Freshmen Catherine Qing and Rebecca Qin sat outside the converted ATM that is Bapu Teahouse on Aug. 29 on 10th Street. They shared a cold Taro Milk Tea with boba that sweat onto the metal table perched on a curb outside of the shop.
“I actually used to work at a boba place, so that is when the addiction really began,” Qing said.
Boba tea, or bubble tea, is a growing trend in the U.S. that originated in Taiwan. It can be a milk or fruit-based tea. Customers then add boba, small balls of tapioca that float to the bottom of the tea drink. Traditional boba is chewy, but boba that is sweet and pops in the drinker's mouth is common too.
Bloomington offers a few places where curious customers can try the trend for themselves.
Bapu Teahouse which serves bubble tea, opened their newest location June 28.
This is Bapu Teahouse’s second location and the third store Hong Huang owns that serves bubble tea. The other store Huang owns is Zero Degrees on South College Mall Road. Aside from bubble tea, it also sells snow ice as well as rice and ramen dishes. Snow ice is another Taiwanese dessert similar to ice cream and shaved ice.
Huang opened their first location in 2015 at 1789 E. 10th St.
“We converted a small ATM building to a stand alone boba tea shop but most of the time people grab and go, there is no seating area,” Huang said.
The new Bapu location is an indoor store with seating and modern decor with white and gold accents and pendant lights strung over a bar.
Huang said since they have opened this second location, they’ve had more customers. He attributes the growing clientele to younger people being bored of regular drinks.
“They wanted to expand and try out different drinks besides coffee,” Huang said. “We don’t do coffee, but the bottom line is, I think more people are wanting more colorful stuff, different tastes."
Qing now runs an Instagram page where she gives reviews on the boba tea she drinks. Qin and Qing echoed the store owner statements about the trend of boba tea.
“I think a lot of people are still unfamiliar with boba but I think more of the younger generation especially are aware of boba and so will come to these stores,” Qin said.
Qing said she thinks the trend is also curiosity-driven. When she worked at a boba shop, she saw people try the drink because they wondered what the balls in it were.
Soma Coffee House East at the corner of East 3rd Street and South Jordan Avenue is another place in Bloomington where people can get in on the boba tea trend. The Kirkwood location does not offer boba tea.
Bapu Teahouse and its new location are just one part of this wider trend.
“I would definitely think the boba tea business and clientele will just get bigger and bigger,” Huang said.
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