Chicago has its fair share of excellent independent coffee houses and several excellent roasters, but tea lovers don't have to feel left out. These cafes and restaurants are taking tea to sophisticated new heights with these cocktails and non-alcoholic elixirs.
This Wicker Park coffee and tea emporium has the best selection of craft coffee in town along with whisked-to-order matcha, sparkling tea on tap and a half dozen specialty tea elixirs. The Rainforest Remedy, a mix of matcha, frozen pineapple and coconut milk is owner Michael Schultz's favorite. “At Fairgrounds, we make sure that tea is equally as important as coffee and this drink is an easy entry into the delicious and healthy world of matcha,” he says. 1620 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-770-3444
With the largest chai selection in Chicago, and one of the most expansive in the country, this Indian and Nepalese restaurant was founded by two couples with a long family history as tea merchants. There are more than 150 chai combinations, from classic masala to fresh turmeric curry or salty pink Himalayan with almond butter. Iced summertime specials include blueberry lavender and raspberry coconut. Feeling indecisive? Try a flight of five for just $10. 2270 N Milwaukee Ave,773-360-7541
Beverage Director Whitney Morrow wanted to capture the smell and taste of her home state, Maine, in a tart and refreshing beer cocktail garnished with a sprig of rosemary. She infuses vermouth with rosemary to blend with lemon, rye whiskey, rum and black tea then tops it off with Allagash beer foam. “The Lapsang tea gives this drink an outdoorsy scent and smoky taste, and the rum brings in a hint of maple,” she says. 201 E Delaware Pl, 312-933-4805
The Green Hills of Africa cocktail at this elegant French brasserie located inside the Waldorf Astoria Chicago is named after a book by Ernest Hemingway. Fitting, since Margeaux Brasserie is named for Hemingway's granddaughter. Beverage director Brian Meads mixes rum with Cocchi Americano Rosa, matcha, lemon, egg white, prosecco and a housemade jasmine tea-grapefruit cordial. “Hemingway himself loved rum and high acid, tropical cocktails,” he says. “I wanted to create something he would be proud to drink.” 11 E Walton St, 312-625-1324
Bartender Clint Rogers uses litchi noir black tea brewed at double strength from Rare Tea Cellars in his Beacon Punch, which he says is a light, tropical take on the 18th century classic Swedish Punsch, sweetened with mango purée. “Tea has been used as an ingredient in punches since the 17th century when sailors in the British East India Company dealing in tea, spirits, spices, sugar, and citrus spread punch traditions around the world,” Rogers explains. “Black tea adds deep, toasty, earthy notes, and contributes bitterness and tannin to the drink.” 405 N Wabash Ave, 312-955-4226