Enjoying a traditional Asian bubble tea is like sucking up liquid candy through a big straw, so I find that it’s best to sip slowly and savor the taste.
At the new Bubbletea Station Café located at 1495 E. Prater Way (next to Peg’s Glorified Ham n Eggs), Owner Leizel Reyes fixed me up a passion fruit tea with lychee “popping bubbles”. She brews fresh loose leaf tea and then adds a powdered creamer and sweetener, then shakes it all up like a bartender mixing a martini. The tea is served chilled with sudden bursts of flavor settled to the bottom in the form of lychee pearls.
It takes a lot of effort to not drink the whole thing and go back for another one, so it’s easy to see how one could enjoy bubble tea so much that they decide to open their own shop to make it any time they want.
Some people are taken aback when they first try bubble tea, not expecting to suck up a tapioca pearl through an oversized stray. However, this Asian treat is spreading throughout the United States and even found its way up to Sparks. It is becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst a younger crowd.
“People come from all over (Northern Nevada) to try bubble tea, including a lot of high school students from Reed that stop by on their breaks,” says Reyes. This is the Reyes’ family third bubble tea station, opening the first one in 2012 at the Meadowood Mall in Reno and its second location just four months ago in Midtown. As people started requesting a bubble tea shop closer to home, Reyes found the perfectly-sized location which used to be a gelato shop.
The tea shop specializes in boba-cooked tapioca pearls soaked in brown sugar and honey. It is then added to a fruit or milk tea. Offering a variety of flavors, the liquid is shaken in a machine and served with either boba, mochi, mix jelly, or coffee jelly. Drinks made with the original tapioca pearls (aka the “boba”) is the most popular combination.
“We cook boba fresh every day, and will throw out what’s left every four hours,” she says.
The original idea to open a bubble tea café in the Reno-Sparks area came when Leizel was working in the hospitality industry alongside her husband in Las Vegas. There were bubble tea stations everywhere and the first time she tried it, she fell in love. Since her husband Jose was from Northern Nevada and Leizel has strong Filipino roots where cassava is a traditional food staple (where tapioca derives from), they decided to take the leap by moving up north and opening up a family tea shop.
Now the whole family is running the bubble tea stores. “My husband is at Midtown right now and my father-in-law is at the Meadowood store,” Leizel says. “Sparks is expanding and it seems like it needed more food and drink options like what Reno has. We’re happy that we can be in Sparks, we like having happy customers.”
Personally, Leizel’s favorite drinks are the Coconut Milk Tea, Matcha, and the Kona Mocha. She likes the Coconut Milk Tea because it’s not as sweet as some of the others (and she has always had an affinity for coconut), but the Matcha is good for when she’s craving a good strong Japanese tea. The Kona is perfect for when Leizel needs a jolt of coffee and chocolate to help get through the day.
“We’re glad we invested in something we love,” she says.