The bubble tea shop is doing a brisk business since opening more than a month ago on SW 2nd Street.
The bubble tea craze took its sweet time reaching Gainesville. Shops dedicated to the refreshing drink finally started popping up along Southwest 34th Street in recent years. Some local restaurants also offer boba beverages on their menus.
Now, at last, downtown Gainesville has a bubble tea shop to call its own.
Naga Tea Gainesville opened last month at 21 SW 2nd St., in the former home of the FishHawk Distillery Tasting Room — across from Volta Coffee and next door to Alpin Bistro.
Naga Tea’s menu features a variety of freshly brewed teas, herbal teas, four types of Taiwanese milk tea, 10 tea lattes and 12 flavors of all-natural fruit tea. Customers can choose their percentage of sweetness and whether to add tapioca pearls, or boba, to their tea.
One specialty tea on the menu is the Ice Cream Black Tea that includes a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped by a thick layer of boba pearls before milk tea is poured over it.
Prices range from $3.50 for Naga black tea or Jasmine green tea to $4.75 for special teas. Boba, honey, lychee jelly, coffee jelly, Oreo and aloe are 50 cents extra while red bean is 65 cents more. The menu also includes five varieties of coffee drinks.
“Our tea is all fresh,” said Spencer Yang, Naga Tea Gainesville’s owner and manager. “We insist on not using any powder. We also use fresh fruit. Everything here is more healthy for you.”
Gainesville is Naga Tea’s third location. The original store in Tampa, near the University of South Florida campus, opened in 2014. There’s also a location on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville.
Yang, 29, earned a master’s degree in Business Management at USF. He has many friends who studied at UF, where he often visited.
“We walked around here [downtown] and there was nowhere to buy boba tea,” he said. “I saw the opportunity.”
Yang signed a lease last fall and took four months of preparation before opening Naga Tea Gainesville on Jan. 9. The interior is cozy with an exposed brick wall, lush window boxes and wood flooring.
A grand opening is possibly the next step.
“We still need to promote ourselves a little bit more,” Yang said. “A lot of people still don’t know about us.”
Bubble tea originated in Taiwan more than 35 years ago, when Liu Han-Chieh began adding tapioca pearls into cold-infused tea. Bubble drinks are usually cool and refreshing with tapioca pearls sitting on the bottom of a clear cup to be sucked through a wide straw. Some compare the chewy texture of boba to a soft, round Gummi Bear.
Naga Tea Gainesville is open daily from noon-11 p.m. The shop is already becoming a gathering spot for college students.
“Some people come here every day,” said Yang, who has eight employees.
He also encourages people to stop by Naga Tea late in the evening for a healthy nightcap after the restaurant and bar scene.
“We would like everyone to give us a try,” Yang said.
— Noel Leroux
Follow Naga Tea Gainesville on Facebook.