by Chester Wilson III
Across from the Chicago Teacher Store, down a street in Bucktown, you’ll find a small, up-and-coming tea shop that’s offering a lot more than just tea. Xuan Tea is serving up a full-on tea experience.
Xuan Tea’s location, at 1816 North Milwaukee Avenue, will be one among many unique destinations in Chicago’s ever evolving community of tea drinkers. Offering a selection of teas from around the globe, it’s clear that Xuan Tea is aiming to make an impression. This high end tea shop sportsleaves from Japan, Taiwan, and China.
The tea shop imports all of it’s tea from small scale farmers in these countries.
“I have personally travelled to China to forge a relationship with small scale tea farmers and to hand choose the tea for our menu,” said owner Keqi Meng in his Kickstarter campaign.
Walking into the Xuan Tea shop, it’s clear that the atmosphere makes up a lot of the experience. From decorative lighting to bar-like seating, Meng says that the tea shop has much more in store for the Bucktown area.
“After sharing this new world of tea with American friends, I was shocked at how much they enjoyed the drink and the traditional Chinese method of brewing it. Their response led me to open a small pop-up tea shop in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago in August 2016,” he said.
A summer prior, Keqi tested the waters in Chicago by opening a temporary tea shop on Milwaukee Avenue. The company’s model? “Pay-What-You-Think-It’s-Worth.” This presented an opportunity for Keqi to both judge the public interest and gauge appropriate pricing.
“A successful run at the pop-up shop proved that America has a demand for this healthy beverage, and motivated me to open up a permanent storefront in Wicker Park,” Keqi said.
The local tea shop officially opened it’s doors in August of 2017, welcoming its customers to the world of authentically brewed tea. That’s something many of Chicago’s residents are taking as an open invitation, packing Xuan Tea shop to the brim with countless customers.
Currently, their outdoor area is lightly furnished, wicker chairs and a mess of ivy consumes a nearby wall.The shop is constructing a Japanese Dry Garden in an outdoor patio living space.
The Bucktown tea shop even has a tea ceremony choice for those wanting to go the extra mile and feel like a tad bit like royalty as the staff demonstrate the whole process of preparing the leaves, bathing the pot, and finally pouring the tea.
“You can never understand it and can’t fully understand what tea is, that’s the sexy part,” said Keqi