WEEK #19 – Traditional Afternoon Tea at the Drake

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all of the mothers out there! I need to give a special shout out to my extraordinary mother. She has taught me to love many things, but one thing that always brought us together was our late night cups of tea. So where better to bring her than for tea at the Drake?

My sister-in-law, Melissa, rounded out our reservation for three for tea. We arrived to the open and airy room that was surprisingly loud. I always imagined ladies who tea to be dainty and quiet, but the acoustics just carried the sound. Plus, tea is a popular spot for parties and tourists alike (we saw both), so I guess I shouldn’t be that shocked.

We sat at a nice table near the entrance, and had a nice little corner to ourselves. We combed through the pages of tea, and decided on:

  • Mom: Earl GreyWith organic cold pressed Italian Bergamot Oil, a rare variety of Citrus
  • Stephanie: Chamomile CitrusMade with Soothing Egyptian Chamomile flowers and subtle slices of citrus fruit, this vibrant blend will rejuvenate the spirit
  • Melissa: Wild Blossoms & BerriesBlackberry and black currant, infused with lemongrass, hibiscus, chamomile, mint, licorice root and spices – its best without milk.

All of the teas are served loose. You get your own tea pot with the loose tea and hot water inside, and then you must strain the tea when serving. (We kept forgetting this part!) I thought my tea was delicious, until I tasted my Mom’s…it was awesome. I had a second sample of hers it was so good. What’s so great about the tea service is that the waiters keep coming around with hot water, so the tea is endless!

The “bottomless” tea pairs well with the three tiers of charming breads, scones, finger sandwiches, and decadent desserts. Even though I requested extra egg salad sandwiches (who knew I liked egg salad?), I would say the pastries were my favorite. There was one that tasted like a peach pie–I will dream about that little bite of heaven until I return!

We stayed for awhile and chatted, never feeling rushed. The service was excellent, with not having to wait long to be seated and, like I said, the hot water was flowing. Ha.

Oh, and the harpist—when she wasn’t playing “Happy Birthday” for different groups—was a nice touch. There’s something about a harp that’s so soothing, don’t you think?

I think my mom enjoyed herself…I know I did. Do I smell a new tradition?

I love you, Mom. Thanks for being my confidant, my advisor, and one of my best friends. I hope that one day I have a daughter, and she loves me just as much as I love you. XO

Tea at Palm Court, The Drake
140 East Walton Place
Gold Coast

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Week #7 – Rare Tea Cellar

If I have to choose tea or coffee, nine times out of 10 I’ll choose tea. Why? I’ve been drinking tea since I was a little girl. (Not sure if that’s healthy or not, but I think I turned out okay…) My mom is a big tea drinker, and she would always make us black Lipton tea with sugar or honey and half-and-half. Nowadays, I’ve gone mostly herbal, with my favorites being chamomile, rooibos, ginger (which I’m drinking as I type), and green tea.

My co-worker and friend Ellen recently emailed me about a charity event at the Rare Tea Cellar for The Night Ministry, an organization (that offers housing and healthcare to those in need) that she’s very involved in. Here was her description of the event:

“Rare Tea Cellar supplies tea and fancy-shmancy ingredients (hello, truffle flavor pearls and bourbon smoked black pepper) to restaurants like Graham Elliot, Alinea, and Girl & the Goat, and they’re opening up their warehouse to us for a shopping night. There are going to be samples of their ingredients and teas, plus appetizers and cocktails by Adam Segar (Lettuce Entertain You mixologist and creator of Hum).”

Um, how could I say no to this one? I asked Nate to come with, and he happily agreed. (Sorry, ladies, my husband IS the best.) When my co-worker and friend Erin, who I recently flew to NYC with, said she wanted to go to, I was looking forward to it even more.

So the date of the event arrives and Mother Nature decides to throw a sloppy, slushy mess all over the city, but I wasn’t going to stop me. (I even told Nate he could drop me off at the Brown line and I’d go alone, but he still came with—and drove. Sorry again, ladies, he’s all mine.)

We pulled up to row of warehouses, and I could see the teas on the shelves in the warehouse through the window. Already getting excited! We checked in to get our wristbands and immediately found Erin and Ellen. Erin came with us to get drinks (warning: shopping while drinking is dangerous!), and we all decided to get the blood orange punch with Templeton Rye. Yum. They also had hot herbal teas they were using to make their versions of Hot Toddies. Oooh.

This warehouse is a feast for your senses. Exotic teas to look at. Science-looking contraptions to distill the teas. And they let us smell so many things! Some sweet, some sour, some let left you with a strange look on your face. The warehouse has an amazing inventory (think watermelon powder and balls of  vintage floral tea) of rare finds from around the globe and a really knowledgeable staff to help make sense of it all. Erin and I walked around, taste testing different items stocked in the warehouse. We started simple with bourbon-infused sugar (sweet, but smoky), moved our way to citron vinegar (sour but citrusy delicous with a bite at the end), and caramel flavor pearls (consistency of tapioca beads that explode with sweet flavor). I also tried the warm gingerbread rooibos tea, which was the perfect ending to my successful taste test.

We ended up bringing home the bourbon-infused sugar and some strange tea called Pu’erh. The sales person explained that it is a dark tea from China. It looked so different, I had to give it a try. (Will follow up when I brew it!) ** Note: A portion of the proceeds from all purchases went directly to The Night Ministry!

I was so glad Nate (who thoroughly enjoyed the Radiohead playing all night) and I could attend such a unique event for such a good cause. Thanks for inviting me, Ellen!

Note: You can buy Rare Tea Cellar’s goods from around the world on their website. Visit now!

Rare Tea Cellar
3701 North Ravenswood Avenue, #101
North Center

Learn more about The Night Ministry at www.TheNightMinistry.org.

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