Akron bubbling with new tea trend

Steven Harbaugh

Downtown Akron is trying desperately to become trendy: a new Panini’s bar, a new concert venue called AMP, a martini bar and now, a bubble tea bar. Two weeks ago, the too-hip-for-Akron boba opened its doors at 356 S. Main St.

“I’m very interested in promoting and reviving Akron,” said Christine Nutt, co-owner of the bar. “I wanted to do this and I instantly thought downtown. It’s really changing here. It’s been dubbed the entertainment district now.”

For those bubble tea virgins, the drink is served cold over ice or in a smoothie form. Patrons can select from a variety of flavor combinations from green apple to hibiscus plum. The most interesting element in the tea is the addition of pearls — soft, chewy balls of tapioca imported from Taiwan that are basically flavorless and added to the bottom of the drink. The drink is topped off with an extra-wide straw.

Created in Taiwan in the mid-’80s, bubble tea became a hit among young adults mostly in Asian communities in larger cities like New York City and Los Angeles. Now with the addition of boba to downtown Akron, small-size cities can enjoy the trendy drink as well.

“People usually laugh when they first drink it,” Nutt said. “The majority of the people actually like it.”

Nutt opened the bar with her husband after she visited a bubble tea bar in St. Louis and decided to look into opening her own business, a process that took almost a year.

The décor of the bar is also a unique experience. The interior is designed in a modernist style with big, plush purple couches that flank the walls. Rounded royal blue bar stools and a waterfall on the wall are some of the other highlights. The bar also features balcony seating and an assortment of contemporary music on the stereo from Our Lady Peace to Bad Religion.

Nutt said she encourages students to come, hang out and study at the bar. In the future, she hopes to display artwork from students at local colleges, host poetry reading nights, paint-your-own-pottery nights and acoustic acts.

Bubble tea business is booming at Bubble Tea Supply in Honolulu, the main distributor of bubble tea supplies and the exclusive distributor of tapioca pearls.

“This is more than a trend,” a representative of Bubble Tea Supply said. “We ship all over the United States and Canada and we’ve been open four years. It isn’t slowing down.”

Nutt also hopes business won’t slow down at boba — she is already planning the next boba bar in Kent, she said.

“We’re new and hip, compared to your local Starbucks,” she said and laughed, noting that supporting small business is key in today’s franchised society.

The downtown area is becoming hip and trendy and boba’s surrounding businesses couldn’t be happier, said Steve Harger, an employee at Tear-Ez bar, boba’s neighbor.

Boba also sells other interesting items including gelato, a low-fat Italian ice cream made with milk.

The non-smoking, non-alcoholic boba is open until 3 a.m. on weekends to cater to the college-age crowd.

“There’s a whole 18-21 crowd that has nowhere to go,” she said. “Boba is going to change that.”

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].