I set out about two weeks ago to explore Chicago’s Chinatown — just off the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop. I hoped to find tiny tea-houses tucked away off the main streets, tea importers, tea shops — I hoped to find a mecca of tea right in my own city. However, I found none of this. Not even an inkling of hope. I left completely and utterly disappointed.
I began walking around, first North on Wentworth to China Square on Archer, there were many shops, Americanized restaurants, Chinese Herbs, bookstores, and a few stores selling cheap souvenirs. The only store slightly of interest was the Chinese Cultural Bookstore [2145B S. China Place] which had a small selection of Yixing pots (all above $100USD) and an instructional video called “Learn China’s Art of Enjoying Tea With Me” which I purchased and have not yet watched.
I then walked down Wentworth into the heart of Chinatown, going down each side-street a block or two just hoping to uncover a gem of a shop. But there was nothing to be found. I stopped by the well known Ten Ren tea shop on Wentworth. It is a classic Chinese tea shop, the walls lined with shelves of large tea tins. I had to wonder how long the tea had been sitting in the tins. They had one pu-erh cake priced at $20.00USD, and many tea-wares — few items to be found under $50.00USD.
Surprisingly the most “authentic” Chinese teahouse I’ve found in the Chicagoland area is in Evanston. It is called Dream About Tea [http://www.dreamabouttea.com/] if you get up there, make sure you check it out. Lastly, if anyone knows of any tea spots in Chicago’s Chinatown (perhaps I missed a few streets? maybe an entire section of Chinatown?) please enlighten me!