Boba Tea -- or bubble tea -- can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it's a sweet and creamy drink made of milk and black tea. Other times it can be thinner and fruitier. Regardless of its flavor, Boba Tea has a signature that has helped make it an international delight. Sweet and rubbery tapioca balls sit at the bottom of the cup and are sucked up through specially made straws to add an extremely unique taste and texture. Now, this special Taiwan-originated drink has come to Richmond with the opening of Bumble Bites.
Located at 521 Leighway Drive near Thai Smile and Little Caesars, Bumble Bites serves a wide variety of delicious boba tea on their menu; everything from the classic milk tea that started it all, to fruitier Mojito style drinks and even a salted caramel brown sugar beverage that's caramelized with a blowtorch before being served. For Bumble Bites owner Riani "Ria" Rahardja, it's all about bringing a taste of Asia to Richmond.
Born in Indonesia, Rahardja immigrated to the United States at the age of 16. She spent a decade living in New York City before moving to Richmond in 2016. While Rahardja loves Kentucky and Richmond, she missed the food and snacks of Asia. Especially boba tea, which she could find in abundance in New York.
"It starts as just really missing New York, really missing home. It's just hard to get a lot of Asian food here. And I really miss bubble tea for sure, because in every corner in New York there are a lot of shops for bubble tea," Rahardja said. "So I started making it and giving it out to friends and everybody loved it! That turned into doing a pop-up out of Noodle Nirvana in Berea, and I met Andreea (Andreea Teban, business operations and marketing for Bumble Bites) and that's how it started."
Andreea Teban runs business operations and marketing for Bumble Bites. She spoke about the wide variety of drinks available at the Bumble Bites and customer hesitancy about certain drinks.
"People who've never been here or never tried boba tea are kind of skeptical of the milk tea situation like our Mojito or fruit series of drinks," Teban said.
For several years, Bumble Bites existed as a pop-up shop in restaurants like Noodle Nirvana or Koto's Japanese Bistro in Richmond. On Oct. 30, Bumble Bites held a soft-opening, Rahardja said the community has been very supportive.
"It's been great. We've been very blessed that people have come out to support us. They're always giving out positive energy."
Boba tea has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years, with various shops popping up around the state.
Rahardja and Teban noticed a conspicuous lack of a boba tea shop in Richmond, as fans of the drink would have to drive to areas like Lexington or Louisville to get it.
"We wanted to provide a place for young people to hangout and instagram and be trendy that they didn't have to drive far away to get to. In that sense of things we planned a sort of New York aesthetic," Teban said.
While the look of the shop may skew toward the Tik Tok generation, Rahardja reiterated that she wants Bumble Bites to be a place that all ages feel comfortable and welcomed in.
The official grand opening of Bumble Bites will be held on Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. in collaboration with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Sample drinks and other refreshments will be available after a ceremonial ribbon cutting.