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OUR TEAM

Keqi Meng

Keqi grew up in Hangzhou, China, surrounded by green tea farms. At eighteen, he moved to America to study psychology and accounting at University of Texas at Austin. With a double major, Master's Degree and C.P.A completed, he left his career to bring his Friendship Trade tea to Chicago and the rest of the United States. You can usually find him at the tea bar, cracking jokes between cups of Dragonwell. 

Keqi is a certified Tea Sommelier and resides in the West Loop of Chicago with wife Angelia, and their Shiba Inu, Momoko. 

Kate Wille

Kate relocated to Chicago in May 2017 after spending a decade working in NYC entertainment, fashion and tech. Her passion for culture, branding and entrepreneurial life matched Keqi's passion for quality tea. A coffee drinker when they met, she now wakes up craving her favorite oolong and is fascinated by the expansive world of tea.

When Kate is not at the tea bar with a cup of Big Red Robe, you can find her in Logan Square working on her debut novel or guarding her beloved library card.

Ben Claus

Ben's first cup of tea was stolen from their older brother at the age of 13. After moving from Indianapolis to Chicago to pursue a BFA in Playwriting at DePaul University, Ben began sharing tea with others, first as a serious hobby and then as a career. Nothing is more thrilling than blowing the lid off of someone's world with a high grade pu-erh.

Ben spends their days writing plays, doing yoga, and eating phad thai.

Hallie Zolkower-Kutz

 

A transplant from Maryland, Hallie got her BFA in science journalism, focusing on the study of food preservation. She always had a casual interest in tea, but after her first cup of Big Red Robe, she was hooked.

Hallie lives with her many plants in Logan Square, and can often be found making soup, drinking mountain oolongs or listening to old surf 45s.