Guild Row, the hybrid co-working venue and social club in Avondale, will host the second annual Golden Market on May 13, with twenty-three vendors and artists representing the broad Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island (AANHPI) diaspora. The event will also include performances by Yu’s Lion Dance, which aims to bring the tradition of the lion dance to younger generations, and Ajumma Rising, a group of women who cosplay as middle-aged aunties to dispel Asian stereotypes. In addition, the nonprofit organizations Project Vision and Celebrate Argyle will offer presentations to share their respective missions of providing safe spaces for teenagers to develop a sense of community and promoting the Asia on Argyle district in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Last year’s Golden Market attracted 400 attendees, and this year the organizers expect that number to double.
Founder Annie Xiang, owner of the tea importer Volition Tea, created the Golden Market to bring a AANHPI cultures together under one roof. “I organized the Golden Market out of a desire to create a platform for our AANHPI small business community to shine,” Xiang writes from China, where she is meeting with farmers in the three tea-growing regions of Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces. “Each of our vendors has their own inspiring story and amazing product to share.”
The Golden Market will feature food offerings including Southwest Indian coastal cuisine from Avondale restaurant Tatthu; Japanese- and Chinese-inspired eats from pop-up shop SuperHai; Malaysian bites from mobile kitchen Kedai Tapao; and Vietnamese sweets from Radical Joy Bakery. On the artisan side, the event will highlight the jeweler Lin Bader Design, the screenprinting studio Gucha Gucha, the Japanese plant purveyor Plant Bound, and clothing company we each belong, which nurtures deeper connections between Asian folks and other people of color. Other notable vendors include the activist apparel brand More Liberation, the herbal medicine curator Dirt & Free, the sticker designer Muijistudio, and the pin maker Reppin.
Of course, Xiang’s own Volition Tea will be present at the Golden Market. The first-generation Chinese American quit her job at an accounting firm during the pandemic and launched her tea company in October 2021. “I saw the stark contrast between the coffee and tea industries,” Xiang says. “While the coffee industry focuses on sustainability and transparency, little has been done by the tea industry to truly honor tea farmers and complex tea production. I wanted to tell stories of tea farmers who dedicate their entire life to sustainable farming.”
To get to know these farmers better, Xiang recently traveled to China and visited sixteen different tea gardens during the monthlong trip. “It has been truly a life-changing and humbling experience to stand in their organic tea gardens while listening to stories from our tea farmers on the challenges they face on a daily basis,” Xiang says, “and [observing] their resilience and creativity in pursuing their passion.”
Volition sells several varieties of single-origin loose leaf teas, including herbal, white, green, black, red and wulong. “Our entire collection is grown without pesticides and chemicals,” Xiang says. “That is our first and foremost criteria for curation.” The company also offers beautifully crafted teaware, such as mo cha accessories, cold brew bottles, ceramic mugs with strainers, and tea sets housed in vegan leather bags. “Tea,” Xiang says, “has been a point of convergence for me, bringing together people from all walks of life.”
Another local beverage company that focuses on regional Asian producers is VietFive Coffee. Opened in the West Loop in March 2022, the café serves coffees made from robusta beans grown on a farm in Vietnam that’s been owned by founder Tuan Huynh’s family since the 1970s. “[I started VietFive] most importantly to share our family story, but also to elevate Vietnamese coffee to its rightful place,” he says. “To educate, inform, and build community through the love of Vietnamese coffee.”
Huynh says the neighborhood has embraced the shop’s offerings, which include the top-selling classic coffee with sweet and condensed milk over ice, the popular purple-colored iced ube (yam) latte, banh mi sandwiches featuring house-made paté and banh mi empanadas—all based on his mom’s recipes. “That’s what makes it so special,” Huynh says. “She taught me how to make coffee, but also taught me how to make banh mi sandwiches, and the ingredients for our empanadas are from her as well.”
VietFive is celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month by launching a new ube ice cream, rereleasing its “boat float” (robusta coffee swirl with ube and chocolate ice cream, topped with blueberry granola) and expanding the café’s savory menu with items including spring rolls. In addition, VietFive will host events throughout the month, culminating in the annual LUV Fest on May 31 at Daley Plaza. “We have sponsorships from Lululemon and the Blackhawk Foundation to support and further elevate the AAPI community,” Huynh says. “But, you know, we are a Vietnamese coffee shop, so every day, we are celebrating.”