If a night at Blu puts you in the mood for a martini, then soon, the sunset from atop The Pfister Hotel just might conjure the scent of tea.
The hotel has returned its afternoon tea service to Blu on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, through March 24, 2013. High tea is available from 3 until 4:30 p.m. on those days.
Afternoon tea at The Pfister was long a Lobby Bar tradition, but in 2009, the pinkies-up tradition took the elevator 23 flights up.
Recently, I brought my little girl for a tea date at Blu. Upon arrival, we were greeted by The Pfister’s charming and knowledgeable tea butler Juan Rodriguez, who wheeled the tea cart over to our seats overlooking East Town.
Rodriguez has been the hotel’s tea butler for nearly 30 years.
“What makes tea so special for me is, having the opportunity to meet and serve a diversity of guest of all ages,” says Rodriguez, who passion for tea is obvious. “Some of them know a lot about afternoon tea and some know very little about the afternoon tea experience.”
So, Rodriguez schools guests on the origins of the tea on offer and the different blends and he passes around each jar so guests can breathe in their scents.
On his cart were 10 jars of tea leaves from Chicago’s Liif, which hand picks its tea from single estates in the mountains of Sri Lanka. The exception is the Egyptian chamomile, which, naturally, comes from Egypt.
The selection includes a wide variety of flavors, from the grassy Chinese oolong to the spicy ginger beach black tea, from the floral chamomile to the citrusy Ceylon Black Diyagama and the fruity red berry. Rodridguez’s tea cart is armed with mint, apple slices, cinnamon sticks and other taste enhancers.
Because the “All Grown Up” tea menu – aimed at guests 12 and under – offers hot cocoa, I chose the chocolate mint rooibos, to match my daughter’s drink. The tea has extremely low caffeine, but a strong cocoa flavor with a hint of minty spark.
The tea is delivered in a classic, ornate silver tipping teapot with a tealight to keep it warm.
But “tea” is more than simply tea and The Pfister Executive Chef Brian Frakes pulls out all the stops for the accompanying treats, which come in five menu options.
“Simple Elegance” ($14) includes scones, along with mascarpone, strawberry preserves and sumptuous lemon curd to spice them up.
“Sweets” ($18) offers the same as “Simple Elegance,” with the addition of opera tortes, chocolate dipped strawberries, madelines and macarons, shortbread cookies. The upgrade will be the best $4 you spend that week.
An artisan cheeses option ($24) offers a selection of cheeses with “custom paired accompaniments” and water crackers, silver dollar lavosh and sliced baguette.
The “All Grown Up” for kids ($11) offers hot cocoa, lemonade, cider or milk, along with ham and cheddar sandwiches, chicken salad tartlettes, PBJ sconres and madeline cookies.
But, the full experience is the “Victorian Tea,” which costs $30. It includes everything from “Sweets,” plus St. Andre mousse cones with fresh honeycomb; watercress and cucumber sandwiches with cervil and beurre demi-sel; curried quail eggs; turkey pinwheels with red onion marmalade; scottish smoked salmon wraps with caviar; and more.
The tea and the food and the atmosphere – did I mention harpist Mary Keppler provides musical accompaniment? – and the service are what one would expect from a luxury venue like The Pfister. They set the stage for an experience that is more than an afternoon pick-me-up on an autumn or winter day.
“When I took the responsibilities of the tea butler I discovered that we had many loyal guests that had been coming to The Pfister for a traditional afternoon tea for a long time with their families,” says Rodriguez.
“I love when the parents bring their children. They really get engaged and are a lot of fun to wait on. My goal is to establish a good relationship with the children, as they will be the new generation of the afternoon teatime.”
The Pfister’s afternoon tea goes beyond mere refreshment; it is an experience that creates a special occasion and builds fond memories. That makes it a bargain at any price.
Reservations are required. Call (414) 935-5942 or (877) 704-5340.