One lump or two: Chicago Afternoon Tea for families

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the parenting column ·

Test out your kids' table manners by taking them to Afternoon Tea in Chicago. They will love the mini sandwiches, scones and treats as well as the variety of caffeine-free loose tea that they can pour themselves. Adults will enjoy a sophisticated and tasteful atmosphere with their little ones in tow - an occurrence that might prove to be a bit out of the ordinary and anything but mundane.

The Russian Tea Time restaurant, ideally located near the Art Institute of Chicago on Adams Street, is the perfect place for establishing a family tradition. Many delicious handmade savories and sweets along with an assortment of teas are happily served daily from 2:30-4:30 p.m. The inviting and charming restaurant is full of friendly staff and habitual patrons.

Owner and chef, Klara Muchnik opened the restaurant in 1993 with her son, Vadim Muchnik. While chatting with Klara over the house-brewed tea and delectable raisin scones topped with marmalade and fresh whipping cream, a few customers came over to our table to shake her hand and show gratitude for her amiable teahouse.

"Thank you so much for the wonderful tea," said a woman that was arm and arm with her granddaughter. "We were here celebrating a sweet sixteenth birthday."

Another fantastic and distinctive option for Afternoon Tea is to visit a Chicago luxury hotel-a classic experience that some properties, unfortunately, are dropping. The Four Seasons hotel and the Ritz-Carlton, for example, no longer have Afternoon Tea service.

"We made the change when we changed our restaurant concept last year and introduced Allium restaurant," said Terri Hickey, director of public relations,
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.

One extravagant property that still has a thriving lavish Afternoon Tea service, complete with live harp music, is The Drake Hotel, which is located near Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Traditional Afternoon Tea is served in the lovely Palm Court, daily from 1-5 p.m.

"The Palm Court has been around since the '20s, but, at that time, it's was more of a venue for Drake patrons to relax and enjoy and perhaps have a cup of tea," said Shaun J. Rajah, special events manager at the Palm Court and Club International. "We are the pioneers in tea service-we keep it simple, chic and traditional and that keeps people coming back. Our specialty is Afternoon Tea and the room is dedicated just to the tea service."

Children will take pleasure in palatable items on the Little Princess and Prince Menu: cucumber and tomato on brioche, peanut butter and jelly on white bread, cake lollipops, honey madeleines and more. Parents will delight in the elegant live music, the genial staff and the extensive diversity of teas: Bombay Chai, Lapsang Souchong, Orange Dulce, Pear Caramel, Blue Peacock, Gunpowder, Chocolate Mint Truffle and many more.

"The ambiance sets the mode-ideal for baby and bridal showers, birthday parties and special events," Rajah said. "It's one of those affairs which have been carried down for generations."