No need to lift your pinkie. These trending Chicago afternoon affairs serve up all the elegance with none of the old stuffiness.

January 28, 2020
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Celebrate a special occasion or jazz up any afternoon with a stop by one of these Chicago tearooms.

The Allis, Soho House Brick walls, wood floors and stacks of old books create a homey vibe. Don’t miss the raisin scone served with raspberry jam.

The Allis, Soho House
Courtesy of The Allis

Russian Tea Time The popular Darjeeling-black house tea blend is infused with black currant. Savory bites include a potato pirozhki. The restaurant, a Chicago fixture for more than 25 years, has been undergoing a months-long remodel and is scheduled to reopen in early February 2020.

Russian Tea Time
Courtesy of Russian Tea Time

Palm Court, the Drake Live harp music floats around guests enjoying petit fours and house-made pleasures such as English double Devon cream.

American Girl Place Tea at the doll store’s cafe welcomes kids’ tiny companions, with touches like little cups and saucers and doll-size seats.

American Girl tea
Photo courtesy of American Girl

The Peninsula Soaring ceilings set an elegant scene for a seasonally changing menu; the lineup might include chocolate orange pound cake, almond coconut puffs and smoked salmon finger sandwiches.

Here are 7 things you should know about teatime:

1. Why tea?

The afternoon tea ritual began in Britain in the early 19th century, when only two meals—breakfast and dinner—were customary. Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, complained of an empty stomach. Her solution? A pot of tea and light snack.

2. What’s on the menu?

Modern teas typically include small sandwiches, pastries, cookies, tarts and scones served with jam and clotted cream (heated to be thick and spreadable). Service often includes sparkling wines and champagne, as well as coffee and cold brews.

3. What tea should I order?

If you’re new to tea, start with a light, flavored tea. (Ask your server for suggestions.) Here’s a cheat sheet of common tea types:

White—subtle, floral

Green—savory, herbal

Oolong—sweet, complex

Pu-erh—dark, intense

Black—spicy, tangy

4. How long does it last?

Most establishments book two to three hours, but an hour and a half is a decent amount of time to relax, sip and sample everything on the tea platter.

5. How much?

Prices vary. Afternoon tea is $19 at American Girl, $43 at The Allis, Soho House, and $85 at The Peninsula, not including alcohol. Wherever you choose, make a reservation.

6. What should I wear?

Smart casual attire is common, meaning that dresses and dressy jeans outfits will work (unless the place has a “no jeans” rule). Teatime also can be a dress-up event for kids to feel fancy.

7. What are the rules?

Today’s afternoon tea experiences are about relaxing and indulging. Sink into the comfy chairs and don’t worry about which spoon to use or how to hold your pinkie. The only true no-no is slurping.