By Zachary Wright
According to an ancient Chinese legend, tea was born in China when Emperor Shennong ordered a royal decree that all water must be boiled. As he waited for his boiled water to cool, a strong gust of wind blew forth leaves from a tea tree into his pot and thus, the first cup of tea was created. Since then, people have been drinking tea for thousands of years with historians finding evidence of the Han Dynasty being one of the very first people to actively drink tea. Since then, people have been trying to perfect tea like the Indians, the British and the Russians. Teahouses sprang up around the world and continue to, with one located here in Chicago.
Decorated with lots of rich, dark reds contrasted on white walls that are spotted with Soviet propaganda along with beautifully crafted antiques. It is a truly unique experience for those seeking a change of pace from the business of the city. It is like sitting in a real Soviet restaurant before World War II. It has a timeless charm about it. There is something for anyone to enjoy if you have the have the time and cash to spend. This is not just any place you can walk into, but one where you should dress up a little and meet with friends or family to catch up as you all wine, dine, chat and eat over an authentically rich Russian meal.
The full tea service is something that is a must when visiting. Like with a British tea service, there is three tiers of finger foods you get to eat. However, it gets very pricey very quickly and may not be the best choice for a picky eater. Many of the pastries are loaded with plum or apricot jams with confectioner’s sugar generously (and gracefully) thrown on top. The savory dishes are meat and bread based, so those who are wanting to watch their carbs are better off going somewhere else. The beginnings, much like the British traditions, are just scones with a homemade whipped cream and jam.
There is a selection of fine teas imported from around the world, including a house blend made by the restaurant themselves. All the teas favor the Chinese varieties, as well as Indian and Sri Lankan. The tea is brewed with loose leaves in a ceramic pot which provides a rich flavor and an even richer aroma.
The service is good and the staff is accommodating and friendly, keeping your teapot full. But, some seem to rush you. Tea time is something that is leisurely done. Time is taken to enjoy all things and not really meant to be rushed since it is more about the company you’re with rather than how much time you have.