By Alesha Cadet
Tribune Features Writer
While living in Taiwan in 2014 and 2015, Brandon Kemp fell in love with bubble tea.
Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan in the early 1980s and has since been slowly conquering the world. It is a tea-based drink that comes in many varieties. Recipes contain tea of some kind, flavours of milk, as well as sugar, and chewy tapioca balls (also known as pearls or boba, from which the name “bubble tea” is derived).
The beverage is hugely popular throughout Asia and, a few years ago, made a major splash in the United States.
After discovering bubble tea in Taiwan, Brandon was determined to bring it to the Bahamas, and today his Hai Cha Bubble Tea company does just that.
“Although we use only two words to describe the product, there are so many different flavours and ways to make it. Bubble tea pearls are made from grinding dried cassava and mixing them with black sugar. You can say my passion for this stemmed from a selfish desire to have access to bubble tea for myself, but why not share?”
The gluten-free tapioca pearls, he said, are very dense. He has found that with some added fruit or spinach it can be the perfect meal substitute.
Hai Cha Bubble Tea is still in the process of enhancing its healthy options and he said they will soon introduce boosts like chia seeds, turmeric and moringa.
Currently, the brand is mainly focusing on pop-up events and every Saturday at the Nassau Night Market – a downtown street festival with the goal of creating a family-friendly attraction that promotes local entrepreneurs.
“At a visit to our stall you’ll find our tea-based drinks with mainly fruity flavours like mango, passion fruit, lychee, taro, and quite a few more. You can get it shaken with ice or blended with fresh fruits into a smoothie. For our special health fanatics, our spinach-banana blend is a must,” said Brandon.
“At the Nassau Night Market we love being very interactive with our visitors. Their reactions truly range from one end of the spectrum to the other. Bubble tea seems to be one of those products that you either love or hate, but the risk-takers are the ones willing to try it. We give our customers a fair warning – if you love it, you’re likely to come back for more...which we’ve seen to be the case.”
While Hai Cha Bubble Tea has experienced first successes, Brandon said they need to make some big changes to help grow the brand. He said they have decided to re-brand so something Bahamians unfamiliar with the Asian product may find it more accessible.
“Our new name will be Boba Lova and we are focusing on becoming an environmentally friendly business. We will launch a campaign where each Boba Lova customer will be given a thick metal straw. This will represent not only their love of bubble tea, but their dedication to stop using one-use plastics. We look forward to building a family of customers and experiencing the bubble tea wave wash over Nassau. See you at the Nassau Night Market,” he said.