Tea-ming With Opportunity

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Sep 26, 2007 2:45PM

"Tea is a fashion, coffee is a passion," wrote commentor Tim, the last time we wrote about the trendiness of tea. Tim, we hate to break it to you, but at this point, tea seems to have moved beyond trendy and into a full-fledged lifestyle choice. Says who? $5 million in sales this year at Argo Tea, for starters.

2007_9_tea.jpgToday's New York Times has a flattering profile of IT-cum-tea entrepreneurs Arsen Avakian and Simon Simonian, who came up with the idea for Argo after noticing how much coffee Americans drink (both are originally from Armenia).

“I asked myself, what would be the closest cousin of coffee?” Avakian told the Times. “In Europe that’s easy. It’s tea. But here in the United States, tea is one of the least consumed beverages. People in Chicago said how stupid can you be, starting a business with tea as the dominant drink? I said, perfect. That’s the opportunity I’m looking for.

"In effect, Mr. Avakian and Mr. Simonian went from I.T. to iced tea." We love it when the NYT attempts to be funny.

Who knows which came first, the demand or the supply, but tea drinking is up—way up. Between 1990 and 2006, the tea industry grew from $1.84 billion to $6.50 billion. Savvy marketing, or a real shift in how American's drink their hot beverages? We have no idea. All we know is, Argo's business plan calls for them to open two more stores by the end of the year and hit $10 million in sales in 2008.

Before you think Argo is the end-all, be-all for finding quality tea, there are other places throughout the city to enjoy some of that sweet leaf.

Here is a sampling of some of our favorite places:

Ten Ren's Tea Time
2247 S. Wentworth
312-842-1171

The Coffee & Tea Exchange
3311 N. Broadway
773-528-2241

Teavana
835 N. Michigan Ave. (Water Tower Place)
312-335-9802

Hi Tea
14 E. 11th Street
312-880-0832
Note: Chicagoist is a big fan of Hi Tea.

Kouks Vintage Cafe
5653 N. Northwest Hwy.
773-594-8888

Russian Tea Time
77 E. Adams
312-360-0000

Both Intelligentsia and Metropolis carry a vast array of teas, as well.

Image via VSA Partners.