We’re in the dregs of January, and if you happen to live in the Windy City, your weekend activities are somewhat…limited. It’s too frigid for hikes, you’ve binge-watched every single thing in your Netflix queue (twice) and baking sourdough bread has long since lost its charm. The answer to your perpetual boredom? Afternoon tea in Chicago, of course!

These midday services, which have carried over from 19th century England, are a total feast for the senses—especially if you happen to be familiar with the city’s best spots. (And newsflash? We are.) With charming setups that could make the Mad Hatter himself swoon, unique brews galore and seemingly unending courses of scones, savory finger foods and delectable sweets, these afternoon tastings make for just the kind of self-care you’ll need to get through the rest of winter.

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Afternoon tea in Chicago LondonHouse
LondonHouse Chicago

1. Bridges at LondonHouse Chicago

Served in the brightly lit lobby bar of LondonHouse Hotel, which is awash in natural sunlight thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Chicago River, this tea service is all about ambience. Sure, the flavor-packed brews, like Mallorca Melon (a bold fruity treat that tantalizes the tongue) and the vanilla bourbon chai (essentially, liquid biscotti in a cup), are delicious. The (real) jams and creams are mouthwatering additions to the expertly baked scones, and one might even call Executive Pastry Chef Thomas Gorczyca’s desserts divine. But it’s the warm, attentive service and the jovial atmosphere that really makes this gem stand out. At $75 per person, it’s a bit pricier than some of the others, but you’ll also feel like a queen for its entirety—totally worth it, if you ask us!

Daily, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., $75; 85 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago IL 60601; londonhousechicago.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Russian Tea Time 2
Nicole Briese

2. Russian Tea Time Restaurant

Where LondonHouse is modern, bright and bubbly, this longtime Chicago staple is warm, dim and cozy, boasting sizable booths draped in rich velvets, eclectic trinkets that double as décor and an air of authenticity that simply can’t be replicated. (And considering that it’s been around since the early ‘90s, it’s no wonder.) Each and every detail, from the extra-hearty bites that will warm your belly on a chilly day to the inviting Russian train car podstakanniks, which take the place of your traditional tea mugs, seemingly add another layer of comfort and contentment to the experience. So easy is it to get lost in the old-school charm of it all, in fact, that full hours can pass in the span of a moment. Choose from the regular tea service for an affordable $35 or go for the full monty with the larger Queen service, which includes even more of all the tea and treats you can handle.

Tuesdays to Sundays, From $35; 77 E. Adams St., Chicago IL 60603; russianteatime.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Kostali 3

3. Kostali by NAHA at The Gwen Hotel

For $45, you’ll get a 90-minute timeout from reality thanks to Kostali’s bottomless array of seven different teas that range from the classic (peppermint, earl gray, green tea matcha) and the robust (English breakfast) to the surprising (chamomile medley). This stunningly posh space inside The Gwen Hotel also serves up a tower of small bites from Michelin star chef Carrie Nahabedian. If you really want to let down your hair, however, you can up the ante with the restaurant’s Spill the Tea package, which comes with all of the aforementioned offerings, plus four inventive (and festive!) libations featuring bourbon, vodka, cognac and scotch.

Saturdays and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4:30, From $45; 521 N. Rush St., Chicago IL 60601; thegwenchicago.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Palmer
The Drake

4. Palm Court at The Drake

The Palm Court’s dining room is exactly what you envision when you think of a fancy tea service (the gold gilding! The harps! The over-the-top flower floral arrangements!). So opulent is it, in fact, that its patrons include two of the most famed royals of all time–Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana. (Squeals entirely appropriate.) Still, for all its grandeur, it’s also surprisingly family-friendly, with a special Prince and Princess version of the hotel’s weekend afternoon tea service open to kids between the ages of 4 and 12. Having run for nearly a century now, the adult version, meanwhile, has all the fixings, with a focus on ornate sandwiches, yule logs, macaroons and wintery, fragrant blends for January. Case in point? The new chai imperial—a delicate black brew with notes of cinnamon, ginger and orange zest—just to name a few.

Saturdays and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., $29 for Kids, $59 for Adults; 140 E. Walton St., Chicago IL 60611; thedrakehotel.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Bar Pendry
Pendry Chicago

5. Bar Pendry at Pendry Chicago

Dry January? Never heard of her—and neither will you when you get a load of the shareable tea cocktails that are offered alongside Bar Pendry’s standard tea service. We’re talking refreshing green tea with Tito’s, ginger beer and Citron, and blackberry bourbon and tea concoctions for you and three of your closest friends to share as you sidle up to a blazing fireplace. If you prefer the traditional fare, there’s plenty of that too, with a non-alcoholic spread that consists of unlimited sips of La Maison du The and a stacked tea tower chock-full of all the smoked salmon, brioche and pumpkin spice cake you can handle.

Sundays through January, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., $45; 81 E. Wacker Pl., Chicago IL 60601; pendry.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Hugo Tea
Hugo Tea Space

6. Hugo Tea Space

This hip space in Bucktown is turning the traditional notion of afternoon tea on its head—or at least the picture you’ve likely got of it in your mind. Rather than sitting you down in front of a tiered tray and a tea menu, Hugo Tea books both private and walk-in experiences centered on “gongfu tea”—a modernized take on “gongfu cha,” which is a practice known in Eastern Asia as “tea with effort.” During each session, a dedicated “teatender” is on hand to guide you on an educational journey that delves deep into the world of the restaurant’s specialty offerings. Everything, from the wares that will best suit a particular tea’s steeping to the temperature needed for the water, is handled with care, with plenty of room for questions along the way. You’ll be privy to offerings even beyond Hugo’s extensive menu, and the space is casual and low-key, making it accessible to all—even on a sweats and zip-up kinda’ day.

$60; 1816 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60647; hugotea.com

Afternoon in Chicago Pavilion
Marcin Cymmer

7. Pavilion at The Langham Chicago

Located on the hotel’s second floor, Pavilion is just high enough to offer tea-goers a magnificent view of the city when seated next to its 20-foot tall windows (though, thanks to its cozy fireplace and impressively high ceilings, there’s really not a bad seat in the house). A three-course menu consisting of sandwiches (currently, filling picks like prime beef tenderloin and truffle Bellwether ricotta), buttermilk and blueberry scones and a whole host of desserts (three words: chestnut praline choux) is served on fine bone china, there are tea sommeliers on hand to guide you through your tasting and there’s live music to keep you entertained from moment to moment.

Saturdays and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., From $95; 330 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; langhamhotels.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Brindille
Brindille

8. Brindille

While an extensive tea menu is served at French eatery Brindille every day of the year, it’s the seasonal themed tea services that famed Chicago chef Carrie Nahabedian (who needs no introduction after gifting us all with the wildly successful NAHA) offers several times a year that really take the spotlight. So opulent is this spread of exotic teas, pastries, scones and crumpets that it looks like something out of Harry Potter. The next lip-smacking event will take place on Saturday, February 12, with both in-person dining and pickup options available.

Saturday, February 12; 1 p.m. 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m, $90; 534 N. Clark St., Chicago IL 60654; brindille-chicago.com

9. TeaGschwender

You trust a sommelier with your whites, your reds and even your bubbles, so it goes without saying that you should trust a tea sommelier with your leaves. Agnieszka Rapacz is not only the owner of TeaGschwender in the Gold Coast, she’s a certified tea sommelier, and lucky for us, she offers a guided connoisseur’s tasting for two at her shop. During each hour-long session, she takes tasters on a flavorful ride through different brews (there’s more than 300 varieties on hand in the store), including high-grade and rare, low batch teas that are not easily found elsewhere. Not ready to venture indoors? Virtual, COVID-19 options are also available.

Reservations Required, $138; 1160 N. State St., Chicago IL 60610; shoptgtea.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Living Water
Living Water Tea House

10. Living Water Tea House

For those with a desire to know more about brewing their own teas at home, there’s a traditional tea ceremony class happening over at Living Water Tea House, which guarantees you one full hour with a teacher and a spotlight on three East Asian brews of your choosing. Take it as a one-on-one tutorial or come ready to sip–and learn—with three of your closest friends. If you prefer a more social atmosphere, you can also sign up for the tea house’s upcoming virtual January CommuniTea event ($10) on January 22, where you can sip, hear jovial music and enjoy each other’s company.

Reservations Required, From $15; 1453 W. Taylor St., Chicago IL 60607; livingwaterteahouse.com

Afternoon tea in Chicago Mystic
Mystic Rogue Irish Pub

11. Mystic Rogue Irish Pub 

You don’t have to go downtown to get in on the sipping action. Mystic Rogue Irish Pub on the northwest side of the city offers a lovely combination of afternoon and high tea (which traditionally provides a bit more of a heartier meal and occurs later in the day) that you can request to reserve any day of the week. The china is fine, the space is cozy and inviting and the service is just as warm as the tea, according to patrons who’ve indulged in the service.

Reservations Required, $40; 6070 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago, IL 60631; mysticrogueirishpub.com

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