Bubble Tea Lands on Main Street

The line outside what used to be Coach Scot’s Main Street Sweets was a surprise to Islanders walking to the Fall for Arts activities last Saturday morning. Many had believed construction had stalled, and the bubble tea shop planned for that space was going the way of so many other Island retail shops.

BubbleCool opened for a “preview” at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, and the first 50 Islanders who waited in line were treated to free bubble tea. On Sunday, they opened at 7:00 p.m. and did it all over again. According to owner Shawn Zhang, the store will officially open Monday, October 2.

BubbleCool manager Iris Xing.

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink. Most bubble tea recipes contain a tea base mixed or shaken with fruit or milk, to which chewy tapioca balls and fruit jelly are often added. Bubble tea can also be hot. The menu currently consists of three kinds of fruit tea, and three kinds of milk tea. As of Monday, Zhang says they will add 20 more flavors.

The store is also offering ice cream. Their ice cream comes from the much-loved Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, located at 65 Bayard Street, and the selection includes the popular green tea flavor.

They will also carry snacks, which next week will include mooncake, eaten for good luck only during the mid-autumn festival. Regarding other food they’ll serve, Zhang says they’ll play it by ear. “We don’t have a kitchen so we cannot cook, maybe microwave. Cooking is not allowed by the landlord.”

Zhang lived on the Island for two years. “When I first got on the Island, I thought it was a good idea to have a bubble tea house on the Island and I started communicating with the landlord then,” he said. Although he ended up moving away to be closer to his girlfriend, he continued to pursue the idea.

Zhang describes BubbleCool’s manager, Iris Xing, as a bubble tea expert. She was co-designer of a temporary bubble tea theme park, Boba Room, last spring, which was based on the sentiment that “life would be amazing if it occurred in a cup of bubble tea which constantly replenished its stock with the best tapioca and tea that Jesus himself could find.”

“She’s the master of bubble tea,” says Zhang. “She really loves bubble tea. For her it’s not just a job. It’s one of her hobbies.”

As to what will help these new shops succeed, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation President Susan Rosenthal says, “Go there. Spend your money there. I’m much too old for bubble tea, but I’ll check it out.”

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