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'606' Getting Tea Bar Serving 'Tea Eggs' Near Bucktown Ramp

By Alisa Hauser | May 11, 2017 1:06pm
 A customer sniffs loose tea at Xuan Tea's summer pop-up, and where the new storefront will be located, under the bright yellow awning.
A customer sniffs loose tea at Xuan Tea's summer pop-up, and where the new storefront will be located, under the bright yellow awning.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser; Xuan Tea (Bottom Left)

BUCKTOWN  — A tea bar offering loose leaf tea from China, Taiwan and Japan is underway near the 606's Milwaukee and Leavitt park and aims to open by early July, according to Xuan Tea's owner.

The 30-seat Xuan Tea at 1816 N. Milwaukee Ave. will be the first permanent shop for founder Keqi Meng, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and Albany Park resident who grew up in Hangzhou, the capital city of eastern China province Zhejing.

Last summer, Meng tested the waters by operating a pop-up tea bar in the BoomBox shipping container kiosk around the corner from Wicker Park's Polish Triangle.

"People liked the tea, and the successful proof of concept made me decide to open a storefront," said Meng, who moved to Chicago in 2015 and last year quit his full-time job as a financial consultant to start Xuan Tea.

As Xuan Tea's main "tea-tender, " Meng will serve 12 selections of loose leaf tea, mostly from China, and some from Taiwan and Japan.

"The tea ceremony we do is modified to allow Americans to enjoy a traditional experience in a modern way. Basically we combine the Western bar culture and Asian tea ceremony together. It's kind of hard to describe exactly until you really see it," Meng said.

Xuan usually means "mysterious" in Chinese but can have multiple meanings, he said.

The heavily researched menu, refined by a recent trip to China where Meng sourced from some of the country's most respected tea farms, is not yet finalized. But Meng said customers can expect a classic white tea, Silver Needle, with a sweet and smooth taste; and Longjing, or Dragonwell tea, which has a mellow flavor due to its pan-roasted leaves.

No liquor will be served, just tea, but some of the seating will be at stools along a bar-like counter.

"It's authentic because of the steeping process, tea wares and especially the tea itself, which allows customers to taste the most original and natural flavor of tea, which we think is way better than flavored tea," Meng said.

And for those who like to pour honey in their tea, Meng shared this thought: "A funny tale we tell people is that adding honey in tea is like adding ketchup on a steak."

Prices per cup for the loose leaf teas will start around $5 but will vary based on the tea quality. There wil also be some traditional hot tea and cold brewed tea.

Along with tea, folks who are drinking on an empty stomach might enjoy a small selection of snacks such as tea eggs, which are flavorful hard boiled eggs boiled in hot tea and "tea porridge," which Meng said is rice infused with tea water.

Hours are not yet determined.  For updates, follow @Xuan_Tea on Twitter.

 Xuan Tea at Wicker Park's Boombox.
Xuan Tea in Wicker Park
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 Xuan Tea aims to open at 1816 N. Milwaukee Ave. in early July.  The shop is at the far right, the third storefront in a rehabbed warehouse that's now home to a pizza parlor and fitness studio.
Xuan Tea aims to open at 1816 N. Milwaukee Ave. in early July. The shop is at the far right, the third storefront in a rehabbed warehouse that's now home to a pizza parlor and fitness studio.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser