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grub: Boba Fete

TT Lounge brings bubble tea to Richmond.


is T.T. Lounge a mere seven months.

The Bubble Tea — or Boba Tea, as it’s also called — in question is an interesting concoction of flavored tea and tapioca “pearls” that are added to it and settle on the bottom assuming the flavor of the drink. The concept originated in Taiwan and has long been popular with Asian consumers. Locally, you could order something similar to it at a Pho restaurant.

At TT Lounge, however, boba takes center stage. Chewy on the outside and soft in the center, the boba, or bubbles, accumulate when tapioca starch is boiled. Troung makes fresh batches every few hours to keep the pearls from hardening or going bad and he spoons them into his teas from a Tupperware vat behind the counter. Watching him hover over the bobas, the story of his arrival still ringing your eardrums, you realize the man has found his calling.

Further detailing the impetus for his tea shop, Troung explains that he was fed up with his day job. “I thought it was time to settle down and make something of my life,” he says, reflecting on the five years he’d put in as an IT consultant in the Boston area. “Plus, I like bubble tea.” He followed his brother to town, and the two of them decided to go into business.

Troung’s flavored teas are incredibly varied and stunningly delicious. With a foundation of black, golden or green tea, Troung adds syrups (peach, mango, and green apple among them) and a variety of sugars to exact taste. The teas are served hot or cold — shaken over ice just like a martini if you choose the latter — and fresh boba is spooned in afterwards as a crowning touch.

During our visit, my acquaintance ordered a hot black tea flavored with taro root extract, an addition that turned the drink a frothy purple and made the concoction taste, oddly, like a batch of buttered popcorn. In her excitement, a bit of the stuff spilled on the tabletop, and the purple goo against the wood looked vaguely nuclear in origin. But what the hell, the stuff was excellent. My own peach iced tea, dashed with a spoonful of corn syrup, was one of the most wonderfully sweetened teas I’ve ever tasted.

If Troung encounters one major obstacle with his new venture, surely it will be educating the public on what it is, exactly, he’s hawking. This was evidenced even as he acquired his business license from the city. “They had no idea what [bubble tea] was,” he says. But that’s hardly stopping Troung. “It’s not a matter of whether they like the tea,” says Troung — to him, that much is a given — “it’s whether they like sucking on little balls at the end.” My suggestion: Go give the stuff a try. And keep in mind, the boba is optional.

TT Lounge
705 W. Cary St.

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