Dream About Tea turns a new leaf with its closure, co-owners and customers reflect on community connections


Ilana Arougheti/Daily Senior Staffer

Wu and Yao have been serving tea together at their shop, Dream About Tea, for nearly 18 years.

Olivia Kharrazi, Reporter

Upon stepping into Dream About Tea, customers are welcomed by intricately painted tea sets and Chinese calligraphy books lining the walls. Red lanterns tumble from the ceiling, and gold paper decorations hang from metallic ribbons. Glass jars of loose-leaf tea with handwritten labels cover the counter, behind which co-owner Daquan Yao stands brewing tea.

The Chinese tea shop, at 1011 Davis St., will be closing its doors Nov. 30. Yao and his wife Hong Wu have served tea together from their shop for nearly 18 years. 

While in business school, the couple noticed a vacancy of tea shops in the Chicago area. They decided to be the ones to fill it, marking the creation of Dream About Tea.

“We both had a dream to have a business where we could meet friends and share cultural ideas with the tea as the medium,” Wu said.

From the moment they opened their doors, Wu and Yao did just that, setting up their shop to bring Evanston residents together through its warm atmosphere, sense of community and flavorful teas. 

The shop features a hodgepodge of couches and chairs where customers can sit and sip from colorful cups. As they converse with one another, classical music plays softly in the background.  

Long-time customer Mike Brayndick has come to Dream About Tea with his family since the shop’s founding, attending various activities Wu and Yao organized to bring the community together. From watching his daughters win at Mahjong and celebrating traditional Chinese holidays to using the shop’s gathering space as an occasional workspace, Brayndick said he has always felt at home at Dream About Tea. 

His daughter, Casey Brayndick, has been coming to Dream About Tea since around the age of five. She said she used to spend four to five afternoons in the shop each week, doing homework and chatting with friends over tea.

“The tea, of course, is amazing,” Casey said. “But there’s a real sense of community here that I think is something really special. That always brought us back.” 

Though it was an emotionally hard decision, Wu said closing the tea shop is economically the best option. Amid the rise of e-commerce, as well as the stress placed on small businesses during the pandemic, Yao and Wu decided not to renew their lease.

With the closure of their business, Wu will continue working at her current primary job as a high school teacher.

Yao said he plans to return to school to learn to craft violins. Evidence of his lifelong passion is strewn throughout the tea shop, from a desk in a back corner housing a collection of violins to their cases tucked into miscellaneous locations. 

For customers such as the Brayndicks, Dream About Tea’s closure means finding another place that will provide the same sense of community the tea shop did for so many years. 

“Part of what I learned from being here, I’ll have to take with me. How I drink tea, the kind of teas that I drink, just that feeling of being settled and slowing down and being able to enjoy things moment by moment,” Mike said. “I think the tea shop it sounds maybe corny it’s going to kind of live on inside me a little bit in those positive memories.”

Wu said saying goodbye to the people she met over the years makes closing her and her husband’s shop particularly emotional. 

Through Dream About Tea, Wu said she connected to people from all walks of life and listened to their stories. No other experience could have given her these close bonds with clientele, she added. 

“What a lovely community that we belong to,” Wu said. “We feel very blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of the community.”


Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @oliviakharrazi

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