Tea Time Brings a Twist to Downtown
When Benson Chen and Isabel Lin started Tea Time in November 2012, they had a lack of capital and no experience in traditional business. What they did have, however, was the knowledge that State College and its residents needed a great bubble tea shop.
“There was a market for it,” said Chen and Lin, who were both born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan and studied supply chain at Penn State. “It’s like our Starbucks back in our hometown of Taiwan and people just love it.”
The shop previously inhabited a small storefront on McAllister Alley, where customers would order at a window and sit outside.
However, after experiencing a rise in popularity from international and non-international students alike, Tea Time moved up the alley into a larger location in the summer of 2014 with more seating for the loyal bubble tea fans.
Tea Time features over 40 different drinks like fresh fruit teas and a popular Japanese drink called Calpis, as well as cakes, desserts, pudding, and Korean style and traditional Taiwanese street food. The most popular on their menu, “Teatime Bubble Tea,” is its own secret recipe and they plan to keep it that way.
However, Chen was willing to break down the art of bubble tea for those who may be new to the drink. The drink is a Taiwanese classic, made of milk tea, which combines fresh brewed tea with dairy or non-dairy creamer powder. The drink is then blended together by a machine, which you will definitely spot behind the counter when you visit.
“The bubbles, which some call tapioca, pearl, or boba, are actually what make the tea special,” said Chen. “It’s sweet, chewy, and it’s just good.”
The popular drinks of taro bubble milk tea, passion fruit green tea, or peach fruit iced tea aren’t the only things that draw in customers. Chen attributes the home-like feel of the quaint tea shop to its popularity in town. Bubble tea fans, and especially those who haven’t tried bubble tea yet, owe themselves a visit to Tea Time to explore its endless tea possibilities and comfy café setting.