Featured Tea Company: Chicago Tea Garden
Q- Chicago Tea Garden, how did it come to be?
A- In 2005 I was fortunate enough to join a trip through my university to China. We spent 40 days roaming around China, the last 10 days I spent by myself starting from Hangzhou and ending in Beijing. Tea was everywhere, men were playing mahjong on street side sipping from gaiwans, tiny shops on nearly every corner served tea gongfu style. I happened upon a small tea shop south of the forbidden city in Beijing where a woman taught me the gongfu tea ceremony, she did not speak English and I did not speak mandrin – tea bridged the language barrier. Later, in 2008 I backpacked most of Southeast Asia, I started in Fiji and traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and India. Each country had tea and their own culture surrounding it. When I came back to the states, I wanted nothing more than to spread the culture and history behind great tea.
Q- Where do your teas come from?
A- Many of our teas come direct from small farmers in Japan and China, the pu-erhs were purchased by David Lee Hoffman and were aged in his man-made tea caves in California.
Q- What do the customers mean to your company?
A- Without my customers, Chicago Tea Garden wouldn’t exist. I have made many friends through my business, and I treat my customers as if they were my good friends. So to answer the question, my customers are my friends.
Q- What makes Chicago Tea Garden unique?
A- We are able to sell many unique teas that some larger companies cannot sell due to availability. We buy in small quantities, many times — we are buying all that a farmer has to offer. Larger companies have a greater demand – so they must buy in huge quantities, top quality tea is not always available in such quantities. We hope that we find our business to be scalable by adding more teas to the selection.
Q- In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?
A- peace, love, tea
Q- This is a three-parter. What tea does every one order? What tea would you suggest for tea newbies? What is your most unique tea?
A- Surprisingly enough, there is not one tea that everyone orders, it varies from order to order and some teas peak as reviews are written online, or if a tea becomes popular on Steepster. For a tea newbie, I suggest our Golden Bi Luo. It is a yunnan black tea and it has been good at changing people’s minds about black tea when they are used to bagged black tea. For starters with pu-erh I recommend our Camel’s Breath pu-erh tuocha or our Wild Orange pu-erh. In general though — all of our pu-erhs can be a considered beginner pu-erhs. I don’t consider myself a pu-erh expert. I think that I would have to live several lifetimes in order to become a pu-erh expert and to offer a selection competitive to a store like Yunnan Sourcing. Our most unique tea of the moment is our Kamairi Cha, it is a pan-fired green tea from Japan hand-made by a man well-known in Japan for producing this type of tea. This is the first time his tea has been sold in America. (Can’t forget the New Zealand Oolong too!)
Q- What is the mission of Chicago Tea Garden?
A- To provide the best quality teas we can find at an affordable price while respecting and supporting the farmer.