Argo Tea expands empire with more beverage offerings

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Coffee is certainly big business in America. (WLS)

Coffee is certainly big business in America, but worldwide, tea is the second-most consumed beverage.

A Chicago-based company with nearly 20 locations here, has recently expanded its offerings, attempting to attract even more consumers with its tea-based drinks.

It might as well be a cocktail bar, considering how active the baristas are behind the counter of your neighborhood Argo Tea. There are 17 locations in Chicagoland, including this massive one in the Loop, where they also teach employees the art of tea.

"We like to play around with mixology and really highlight not only the health benefits and nutritional benefits of tea, but the flavor as well because that's really what it comes down to, that's what gets people to drink the tea," said Mika Ishita, the Marketing Director of Argo Tea.

They've added kombucha, a fermented black tea, which has probiotics, not unlike kefir or kimchi, which mimic the good bacteria in your system. But to make the slightly funky, vinegary drink more palatable, you get to add a choice of tea, maybe some fresh-pressed ginger and a little sparkling water. They also offer matcha shots, made from pulverized Japanese green tea.

"So it becomes a really, really fine powder full of antioxidants and the health benefits of green tea," she said.

A dash of simple syrup sweetens it, and the matcha is frothed up with hot water in a special device, giving it a little bit of volume. True mixology comes in the form of a host of mixed drinks with various flavorings, like hibiscus, sparkling water and fresh fruit, if you're in a sangria mood, or for something purer, a cold brew tea, made by steeping loose leaves in cold water for a few hours.

"It's a different chemical process than hot water extraction. Actually has less caffeine, less tannins, which results in a smoother flavor," said Ishita.

So the health benefits of tea have been known for centuries but now Argo is trying to actually add a lot of flavor to that tea which you can have in some of their 50 locations worldwide, or 17 right here in Chicagoland.

In this week's Extra Course, Steve goes behind the counter at Argo and whips up his own customized tea drink.

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In this week's Extra Course, Steve goes behind the counter at Argo and whips up his own customized tea drink.

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