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Get A Life – November 4, 2005

My roommate and I embarrassed ourselves last weekend. These things happen. I won’t get into the details, but it was bad enough that, come Monday, we needed to find a place off-campus to study. We weren’t interested in running into anyone wanting to relive the details of our idiocy, so we set out to get as far away as possible to ensure a calm and peaceful environment in which to do our work.

Thus we found ourselves in the zen environment of the Argo Tea Café, sipping on relaxing blends with names like “Darjeeling Champagne” and “Earl Grey Crème.” We chose Argo Tea Café for its most important asset: free wireless internet access. No Starbucks-style, partnership-with-T-Mobile, charging-big-bucks-for-internet here. You don’t even need a network key to log on.

There are already three Argo Tea Cafés in Chicago, and some of them are said to have better connections than others, but I’ve only been to the one on Armitage (their flagship store), and it was a smooth ride. Finally, the C-shop isn’t the only place where you can eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, gossip about it on AIM, sip warm drinks, and pretend to be studying, all at once.

If you’re one of those people that can’t stand the bitterness of coffee (no matter how grown-up it makes you feel to drink it), then Argo is the place for you. They’ve got an extensive selection of trademark signature tea drinks, as equally confusing and sophisticated-sounding as the list at any gourmet coffee shop. Choose from drinks like Teapuccino (just like cappuccino, but with tea instead of espresso), Chai Latte, Hibiscus Steamer, or a variety of bubble teas. If ordering their Fizzy Tea Sparkle doesn’t make you feel grown-up, then I don’t know what will. And, like any good wannabe coffee shop, they offer a wide selection of syrups to sweeten any drink you choose. If you’re unfamiliar with the subtle (yet important) differences between Oolong Formosa and Assam Burgundy, the chipper and friendly staff will gladly offer you as many samples as it takes for you to decide.

Argo also serves a surprisingly wide array of foods, including quiches, fresh salads, and sandwiches. More importantly, they have a mouth-watering selection of desserts and pastries, which includes enormous cookies and three different flavors of ruggelach (for the good little Jew in you). So that you may digest your chocolate smoothly, they keep every type of milk behind the counter, served cold and fresh at your request.

Local artists display and sell their goods on the walls of the café, adding to the already warm atmosphere. Comfy sofa chairs (and plenty of electrical outlets and lamps on the tables) make for a setting as close to your parents’ living room as you’re going to get. If you get the sudden urge to shop—as I often do—there are plenty of modern and ancient-inspired teapots, tea accessories, and tea-related playthings. You can also purchase freshly bagged loose tea to take home with you, which the employees will patiently counsel you in choosing.

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