April 16, 2001

Smoothie Hut Introduces Latest Drink: Bubble Tea

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Looking for something sweet and caffeinated?

Smoothie Hut, a Collegetown cafe and sandwich shop, unveiled pearl tea, its newest drink on Saturday. The drink is a traditional Chinese and Taiwanese tea called boba, bubble or pearl tea.

“It has at least three names,” said Frank Baldwin, Smoothie Hut’s owner.

Baldwin decided to began selling the drink on the same night as China Night, an event sponsored by the Chinese Student Association at Bailey Hall which featured traditional Chinese dance, break dance, singing and a play, among other acts.

“This is a CSA promotional deal with Smoothie Hut,” said Mike Swei ’02, a member of CSA.

Baldwin, an Ithaca native, said that he made up his own recipe from several recipes that he found on the Web.

“I did a lot of research on the Internet,” Baldwin said.

The tea is made by using either a black or green tea base, to which tapioca pearls are added. Baldwin had the pearls shipped from Hawaii. He also adds powdered flavor, non-dairy creamer, sugar cane syrup and ice, which he shakes together. Smoothie Hut offers six flavors, and Baldwin promised that there are more to come.

“Taro [flavor] is the best, but if not, try passion fruit or mango,” said Alvin Chan ’02. “Stay away from the honeydew.”

Smoothie Hut, which opened in January 1999, has sold smoothies, coffee, wraps and frozen yogurt. Baldwin decided to add bubble tea to the menu after several customers asked him if Smoothie Hut offered it.

Pearl tea first became popular in the U.S. in California about three years ago, according to Baldwin. Its popularity has exploded within the last year, with pearl tea cafes popping up all over southern California. The cafes offer up to 40 varieties of pearl tea.

“It’s everywhere now,” said Rochelle Amurao, a Los Angeles native and student at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“It’s a trend … like having Chinese characters on shirts from Abercrombie and Fitch,” Amurao added.

According to Baldwin, since Saturday, bubble tea has sold well.

“The premier of bubble tea was astounding. In less than one and a half hours, we served up over 80!!” he stated via e-mail.

Archived article by Maggie Frank