When the frozen yogurt craze hit Chicago a few years back, we had to wonder: Who can sell cold stuff in the land of polar vortexes?
Mandy Calara--founder of the Chicago-based Forever Yogurt chain--realized the city was becoming saturated with fro-yo, so he came up with a different plan. He’d buy some struggling yogurt shops, then use their real estate and restaurant equipment to launch a new year-round concept: boba tea (a sweet Taiwanese specialty) and bao (steamed buns with fillings).
The cheerful yellow-, black- and teal-themed Bee & Tea just opened in Wicker Park, and we recently stopped by to sample the bevvies and buns. (More outposts in Lincoln Park, Lakeview and beyond coming soon.)
The teas and yogurt smoothies are inherently fun--we felt like a happy kid sipping gelatinous balls of tapioca through huge, colorful straws--and B&T’s drink menu is infinitely customizable. Our icy strawberry-mango tea ($3.75) sweetened with honey and loaded with bursting boba was refreshingly fruity.
We also tried the barbecued pork and Thai curry chicken bao ($2.50 each). The steamed buns were hot, soft and filled with just enough meat to make for a satisfying lunch.
And for dessert? There’s a Forever Yogurt right across the street, of course.
Bee & Tea, 1843 W. North Ave.; beeteashop.com