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A Tale of Two Teatimes

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

It’s 4 p.m. and that means teatime somewhere in the world.  Today somewhere was Chicago. At last count, there were half a dozen different high teas available in the Chicagoland area. I’ve boiled it down to two choices at opposite ends of the spectrum, just a few blocks away from each other on the Magnificent Mile; tea at the American Girl Place or traditional high tea at the Peninsula Hotel, a five star luxury hotel.

Both are wonderful and feature the tea basics, three tiers of tasties and a pot of tea but there the similarities end. How can a simple cup of tea be so very different?

The America Girl Place is a high temple of shopping to the dolls of the same name. The store was mobbed with the under 12 set and their parents.  A tea party with the dolls was a charming and noisy black and pink striped affair. Tea for the parents, hot chocolate for the girls. We started with cinnamon buns, warm and gooey, then moved to the savories all concocted with the 10 year old girl in mind. All the treats are associated with an American Girl doll of course, so it’s Julie’s chocolate chip scones, Addy’s apple and tea cranberry bread, Josephina’s tiny turkey sandwich and the Victorian Rebecca’s’ bite size cucumber sandwiches, a must at teatime the world over. A mostly mom and daughter affair, the break for teatime punctuates what can be a marathon shopping event.

Walking into the Peninsula hotel, or ‘the Pen’ if you are in the know, is a bit anticlimactic, since you have to go to the second floor to actually get into the hotel.  At the end of a hallway, the Lobby restaurant opens up on the right, check-in is on the left, and the concierge straight ahead. Dramatic flower arrangements punctuate the understated décor. My husband and I ordered the Royal Tea, which comes with champagne, caviar and extra savories and sweets. Since they didn’t have the advertised champagne, the waiter kindly gave us an entire bottle of a very nice French bubbly. Any flavor of tea is available as the hotel chain got its start in a place that knows tea, Hong Kong. The soaring cream and gold accented two-story lobby was filled with tables of guests from couples to groups, drinking tea in a most civilized manner. Soaring windows filled the room with natural light. One table near us was all ladies, dressed to the nines. No jeans and crop tops here; the dress code is “smart casual.”

Who would have guessed that all those little plates could fill a person up?  Multiple types of scones and orange curd tart were a nice balance to the curried chicken salad and lemon caper hummus. We tucked into our multiple courses of delectables, and a lovely bottomless cup of jasmine tea. Any flavor of tea is available as the hotel got its start in Hong Kong. Not to mention several glasses of tiny golden French bubbles.

Teatime is a fun event for all ages, and a great way to pass an afternoon in the windy city.

America Girl Place, 835 N. Michigan Avenue Chicago:

Afternoon Tea – served weekdays, 2 – 4:30 p.m.

$18 per person

The Peninsula, 835 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Afternoon Tea

Saturday: 1st Seating 2:30pm and

2nd Seating 4:30pm

Sunday: 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Until December 31, 2011, the hotel is celebrating in 10th Anniversary Royal Tea

$110 per person

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