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Retail Update: Bubble Tea House

2008 will be long remembered for some seriously miserable economic events. One local bright spark in 2008, however, has been the quiet opening of some seriously interesting food and dining establishments. Ebisu, United BBQ, Tini’s, the crepe place on Weybosset, Noodles 102, and Farmstead Downcity (to name but a few) have helped to break the New Ameritalian lock on the Providence dining scene that we’ve seen in the last few years.

One absolutely fascinating and very tasty addition to this list is the recently opened Bubble Tea House in Canonicus Square (intersection of Westminster and Cranston near Classical/Central High Schools, italicized to encourage all of us to use that term more). For those of you who haven’t had it, bubble tea is a Taiwanese drink craze that’s come to the US via California and NYC that usually contains tea, milk, sugar, and small pasta like tapioca gummy balls that are sucked up through a large straw. I’m a a huge bubble tea fan from my years in Minnesota (the Twin Cities had several Asian establishments that made amazing bubble tea) and I searched Providence in vein when I arrived. Sure Tealuxe had it on the menu, but the flavors were weak, the consistency thin, and the tapioca balls hard and chewy. Slowly, several restaurants here started to add it to their menus with varying quality, culminating in my favorite to date offered by Sushi Express on Thayer Street.

Now open adjacent to Classical Cafe is Bubble Tea House, operated by two brothers with franchising dreams. The bubble tea is outstanding, especially the tapioca pearls which are likely the softest and tastiest in the area. Flavors are strong and the consistency of the drink (often a problem with local outfits who can’t get a good ice/milk/tea balance) was perfect. I once heard a chef say on TV that they want menu items that are beyond good, they want product that’s “cravable.” These are definitely addictive drinks to crave.

The outfit is slick inside and their bubble tea menu exhaustive. Knowing their young audience nearby (only slated to grow once the technical school across the street opens) they have karaoke nights and video gaming nights (a PS3 is hooked up into to a huge TV screen on the wall – why haven’t more youth oriented cafes thought of this?) on their calendar. An article in Motif on the brother and their business is here

Slowly, Canonicus Square and its Westminster environment is becoming an interesting place, yet another funky and hip piece to the West End puzzle. The biggest challenge will be getting the word out that Bubble Tea House, White Electric, Classical Cafe, a new brick oven pizza restaurant, and the new Ada Books location (to say nothing of recent Broadway additions) are destinations of serious worth to residents of all neighborhoods.

Bubble tea photo (cc) su-lin

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7 Responses to Retail Update: Bubble Tea House

  1. Jen Coleslaw January 2, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    I have not yet been dragged into the bubble tea phenomenon but people sure like it! And the did the Classic Cafe change its name to the Classical Cafe? The have the best potato pancakes. Nick’s are good too but you can’t get them every weekend. De-lish.

  2. Jef Nickerson January 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    When I lived in New York (5 years ago) I lived in Flushing which is now a heavily Asian neighborhood. There were bubble tea places everywhere, but I was never able to bring myself to try it. The thought of it is a little scary to me, I’m averse to strange textures. Maybe I’ll let you drag me to Canonicus Square to finally give it a try Bret.

    And thanks for warning me off the Tealuxe version, every time I go in there they ask, “do you want bubble?”

  3. Timmy January 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    I’ve had bubble tea all my life in california. It’s a big thing over there. when i moved out here to RI I was totally upset with what RI has to offer. I’ve been to so many places like pho paradise, tealuxe, sushi express, hons, minh hai and so many more places but none could satisfy my craving for authentic bubble tea. each one seems to always say they make the best but so far my taste buds are disagreeing with them. The drink is sometimes too sweet or too light and they only sell slushies. the restaurants here lack presentation. the tapioca is hard like rocks and they don’t even know what is the original boba milk tea!!! which is odd if they say they know bubble tea. where’s the milk tea drinks or the juice tea?!?! the bubble tea search in RI was horrible for the last year. I had to take the amtrak to Boston just for a cup of the boba milk tea. that’s crazy.

    when I heard that the bubble tea house was opening soon in RI right across from the classical/central high school i was not thrilled. I thought they were just going to be like the rest of the other places that think they know what they were doing. So i wasn’t anxious at all. another boring places with bad service and nasty bubble tea.

    I should have slapped myself on the face. I miss their grand opening. I went there a couple of weeks after they were open because I thought they were going to be bad.

    I was wrong!!!

    This is the best Bubble Tea House in Rhode Island!!!! I love their tapioca chewy balls!!! it was soft and chewy and it tasted so good. When I drank my first drink. Taro Snow Bubble Tea I thought I was in california again!!!! it was that good. the customer service was excellent. the two brothers that owns the place were great at explaining when i tested their knowledge. they were very knowledgeable about bubble tea. So far i’ve been to that place so many times and the flavor is always consistent. Now i feel like I’m at home in california. Also it’s my new hang out place too! each time i go it is always different. they have movies nights, game nights, karaoke nights and so much more.

    Bubble Tea House is the best in Rhode Island!!!

    The two owners should be applauded and known for actually brining the real thing to RI!!!

  4. Jim January 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    I tried bubble tea once. I prefer my tea without large objects that fly like pellets into the back of your mouth. That being said, it wasn’t bad, but it was one of those things I had to try once and once was enough. The tea was good, the “bubbles” were not.

  5. Timmy January 5, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    Samantha L.

    Bubble Tea is one of those things that people need to try. It’s not for everyone. It’s either you understand it or you don’t. Chewing at the same time while drinking sounds so ridiculous. my first time trying bubble tea was at sushi express and my second time was at Hons. I didn’t like the tapioca there and promised myself to never try it again. but, when i tried the bubble tea at the Bubble Tea House I became a fan!!! they call it, “tapioca chewy balls!!” and I love it. Now i understand bubble tea.

    It’s so fun drinking bubble tea!!! the atmosphere there great and hip. Next time i go i will play the drums. they have free video games and wifi.

    anyways, for people who do not like chewing on tapioca chewy balls or have a fear of sucking up something that looks like pellets, the bubble tea house has a good variety of fruity jellies that goes well with their bubble tea.

  6. KIM August 23, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    I’ve been going to this place quite a bit. I am a huge fan of bubble tea. But I have to say I am disappointed with the service they have at the bubble tea house on Westminster. I staff do not welcome you to there store and are not helpful. One time I had ordered Thai Ice Tea slush the cashier did not tell me that they do not have Thai Ice tea slush only drinks. They made me the drink and I said I ordered slush then she’s tells me after they made the drink we do not have slush. And I said we didnt you tell me that when I ordered it. Another incident reason why I like this drink so much is because of the topioca last couple time they had ran out of topioca again I ordered the slush tea and they did not inform me while ordering the drink that they had ran out of topioca. I am very displeased with the service they provide!!!

  7. Leonard DeCarlo December 29, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    O man, I love this place. I’ve been coming here since they first opened. I haven’t had the time to go as often as I would like (been 2 months) but recently on my last visit, I discovered a new menu. They now serve HOT bubble tea and what makes it better, they still serve it with my favorite tapioca. Its a bit cold, so I avoided the slushy and the smoothy. The workers there always greet me as if I was their own buddies. Thats why I love Bubble Tea House. I can say they have the best tapioca (Chewyballs) because they sell out quick so you better grab em quick. I’ve noticed their playstation is back up. I hope they do karaoke again!! Overall, you won’t get superb Bubble Tea customer service and quality elsewhere!! I highly recommend!!!

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