Studio Brunstrum

Afternoon Tea

December 1, 2014

Sometimes I think I'm part British - I'm absolutely lost without my morning Earl Grey tea latte. I have a small but much loved collection of tea pots.

Sometimes I think I'm part British - I'm absolutely lost without my morning Earl Grey tea latte. I have a small but much loved collection of tea pots. Downton Abbey is one of my favorite shows and going out for an elegant afternoon tea in Chicago is a must-do during the holidays. As much as I would love to serve a proper afternoon tea at my home for a group of cherished friends - and of course the veddy proper Dowager Countess from Downton - who has time to prepare all those exquisite tea sandwiches, crumbly scones, delicate cookies and pastries? It's so much easier to go out, and of course, great fun to get all dressed up for a leisurely afternoon of nibbling and sipping in luxurious surroundings. Add a glass of champagne? Why not? Afternoon tea is a wonderful opportunity for networking and relationship-building in the business world, too. Instead of a noisy restaurant or bar tea rooms always have a civilized buzz, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and there are fewer distractions. Here's a selection of spots to consider, with websites with all the details. Many serve tea year-round, all are about $35 to $45 per person for adults. Reservations required.


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People watching, anyone? This holiday-only afternoon tea in the historic Burnham Hotel includes one of the best street scenes in town at the corner of State and Washington. The art deco design is a gem and the savories and sweets are pretty and satisfying. From November 29 to December 28.

Deca Restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton

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When I'm feeling less formal Deca is my go-to. It's a brasserie-inspired restaurant in the light-filled, sprawling hotel lobby, opposite a gushing fountain. You can count on the Ritz-Carlton's impeccable service and superb tea fare.


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Before Thanksgiving I had tea with friends at the Drake. It's so elegant and traditional, it's the Grand Dame of afternoon tea, complete with harpist who performs daily. There were so many nibbles we couldn't finish our three-tiered plate, and we indulged in Mimosas! The assortment of teas is so unusual, some were new to me, and I'm a tea aficionado. Before we left we all agreed to get our kids together over the holidays. You never know what can come from tea.  Through January 4.

Palmer House Hilton Lobby

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The French baroque lobby in this grand, 142-year-old hotel is a breathtaking setting for enjoying afternoon tea beneath a soaring canopy of Grecian frescoes and crystal Tiffany chandeliers. I like the people watching as much as the goodies. Pavilion Lobby, Langham Hotel I can't wait to try this one! It's new this year and the Pavilion is gorgeous. There's live music and Wedgewood place settings for our tea goodies.

The Lobby at the Peninsula

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It doesn't get any more refined or memorable than this. The soaring, gold-leaf domes, Italian chandeliers and string duo performing classical music make this a must-do. The tea fare is spot-on too.

Susan Brunstrum
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