December is high time for high tea. There's just something about the holiday season that lends itself particularly well to dainty sips of hot beverages while raising pinkies. Plus, it's a family-friendly affair, so when you're done exhausting the brood from shopping, you can go unwind at one of several reputable tea destinations in Chicago.
Holiday high tea is back in action at Atwood Cafe. The perennial downtown tea destination is perfectly situated amidst the Loop's shopping district, making its cozy confines the perfect respite from the chilly hustle and bustle. Atwood's tea menu features eight loose-leaf tea options, cranberry scones, chocolate-covered strawberries, biscotti, chocolate mousse, housemade sandwiches, and more. A flute of bubbly is available at an extra cost if you're having one of those days. Tea is served daily this month except for December 25 and December 31, between 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. The cost is $35 per adult and $20 per child under 12.
For those just itching to rebel against familial traditions, Allium's "Not Your Aunt Sally's High Tea" is just the ticket. It's not so much a middle finger to rituals as it is a creative, novel take on the idea of high tea, thanks to items such as pimento cheese fritters, lobster cannoli, and BLT push-pops. Aunt Sally would definitely never serve BLT push-pops. The modern variation on high tea is available every day at 3:00 p.m. through December 29 and costs $39 per person.
High tea doesn't get any classier than the version at The Langham, Chicago's latest river-adjacent hotel. Bounteous tea selections include Emperor's Himalayan Reserve Silver Needle, Fields of France Rooibos, Emperor's Gyokuro, 1991 Vintage Cave-aged Oolong, and English Flower. Food arrives in a tiffin, a sort of Indian lunchbox, brimming with the likes of tea-soaked raisin scones, pistachio-cinnamon chouquette, roasted beef tenderloin with truffle rémoulade, and smoked salmon rillettes. In addition to the regular assortment, The Langham embraces its festive side with holiday-inspired additions such as spiced gingerbread molasses cake and icy peppermint-eggnog verrine. Tea is served daily from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., with a seating at 3:00 p.m. and a second seating at 4:00 p.m. The cost is $40 per person.
Nothing like enjoying high tea in the palatial Palmer House Hilton to make you feel like royalty. Park yourself in the heart of the Loop under the sprawling cathedral ceiling of the historic hotel to partake in their leisurely tea experience. A selection of Harney & Sons teas are adjoined by a multi-tiered spread of crab salad sandwiches, roast beef, curried chicken, scones, panna cotta, chocolate tarts, and more. Sometimes tradition is best. Tea at the Palmer House runs $40 per person.
No place in the city has as much tea-soaked history as The Drake, housed in the hotel's Palm Court room that has served the likes of Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth over the years. Give yourself the royal treatment this season with The Drake's holiday tea running through December. Holiday-themed pastries lay the framework, while harpists play daily, and carolers serenade guests. Holiday tea is available from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Housemade scones, finger sandwiches, and pastries converge en masse at the awe-inspiring Peninsula Chicago. The regal hotel changes its high tea selections seasonally, but guests can expect amazement via items such as chestnut tea cakes, walnut financiers, vanilla sable cookies, blueberry tarts, mandarin macarons, three cheese and leek quiches, shaved radish and caviar sandwiches, and much more. It's all the pomp and circumstance you need after a day of holiday stress. Tea costs $50 per adult and $18 per child, and is available Monday through Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
Photos: Atwood Cafe, Huge Galdones Photography (Allium), The Langham, The Drake Hotel, The Peninsula Chicago