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Bubble Tea 101

by Emily Merrell

Recently, local residents may have noticed photos of aesthetically pleasing drinks on social media that feature wide straws, colorful contents and, most notably, bouncy balls at the bottom of the cup. With three bubble tea shop locations now in Jonesboro, the worldwide craze of boba, or bubble tea, has arrived locally – but what exactly is bubble tea?

Bubble tea is a tea-based drink which originated in Taiwan in the late 1980s, eventually becoming a worldwide phenomenon. The special tea is available in a wide array of flavors and ingredients, but the term “bubble tea” is an umbrella term used to describe any drink that includes the all-important component, boba. Boba, the balls found at the bottom of bubble tea, are chewy tapioca pearls. These unique confections are made by mixing tapioca starch with boiling water and kneading the mixture into a dough-like consistency, which is then rolled into the round shape and boiled again with water and brown sugar to create the final product.

Bubble tea shops offer two main types of bubble tea: milk tea, which is an iced mixture of freshly brewed tea, a choice of flavor, creamer or fresh milk, and (of course) boba; and juice tea, which consists of a freshly brewed tea, fruit juice or flavored syrups, and juice-filled or jelly boba. A staple of bubble tea is the oversized, extra-wide straw, which is necessary to transport the boba pearls along with each sip of tea. For those who are unfamiliar, the concept of a chewy dessert ball as part of a beverage can seem strange or unappealing, but bubble tea aficionados love how the chewy or popping boba complement the smooth and sweet tea, creating an exciting and refreshing experience for the taste buds. 

For those who want to try this whimsical beverage for themselves, Jonesboro now has three shops that specialize in bubble tea: Bubblee Tea, with locations at 3800 S. Caraway Road, Suite 15 and at 241 S. Main St.; and T-Tea, located at 1903 Grant Ave., Suite D. 
Alex Hoang, manager of T-Tea, says the store has been very well-received by Jonesboro residents and that employees are always willing to educate new customers and give recommendations.

“A lot of customers leave saying that they want to come back and try the drinks again,” said Hoang. “We are going to expand our business and start serving pho, Vietnamese soup with noodles, within the next three months. We hope that people will come and try it and support us.”

Whitley Buchanan, manager of Bubblee Tea, says that her employees are trained to always help their customers have a welcoming, pleasant and educational experience.

“We offer booklets to customers that explain the health benefits of bubble tea,” said Buchanan. “We take great pride in bringing the unique culture of bubble tea to Jonesboro. It is so fun when a new customer comes in for the first time and loves it.”

Bubblee Tea

Manager: Whitley Buchanan

Date of Opening: Caraway Road, Oct. 2020; Main Street, Nov. 2020

Best-selling milk tea: Brown Sugar or Taro

Best-selling juice tea: Strawberry Mango or Galaxy (butterfly pea flower tea, strawberry lemonade, star-shaped boba and strawberry popping boba)

Specialty drink to try: Sakura Matcha

Juice flavors available: kiwi, mango, dragon fruit, jasmine, matcha, strawberry, passionfruit, green apple

Milk tea flavors available: white chocolate, salted caramel, chai, matcha, cherry, vanilla, Oreo, butterfly flower, passionfruit, lavender, sakura, brown sugar, tiger milk, Kit-Kat, taro, Danish butter cookie, pineapple, strawberry.

Available toppings or mix-ins: Popping jellies: coconut, cran-apple, mango, rainbow, coffee, green apple, mango stars. Crystals (a dense, jelly-like consistency): taro, matcha, sakura. Mix-ins for floats/tea: salt sugar mix, whipped cream, crushed peppermint, salted mousse.

Food items on the menu: Bao (Chinese steamed bread roll with choice of fillings: sweet chili shrimp, Vietnamese pork belly or grilled chicken); Bubble Waffle (soft waffle cone with ice cream, choice of toppings and Pocky cookies).

Bubblee Tea has two locations: 3800 S. Caraway Road, Suite 15 and 241 S. Main St. They are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find them on Facebook and Instagram (@bubbleetea.jbr), or call (870) 517-7643.

T-Tea

Manager: Alex Hoang

Date of Opening: April 2021

Best-selling milk tea: Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea

Best-selling juice tea: Lychee Tea

Specialty drink to try: Green Apple Green Tea

Juice flavors available: lychee, guava, mango, strawberry, dragon fruit, green apple, lemon, mint, orange, raspberry, peach, watermelon

Milk tea flavors available: blue raspberry, brown sugar, caramel, chocolate, coconut, jasmine, lychee, mango, matcha, mint, oolong, strawberry, taro, tiramisu, vanilla

Available toppings or mix-ins: regular boba, popping boba, jelly boba

Food items on the menu: Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches)

T-Tea is located at 1903 Grant Ave., Suite D. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find it on Facebook and Instagram (@t.teajonesboro), or call at (870) 206-8888.