7 Best Places for High Tea in Chicago

Teatime is brewing.

Most of our days are filled with work, chores and other responsibilities, but sometimes it’s good to slow down a little. Our suggestion? Take time out for afternoon tea, a leisurely luxury that’s steeped in tradition and perfect for Mother’s Day. A cup of tea infuses a bit of calmness into our busy lives. Why not drink up?

These are our favorite hot spots for teatime:

The Drake Hotel 

The grand dame of afternoon teas, this Gold Coast gem has been serving traditional high tea since the ‘20s, with some of its servers pouring the “Palm Court blend” for decades. Over the years this regal hotel has received royal visits from Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana and the Empress of Japan, as well as Hollywood royalty, including the entire cast of “The Sound of Music.”

“Tea is timeless,” says the Drake’s historian, Nora Heneghan. “Afternoon tea is a tradition that has been passed down through generations. It gives families a moment to stop and enjoy themselves without the constant bombardment of media. There is not one television in the Palm Court or adjacent areas.”

The Drake’s afternoon tea is served daily from 1 to 5 p.m. Live harp music is played Wednesday through Friday, 2-4:30 p.m. and on the weekends, 1-5 p.m. $40 for adults, $20 for children 12 and under. 

Photo courtesy of The Drake Hotel.

Palmer House Hilton 

Want to imagine what life was like during Chicago’s gilded age? Then afternoon tea in the elegant lobby of the Palmer House Hilton is in order. In this opulent setting, you can almost imagine Bertha Palmer sitting down to join you for a cucumber and watercress finger sandwich. The good life lives on here daily, from 2-4 p.m, when afternoon tea is served. $40 for adults, $20 for children.

Photo courtesy of Palmer House Hilton. 

The Langham 

This new luxury hotel is a sweet addition to the afternoon tea scene, serving up a traditional afternoon tea that first debuted at The Langham, London, in 1865. Drink in the tea and the breathtaking views from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the second floor’s Pavilion Lounge overlooking the Chicago River. Tea is served daily at 3, 3:30 or 4 p.m. $70 for adults, $30 for children under 12.

Photo courtesy of The Langham.

American Girl Place

Girls just want to have fun, and there’s no sweeter way to do that than teatime at American Girl Place. This is THE perfect introduction to high tea for little ones. Finger sandwiches? Check! Petit fours? Check! A booster seat just for your doll? Check! Head over to the Mag Mile’s Water Tower Place for an afternoon your own “American Girl” will never forget. You’ll surely leave humming “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Afternoon tea served daily at 4 p.m., $19 per person.

Photos courtesy of American Girl Place Chicago.

The Celtic Knot Public House

Care for a spot of tea? There’s more than just beer on tap at this Evanston favorite. The Celtic Knot brews a fantastic variety of Barry’s Irish teas, served with an assortment of three finger sandwiches—ham, egg salad and salmon and dill—along with scones and desserts. Tea is served from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. $19 for adults, $12 for children.


Photo courtesy of The Celtic Knot Public House.

Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods 

The British are coming! Actually, Spencer’s Jolly Posh arrived last year, a welcome addition to the trendy Southport shopping corridor in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. It’s a small storefront that puts Great Britain in the forefront.

Not surprisingly, this cafe and specialty food grocer serves traditional afternoon tea daily, including scones and the oh-so-British clotted cream. Anglophiles will get misty-eyed spending a relaxing afternoon at this quaint cafe at Irving Park and Southport. Although you don’t need reservations, calling ahead would allow them to have the finger sandwiches and pastries ready for your arrival. $22 per person.


Photo courtesy of Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods.

Russian Tea Time

Something’s brewing directly across from the Art Institute. Afternoon tea is served from Russia with love, in an elegant setting with chandeliers and white linen tablecloths. Russian Tea Time Restaurant is a tasteful celebration of Russia and the finer things in life. Tea service, served daily from 2:30-4:30 p.m., includes more than 30 teas and an elegant arrangement of sweets and sandwiches. $30 per person.


Photo courtesy of Russian Tea Time.