AAPI Heritage Month

Chinese Tea Shop Owner Shows Resilience After Being Attacked

"Our only goal is just trying to survive," said Yunhan Zhang, the owner of Valley Brook Tea in Dupont Circle.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Chinese tea shop owner who was pepper-sprayed by a stranger in November is moving forward despite challenges.

Yunhan Zhang, the owner of Valley Brook Tea in Dupont Circle, has tried to remain positive.

“I hope everyone can just come here and enjoy what we offer, be friends and be nice to each other,” Zhang said.

Last November, a man walked through the shop’s doors and began to yell about COVID-19. The man then pepper-sprayed Zhang, who said he was in pain for hours afterward.

“I’m grateful it wasn’t anything more serious, it was only pepper spray … When I was watching the video, I just realized how lucky I was,” Zhang said.

How to Help

The attack was yet another obstacle in an already difficult year for Zhang, whose shop hardly gets foot traffic anymore.

“Our goal so far is just trying to survive,” Zhang said.

D.C. government leaders visited Zhang in his shop on Friday. They’ve helped him apply for grants throughout the pandemic and say they believe it’s important to support Asian-owned businesses.

“It’s exciting to witness how this has helped you, and looking forward to seeing you continue to thrive and grow,” said Sybongile Cook, the director of business development and strategy in D.C. government.

Ben de Guzman, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, said Zhang is a “particular example of the resilience that our communities have had to exhibit over the last 13 months.”

Zhang hopes to continue his business, sharing his love for traditional Chinese tea.

“When customers leave, they actually say ‘Goodbye, thank you!’” Zhang said. “I think that’s a beautiful thing. I don’t know how common that is, but I really appreciate that.”

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