In a land where coffee and tea shops are overly commercialized and mass produced comes 1930s style Chinese tea house Madame Zuzu’s in Highland Park (that’s near Ravinia for all you city folk). The vibe is chill and somewhat quirky — intricate red and black wallpaper, ostrich feathers, a black stand-up piano, and a cabinet of Asian figurines — which I totally loved.
- At Madame ZuZu’s
I was also somewhat surprised. Madame ZuZu’s is the project of Billy Corgan, of Smashing Pumpkins fame, and, based on my previous experiences with celebrity owned operations, they tend toward the over-the-top and sceeny (I’m looking at you RPM and Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse). Of course, I don’t know Billy. But clearly, this is much more his style.
- Honey, sugar, milk…and Asian figurines
Further unlike the Starbucks and Caribous of the world, there are not seventeen million choices on the menu. Rather, ZuZu’s focuses on a dozen loose-leaf teas from around the world, pour over Intelligentsia coffee, and a few nibbles. The hubby and I shared two teas, one from India and the other from China. Both were complex and flavorful, although the winner for me was the Chinese tea (the Indian tea was a bit too strong for me although the hubby thought it was spectacular).
- Tea from around the world
The best part about ZuZu’s, though, is the people. In a matter of minutes of ordering, we had struck up a conversation with another person at the tea house. Now, granted, I have a habit of talking to strangers, but this was different. The atmosphere seemed to welcome random conversations, and that is very special. After all, how many times have you been to Starbucks and had a memorable talk with a someone you’ve never met before? I can remember one time, and I’ve been to Starbucks more than I’d like to admit.
So thanks, Billy, for creating a unique and welcoming space. Wish you all the best with the endeavor.
Try Madame ZuZu’s at 528 Roger Williams Ave in Highland Park.