Chicago, IL 60603 773.663.4471 website
Most of Argo Tea’s 23 locations are packed in downtown Chicago, and wandering through this city, it almost feels like there’s one on every corner. The chain, based in this city, tailors its fancy coffee and tree products to the person on the go, and it’s spotted pretty exclusively in major cities. Argo’s business is based on six tenants (CommuniTea, DiversiTea, ChariTea, QualiTea, SustainabiliTea, and CreativiTea, as they are called) and its mission is to bring a drink which is not only tasty, but holistic as well. I like the idea.
The main sellers in the business seem to be the “signature” drinks; a Parthenon of drinks from all the coffeehouses combined, but made with tea instead of java. You’ll find a “smootea,” a “teappuccino,” red velvet tea, hot chocolate tea, and tea drinks seemingly based on mixed drink recipes. I tried and enjoyed the Mojitea, mint tea and lime juice. It’s a really cool idea to take drinks with coffee or alcohol and make them tea drinks. I don’t know that the tea version of the drinks tastes that different from the normal versions of the drinks, though. The basic teas are good. If you order the unadulterated version, you’ll still get a good tea, though I would contend the flavors are a little week. I do like the green tea, for example, and the aforementioned mint tea is good, too.
Argo also has coffee, brewed from Arabica coffee beans which are shade-grown, organic and fair trade. Per the website, they’re imported from Ethiopia, East Timor, Sumatra, Colombia and Nicaragua. The coffee plays second fiddle to the teas, but it’s also very convenient especially in downtown Chicago. Moreover, the coffee can be bought by the bean, as can the teas, to be brewed at home.
The atmosphere of the shop is pretty generic, the concept of the restaurant is nice and clean, but it certainly has a corporate feel. The bright lights glaring at you from all over is unlike to the quaint atmosphere of most tea houses I have visited. The hours are problematic, too. Every location has a different set of hours which is hard to memorize, and most of them open relatively early, but they close at strange hours. Some close at 5, others at 6:30, 7 or 8. The neat thing about coffee shops is going to visit them at night, and especially in major cities with such vibrant nightlife, it’s a real shame to see this place have such restricted hours.
Overall I would come back, particularly for the convenience of the place and the specialty drinks, but I don’t know that a tea chain can really be executed well. The charm of a tea house isn’t in the flashiness.
- The signature drinks are the coolest thing to try. From Red velvet and chocolate mint, to tea sangria and mojitea, they are what really make the place neat.
- The coffees and teas can be bought by the bean and taken home to brew.
- Check the hours of the closest location, as they may vary widely.