Billy Corgan Opens Chicago Tea House


When Billy Corgan, front-man of the rock band Smashing Pumpkins, set out to build a 1930s style Chinese tea shop with his business partner Sharon Mackin-Norberg in the Highland Park suburb of Chicago, no one knew what to expect. Their creation, Madame Zuzu’s Tea House opened on Sept. 13 in the Northern Chicago suburb.Madame Zuzu's

Walking through the front door of the former post office you are transported back in time, the deep red and black decor is almost sultry. Brown glass apothecary jars filled with tea and several jars filled with pastries line the wall behind the bar.

Judy Garland’s “Swing Mr. Charlie” is playing over the loudspeaker, a couple enjoys tea and vegan desserts at the bar. Across the room is a rare 1930s Bosendorfer upright piano.

“It’s one of things from a moment of my rock ’n’ roll excess; we were in Finland [in the 1990s]. … It’s a very rare piano. It’s got this deco vibe. I picked up the phone and said, ‘Can we ship this to Chicago?’ Now there it is in the tea house all these years later” Corgan told the Chicago Sun Times.

The menu consists of 14 teas from various sources and one coffee from Intelligentsia. There are also several Vegan dessert offerings from the Bent Fork Bakery in neighboring Highwood Ill. The 14 teas include four blacks, five greens, two whites, two herbals, and one rooibos.

Tea service ran from $3.25 to $6.75. The knowledgeable staff at Zuzu’s steep all teas at the bar in glass tea-ieres and bring them to the table in small pitchers with handle-less teacups.

The pitchers hold about 2-3 servings of tea. I chose a Malawi black tea for $3.25. It was strong with no astringency and was slightly muscatel like a Darjeeling and slightly malty like a Yunnan black. It was delicious. Nine of the 14 teas offered are pure, single origin teas.

Madame Zuzu’s comfortably seats 35 people and its owners hope that it becomes a social hub for Highland Park. They have recently begun taking submissions for musical acts and Corgan himself has shown up several times unannounced to play. Zuzu’s is truly a bastion of culture in the village of Highland Park.

“I’m a tea guy and living in Highland Park since 2003. I’ve always wanted to open a salon like this for everyone to enjoy,” Corgan told Crave Online. “This is a place with no age boundaries. We hope to attract everyone from young students to seniors. With a blend of music, photo galleries, art displays and speakers, I think Madame ZuZu’s offers something for everyone.”

Corgan is the alternative rock group’s primary songwriter. He has been with the band since its founding in 1988. Hisdark and cathartic lyrics have sold millions of albums since the group broke into the musical mainstream in 1993 with their second album Siamese Dream. They are currently recording Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.

Source: Chicago Sun Times