There’s a tiny, cramped shop in Seattle’s International District where a little old Chinese lady sits with her fur ball of a dog and drinks tea all day long.
Until today, that nameless squalor was the only tea shop I’ve been to in this country that has some decent oolong.
Introducing Dream About Tea in Evanston, IL. This place is not polished and brightly lit the way chains like Starbucks or Argo Tea are. On the shop’s window a handwritten sign has “Free Wifi” scrawled on it. The interior looks like your elder Chinese-American uncle’s living room with its old mismatched furniture and TV in the corner.
This place is quiet. Not in a eerie, awkward, need-to-fill-the-void kind of silence, but rather, a peaceful, meditative, I feel-like-I’m-a-Buddhist-monk kind of quiet.
At the tea counter, there is a wide and varied selection of jars and jars of great Chinese tea. I asked for oolong, and the gentle men behind the counter asked, “darker or greener oolong?” This has never been asked of me before, and I liked that he checked. I told him greener, and he pointed out five choices. I chose an ounce of Lishan.
When still dry, the Lishan Oolong smells fresh and strong, sort of like taking a whiff of fresh air when you’re uphill on a green mountain in the springtime. Once brewed, it expands magnificently and can be rebrewed several times, as most oolong can.
You can find me dreaming about tea tonight.