SPECIAL TEAS

Those in search of a charming tea for two needn’t limit themselves to hotel lounges anymore. In Chicago, restaurants and specialty stores are now offering tea as well. One such spot is Joy of Ireland, a shop that sells china and crystal imported from Ireland and England, and serves tea from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Tea takers can choose from a dozen Irish and a dozen English teas blends, which, like the china, are all imported.
The $14.50 tea includes three different sandwiches, such as salmon and creme fraiche on brioche, or fresh crab on rye; scones imported from Dublin; petit fours, tarts and fresh fruit. A tea without sandwiches can be had for $9.50.
The 28-seat tea room, located in the Chicago Place mall, also boasts a 40-foot-high window that affords patrons a view up and down Michigan Avenue. “It’s a big draw,” said Paul Pszybylski, chef/manager.
A little bit further north, American Girl Place, the doll emporium just off the Magnificent Mile, holds after-school teas once a week. This tea is geared toward a younger appetite, featuring hot chocolate and pink lemonade in addition to tea, and treats such as warm cinnamon buns and heart-shaped brownies in addition to the traditional scones.
The store also uses tea time as an opportunity to informally model American Girl Gear, its clothing line.
Even further north and west, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, Villa Kula serves a light tea all day long, according to Martha Cameron, owner. “Our whole menu is tea fare,” Cameron said, running down a list of salads, soups and sandwiches.
Those who would take tea are served a three-tiered tray laden with tea sandwiches, scones and tiny pastries, served with a choice of 18 teas. Among them are black, oolong, green, white and herbals. The house blend, black tea spiked with dried rosebuds, is a popular choice, as are formosa, jasmine and Earl Grey, Cameron said.
Diners looking for something stronger than tea can choose port, wine, beer, champagne, or even a bracing cup of coffee, Cameron said. “Our tea is about beverage choice, and that’s what makes it American,” she boasted.
For more information: Joy of Ireland is at 700 North Michigan Avenue, (312) 664-7290; American Girl Place is at 111 East Chicago Avenue, (312)-943-9400, and Villa Kula is at 4518 North Lincoln, (773) 728-3114.