Daylight Savings is almost upon us, but, woefully, winter is still hanging on. If the cold months have gotten you down, head to one of these restaurants for tea to warm up. It’s a simple pleasure, a lovely way to embrace the chill. Need something stronger? Tea cocktails are also a thing – and maybe even more effective in boosting your bluesy mood. Grab your auntie and get together for some family gossip or treat the littlest teetotaler in your life to a fancy afternoon tea experience. And don’t worry even if you’re not near any of these restaurants. OpenTable has 48,000 spots around the globe – including one that’s right for you.
Onsen, San Francisco, California
Serenity now. Tea is front and center at this Asian-influenced wellness destination and restaurant. Teas are sourced from local Tap Twice Tea and showed off in an extensive tea menu. And, there’s a low ABV cocktail program, featuring drinks made with superfoods like turmeric, ginger, and clove including Hot Boyz (chai-infused soju, cinnamon, apple, orange oil, and red wine,) Golden Fog (Dolin dry vermouth, Fino sherry, turmeric, ginger, tisane) and Flower Sour (clove-infused soju, hibiscus simple syrup, hibiscus immune boost tisane, lavender bitters). Make a reservation at Onsen.
Travelle at The Langham, Chicago, Illinois
In the most unique tea department belongs The Bon Vivant, a whimsical, DIY cocktail stirred with Hennessy VSOP with brown butter, spices, and Nobo whole fruit tea — with a drunken goat cheese accompaniment. There’s a plan behind this unusual cocktail: the idea is to allow the sipper to enjoy the cocktail in much the same way they would enjoy a cheese and charcuterie board by mixing and matching the ingredients as they choose. Make a reservation at Travelle at The Langham.
Yauatcha, Houston, Texas
An extensive tea program at this worldly dim sum teahouse (the first location brewed in London’s Soho) features more than 20 unique, interesting tea varieties, including a proper nod to its Texas location — a custom floral tea blend of organic Blue Mountain black tea and fragrant Texas red grapefruit rinds. And an in-house patisserie serves delicate sweets like a pecan tart that pairs beautifully with the teas poured here. And interestingly, this the only U.S. location; other Yauatcha teahouses are in Saudi Arabia, London, and India. Make a reservation at Yauatcha.
China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada
You can bet on magical blends of tea at this restaurant by chef José Andrés that melts the cultures of Mexico and Chinese on one menu (unlike fusion, the two cuisines appear separately on the same menu). The restaurant serves TeaLeaves, loose-leaf tea blends that complement the concept, including master blends Imperial Tung Ting Oolong, Shanghai Rose, Harmony, Floral Jasmine Green, and organic Lychee Green. Shanghai Rose (rose petals and black tea leaves infused with lychee) is a special sip. Make a reservation at Cina Poblano.
Le Salon at The Windsor Court Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana
Unpretentious Southern hospitality meets traditional English tea at this polished New Orleans jewel box, located in the stylish hotel’s lobby. Expect a choice of 26 proper loose-leaf teas (the mixed berry is the house special), delicate tea sandwiches (lobster salad, truffle egg salad), and black currant and walnut scones with raspberry preserves for something sweet. A piano player tickles the ivories, a harpist plucks the strings — and themed tea services like Mardi Gras, Prohibition and LGBTea are popular throughout the year. Make a reservation at Le Salon at The Windsor Court Hotel.
Brabo-Lorien Hotel & Spa, Alexandria, Virginia
Lead bartender Brett Oye creates an elevated boozy tea cocktail at this classic French brasserie with fashionable European flair and an address in cobblestoned Old Town Alexandria. His Chai a l’orange is a winter warming tea sipper poured with Rooibos chai concentrate, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac and Grand Marnier, hot water, and heavy cream — perfect to warm your heart, nose, and toes. Make a reservation at Brabo-Lorien Hotel & Spa.
Spoonfed |Bar Joe, Hollywood, California
Tea cocktails all day. Modern American comfort food meets Midwest swag at this “safe haven for drinkers” and popular dining spot. Beverage director John Neumueller’s three boozy tea sips are Mrs. Potts (LemonHart spiced rum, aged Tung Ting Oolong, citric acid, lemongrass, cinchona bark); Shaolin Soldado (mezcal, Gunpowder green tea, coconut, milk, Laphroaig whisky, and honey); and Twisted Kilt (Street Pumas blended scotch, Wasmund’s single malt, Dragon Pearl jasmine tea, malic acid). Make a reservation at Spoonfed |Bar Joe.
King Tide Fish & Shell, Portland, Oregon
Bundle up in a rocking chair on the front patio and order the Cha Cha — a hot cocktail poured with Disaronno amaretto, yellow Chartreuse, house-spiced syrup, lemon juice, and topped off with hot chai tea. The bevvie is created by bartender Alex Dutroncy, and poured and presented in an Irish coffee mug. The name chai is derived from the Chinese word cha, a traditionally black tea with warming spices meant to promote healing, and yellow Chartreuse is a combo of 130 herbs, plants, and flowers made by Carthusian Monks in the Chartreuse Mountains of France in 1605. Make a reservation at King Tide Fish & Shell.
Red Star, Portland, Oregon
Bartender Brandon Lockman’s Shen Nong’s Elixir is created with Rishi jasmine pearl hot tea, bourbon, apple cider, and sweetened with agave syrup. The drink’s inspiration comes from the popular long-standing Chinese and Japanese tradition of pairing whiskey and tea. A plum winter night tea cocktail pairing of just-plucked seafood from the sea and foraged mushrooms will get you through the long dark nights of the season. Make a reservation at Red Star.
Chiya Chai Cafe, Chicago, Illinois
This is a chic chai spot and Indian restaurant in Chicago’s artsy Logan Square with one of the most expansive chai programs in the world (a menu of more than 150 combinations of chai). Owner Swadesh Shrestha sources chai from his hometown in Nepal. In fact, the restaurant is backed by two husband and wife teams with a combined rich family history of tea merchants, pioneering bringing Nepalese tea to other regions of the world. Make a reservation at Chiya Chai Cafe.
Radiator, Washington, D.C.
You won’t find snow-blanketed ski slopes in D.C. (although there are some slippery slopes). On a cold winter day, tea lovers craving comfort will want to order off the apres-ski menu at this Logan Circle hotspot adjacent to the Mason Rook Hotel. Get cozy with lead bartender Patrick Barrett’s Pow-Wow, a bipartisan riff on a hot toddy with apple pie moonshine, apple cider, chai syrup, and a splash of hot water for a Capitol winter pick-up. Make a reservation at Radiator.
Pomegranate on Main, Greenville, South Carolina
This popular Persian restaurant brews a hot Persian tea that’s steeped in tradition. The experience is enjoyed by dipping a sugar cube into the tea (a blend of five loose-leaf teas), then placing it under the tongue or in the cheek while sipping. Persian tea typically comes in a translucent mug, emphasizing the vibrant colors, and is served on lead-free pewter trays; the trays at Pomegranate are handmade by the owner’s sister in Iran, with engravings that depict a ceremonial presentation of gifts to the Great King Xerxes. Make a reservation at Pomegranate on Main.
Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston knows a thing or two about tea (it just celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party). This swanky harborfront hotel hosts a weekend afternoon tea replete with all the trimmings — sweet treats (cocoa nib tea cake), savory sandwiches (maple smoked salmon, pickled pink onion, and a cream cheese checkerboard). The signature tea is the Noir No. 25, a black tea with citrus and spices. For a buzzier tea, order The Merry Spiced Wine hot tea cocktail (Chai Imperial Black Tea, red wine, Bacardi 8 rum, cinnamon syrup, fresh oranges, and apples). Cheers to the Sons of Liberty. Make a reservation at Rowe’s Wharf Sea Grille.
Urbana Dining & Drinks, Washington, D.C.
Lead bartender Lauren Mathews packs a boozy punch in her Hot Turkey Toddy, a blend of Wild Turkey, honey syrup, lemon, rum, Cotton & Reed allspice dram, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, hot lemon, and chamomile tea. You’ll want to order one of the fresh artisan pasta dishes to complement your hot tea libation — a perfect winter warm-up pairing like mittens and a scarf, especially when a storm is brewing in the forecast. Make a reservation at Urbana Dining & Drinks.
What are your picks for restaurants for tea drinks this winter? Tell us here or over on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.
Photo credits: ThinkFoodGroup (China Poblano); Galdones Photography (Travelle); Sarah Essex Bradley (Le Salon).