During that mid-afternoon lull, it’s nice to have a leisurely pot of tea with bite-sized treats. High tea – or afternoon tea as it’s also known – is offered at many Chicago hotels and restaurants. It can be pricey, but makes a lovely special occasion treat. There’s something fun about getting a little dressed up, sitting in a fancy room in the late afternoon, and sipping tea out of china cups (pinky up!)

Afternoon Tea at The Drake Hotel is served in the beautiful Palm Court room.

Photo courtesy of Drake Hotel
Afternoon Tea at The Drake Hotel is served in the beautiful Palm Court room.

High Tea in Chicago

In Chicago, afternoon tea is a longtime tradition at many hotels, and for many families. While fancy European-styled teas are the most common, there are a wide range of high tea types, from Asian-themed to modern and casual.
Here are some of the best ones in Chicago:
Photo courtesy of Drake Hotel The Palm Court room of the Drake Hotel hosts a famous afternoon tea.

Photo courtesy of Drake Hotel
The Palm Court room of the Drake Hotel hosts a famous afternoon tea.

 

Afternoon Tea at The Drake Hotel

This is Chicago’s most legendary high tea, and one my family’s favorite places to go. Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, the Empress of Japan and other dignitaries and celebrities have raised a china cup here since the 1920s. The room, in the Palm Court, is lovely. A harpist plays as you walk into the chandelier- and fountain-filled room of this iconic hotel. The tea menu has everything from fruity varieties to strong and dark (I liked the Palm Court Blend), and you’ll get a three-tiered plate full of crustless sandwiches, macaroons, and other tasty bite-sized desserts. They’ll actually serve you whatever you want – even a big honkin’ cheeseburger and fries. But remember, we’re dainty!
Afterward, take an elevator to the lower level and see a display of famous people who have stayed at the hotel over the years. (The older people in your group will like this.) Or, you can pay a little extra and sign up for the “History Tour & Tea” ($65 per person), which walks you around the historic hotel.
Tea is $45 per person, but kids are half price and have their own food menu. Given the hotel’s proximity to the American Girl Doll store in Chicago, they’re also happy to set out extra seats and tea sets for dolls.

Tea at the American Girl Place Cafe

Not as classy and nice as The Drake, but significantly less expensive at $19 per person. Dolls get their own little set-up, and girls can drink endless glasses of pink lemonade. The hour-long tea is at 4 p.m. each day. Reservations are required.

 

Tea at The Palmer House Hilton

It’s enjoyable just to sit in the opulent lobby of this historic downtown hotel. Adding tea makes it even better. Served from 2-4 p.m., this afternoon tea features Harney & Sons Teas, gourmet sandwiches (like cucumber and watercress on crustless white bread), scones and sweets (like swan-shaped creme puffs). Cost is $40 per person, but children are half-price.

High Tea at the Langham Hotel

Photo courtesy of Langham Hotel Tea is an elegant affair at the Langham Hotel in Chicago.

Photo courtesy of Langham Hotel
Tea is an elegant affair at the Langham Hotel in Chicago.

Of course a British hotel knows its tea. And this one is all about luxury. Afternoon tea, on Wedgewood china, includes live music and gorgeous city views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s a mix of chic and traditional, and sometimes has themed options, like Downton Abbey or Thanksgiving. The menu has things like duck confit sliders, Atlantic salmon rillettes, braised portugese octopus, gingerbread scone.  It’s the loveliest and most gourmet option, but also the most expensive, at $70 per person ($30 for kids). Read what Midwest TravelingMom Andrea Guthmann thought of the Tea for Tots at the Langham Hotel and what a teenage boy thought of high tea at the Langham Huntington in Pasadena CA.

 

Modern tea at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

Photo courtesy of Fig Media A modern afternoon tea is served at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

Photo courtesy of Fig Media
A modern afternoon tea is served at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

Next to Millennium Park and just off Chicago’s tony Mag Mile shopping strip,  modern high tea is served along the 50-foot long fireplace in the lobby of the Radisson Blu Aqua. Accompanied by music from a “TeaJ,”there are Rishi teas and micro batches of teas from around the world. You choose from a menu of “tiers,” which include different types of foods (sweets only, Middle Eastern food, or savory food). Cost is a very reasonable $35 per person.
Photo courtesy of Fig Media A modern afternoon tea is served at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

Photo courtesy of Fig Media
A modern afternoon tea is served at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

 

High Tea at Russian Tea Time

This tea is at a very convenient location – right off Michigan Avenue, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago – and also an excellent value. The elegant, Russian-styled tea service has dozens of tea choices, plus a nice array of more than 30 sandwiches and sweets. Tea is offered between 2:30-4:30 p.m., and cost is $29.95 per person.

Afternoon Tea at the SoHo House

Tea in this trendy West Loop hotel has more of an upscale ’60s vibe rather than a fancy English vibe. It’s served in the hotel’s art-covered Allis restaurant, with views of Green Street from the floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu is small, but quality is better than quantity in this case. Cost is $34 per person, or $42 if you want to finish up with a glass of rose prosecco.

High Tea at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

Photo courtesy of Waldorf Astoria One of the newest afternoon teas is at the chic Waldorf Astoria Chicago.

Photo courtesy of Waldorf Astoria
One of the newest afternoon teas is at the chic Waldorf Astoria Chicago.

New on the scene (it just started in Feb 2016) is tea in the Lobby Lounge of Chicago’s classiest hotel. Try the Magnolia Blossom Oolong, a signature blend from the hotel’s Rare Tea Cellar, or go straight for the Dom Pérignon. It’s $55 per person, so sip your tea slowly and soak in the high-end atmosphere.

Tea at the Peninsula Hotel

Green, herbal, black, oolong … there are all sorts of fabulous teas at this luxury hotel. Or skip the tea and have champagne with your fancy desserts and snacks. The room, off the lobby, is elegant, and the experience is lovely. Children’s menus are available. Cost is $60 per person, or $35 for kids.
Photo courtesy of The Drake Hotel

Photo courtesy of The Drake Hotel