Chicago winters can be cold, snowy, and windy. Sometimes the most comforting thing to do is curl up and drink tea on the couch all day and watch Netflix. On a recent Saturday afternoon, my wife and I decided to find a place in the city that serves High Tea, or Afternoon Tea. The obvious choices were the Drake Hotel or the Peninsula, but those were both sold out weeks in advance. I found out that the Soho House in Chicago inside the Allis Building has high tea service. I called to make a reservation and got the last available table at 3:30.
We arrived about ten minutes early and were promptly taken to our table. The tea service was right in the lobby of the Soho House. The service came with a pot of tea each along with the triple deck serving of finger foods. The tea menu had a nice selection of about 10 teas ranging from blacks, greens, and herbals. I ordered the Lapsang Souchong and my wife ordered Earl Grey. American tea culture isn’t well known for proper tea service, I had hoped in my mind that the tea would be half decent. Many tea services serve the tea in a tea bag with tepid water. To my delight, the teas came in loose leaf form bundled in a large tea filter. We were given the options of rock sugar, honey, and milk, but I declined. The tea was pleasant, not over brewed or too cool. I would have preferred a completely loose tea and a strainer, but this was definitely an improvement over tea bags.
The food came about 5 minutes later, and we were greeted with many plates of food. On the first level were finger sandwiches with lox and cream cheese, and egg salad sandwiches. The second level had scones, biscuits, banana bread, and tarts. This was accompanied by some jams and curds. By the time I had finished the second level of food, I had finished my pot of tea. The waitress refilled the pot for the second infusion of the leaves, and I was happy that they offered to refill the pot. The top layer had a huge piece of chocolate cake, French macaroons, red velvet cupcakes, and a lemon curd tart. The food was excellent; my favorites were the lox finger sandwiches and the macaroons.
The atmosphere was very relaxed. Although we were in the lobby of a hotel, there were not crazy crowds; the volume was low enough to be able to easily engage in conversation. What really struck me was how many young people were there enjoying tea. It makes me happy to see other people my age sitting down and taking the time to drink tea. We spent about 2 and a half hours there, and never felt rushed to leave. It was a great experience to sit down and enjoy tea and a meal, and just people-watch for a few hours. If you ever find yourself in Chicago looking for a good place for high tea, I definitely recommend the Soho House at the Allis for high tea. I look forward to returning again!