If you’ve been living in a bubble, maybe you haven’t noticed the boba tea shops popping up everywhere these days, from Thayer Street to Cranston. More commonly known as bubble tea, the delicious multi-textured drink with sweet and chewy tapioca pearls got its start in Taiwan in the 1980s, became a favorite at Taiwanese restaurants on the west coast in the late 1990s, and is now widespread.
Boba Lova, a cheery new Cranston storefront with a youthful vibe, opened its doors in late 2022. Co-owner Soeuth Ky notes, “we saw the popularity of boba tea had risen out of obscurity and was no longer niche. We thought about creating a shop that offers snacks to go along with our drinks.” The store is “the antithesis of a typical boba shop,” explains Ky, “large, quaint, welcoming and encouraging for people to hang out.”
With typical bubble tea options ranging from milk and fruit tea, hot or cold, and a variety of add-ins like jelly stars, flavored syrups, and sweetness levels to choose from, ordering for the first time can be a bit intimidating. Ky offers a few recommendations. “The most popular drink we sell is our taro ube milk tea,” says Ky, which features milk from taro, a sweet root vegetable, and a swirl of purple ube that provides its iconic look. “Other top sellers are our strawberry matcha latte, creme brulee, brown sugar milk tea, and passion fruit tea.”
Bubble Tea House in downtown Providence opened 10 years ago, making it the oldest cafe of its type in the state. Owner Simon Khiev, who trained in Taiwan, frequently updates the menu. “Every day, we strive to innovate and stick close to the bubble tea tradition. Over the course of the last few years, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of new businesses opening and the growth of bubble tea culture here in Rhode Island,” says Khiev.
Many shops also offer mochi donuts, a delicious hybrid pastry, typically shaped into eight small balls connected in a circular donut shape. Made with glutinous rice flour or tapioca flour, the donuts are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
“Mochi donuts were made popular by the chain Mr. Donuts in Japan,” explains Ky. “We make ours fresh daily, individually
hand-dipped. We believe they are best enjoyed same day so we only make enough to sell out. Our donut flavors rotate weekly.”
Once you’ve tried bubble tea, don’t be surprised if you find yourself returning. “I think what repeat customers love most about our boba tea is the ability to pair their drinks with a donut. The two items are complementary and with donut flavors rotating, there’s always fresh options for customers,” adds Ky.
Pro-tip: Hold the cup with one hand and pierce the plastic cover with your oversized boba straw in one fell swoop. Always use the store-provided straw, as the boba will not pass through the traditional kind. Many stores use biodegradable bamboo-based straws.
1375 Park Avenue, Cranston
Bubble Tea House
849 Westminster Street, Providence
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