mix of traditional treats (think cranberry scones) and flavorful bites like Peking duck spring rolls and a blackberry yuzu macaron. Local supplier Rare Tea Cellars supplies the beverages, with intriguing options including a 2012 Vintage Hot Chocolate Pu-Erh and a fire-toasted rice Genmaicha. $75 for adults and $35 for kids; served daily noon–3pm.

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  • Restaurants
  • Patisseries
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

The sheer loveliness of Vanille’s French pastries carries over to its afternoon tea. The whimsical tea selection, from local supplier Benjamin, ranges from the floral (French lavender) to the fruity (the tropical "Love" blend) to the sweet (HoneyMilk Ginger). A warm sandwich of black forest ham, gruyere and shallot aioli on a buttery mini croissant makes an excellent opener, but it’s the classic pastries like the Madeleine and the scones served with zingy lemon curd and rich Devon double cream that steal the show. A Tea to Go option is still available for those who want to have a lovely tea party at home. $65; Tuesdays–Sundays, seatings at 11:30am, 2pm and 4:30pm.

Elegant without feeling buttoned-up, the Boozy Tea Service at this intimate hotel lounge seeks to liven up the classics. With your tea from La Maison du Thé, you’ll enjoy live entertainment from local musicians and snacks like Jidori chicken salad with quince jam, brown butter chai scones and the decadent truffled egg tartlette with parmigiano and Osetra caviar. For an additional fee, your party can toast with some bubbly or try the communally-served tea cocktails like the Tango in the Vestibule with bourbon and five-spice.  Prices vary; Sundays 11am–3 pm, reserve on Tock.

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Hugo Tea
Photograph: Courtesy Hugo Tea

Hugo Tea

If you’re looking for an intimate, curated tea experience that’s a bit different from the towers of scones and pinky-out sipping, this “modern specialty tea café” in Bucktown may be for you. Modeled on the tradition of gong fu cha (“tea with effort”), one of Hugo’s knowledgeable “teatenders” will offer a personal tea session. For an additional $13, enjoy a pairing plate with small bites from Chicago makers like Maa Maa Dei pastry and Silom 12. Private 90-minute guided tea-tasting sessions are available for $100 plus gratuity, and can be booked here. $14–$100; Wednesdays–Fridays noon–8pm, Saturdays 10am–8pm, Sundays 10am–7pm. 

Kostali by NAHA

You’ll find another playful weekend cocktails and tea service perfect for gathering your friends at this coastal Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from James Beard winner Carrie Nahabedian. In addition to a selection of classic teas and sweet and savory munchies like a portobello mushroom crostini or exotic chocolate milk tart with caramelized banana jam, you can let the gossip flow freely with their “Spill the Tea” package. Who knows what you’ll learn while enjoying the cheekily-named tea concoctions like the vodka-cranberry-apple “As If!” and the spiced gingerbread and cognac “Like, Get a Clue!” $65–$80; Saturdays and Sundays at noon and 2:30pm, reserve on Tock.

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