Sep. 17—TRAVERSE CITY — George Heydlauff lived for about seven years in Vietnam, where he noticed a beverage trend: boba tea.
He and his wife decided to start their own company to fill a gap in their hometown of northern Michigan. CuTea Boba opened with a limited menu Sept. 8. Heydlauff said they are "starting with standard milk teas."
"We'll have about nine flavors of milk teas to start with and about 20 different toppings to go with them," he said.
Boba comes from Southeast Asia and is usually made with brewed tea, tapioca, milk and flavorings.
Heydlauff explained that boba is traditionally a tapioca sphere made with brown sugar.
"It's quite chewy — you're both eating and drinking at the same time," he said. "Boba is technically the description of the black tapioca pearls."
Boba may also be known as "bubble tea." Heydlauff said this refers to the process of making the drink. The ingredients are added to the cup and then it is shaken. Bubbles appear on the top when it is served, Heydlauff said.
CuTea Boba will also offer "bursting boba," which Heydlauff said are juice spheres that pop when eaten. He said he thinks these will be popular in northern Michigan. Available flavors include mango, chili, cherry and more.
Customers can select Jasmine (green) or black Assam tea and then whether they want a milk tea or refresher (fruit) flavor. Bursting boba or jelly spheres can be added to any drink, if desired.
Most items in the shop are dairy free and all teas can be made without caffeine. Heydlauff said this can be a good option for parents if they do not want their kids to have caffeine.
In addition to the tea, people can order Vietnamese coffee — either iced or hot. In the future, Heydlauff said, they aim to add ice cream, salads and Vietnamese sandwiches to their offerings.
In the meantime, they wanted to "get drinks to people as fast as possible," he said.
The shop initially aimed for a June opening but was delayed until early September. Heydlauff said they posted their "coming soon" announcement to social media in March and received much interest from community members.
This is the second local business for Heydlauff and his wife, as she owns QT Nails on 14th Street. Though operating two may be a challenge, Heydlauff said they wanted to bring something fun to the area.
"Why we do it is because of the amount of happiness that I, my kids and my wife experience when we're able to drink these teas," he said. "It's a good way to bring more smiles to ourselves and to others."
CuTea Boba Team Lead Elizabeth Ross said she is excited to take part in this process. She has worked in kitchens before, but she said helping with the new business' design was a new experience.
"We wanted CuTea to be a place to take a break," Ross said.
The traditional boba is one of her favorites, but she said "the possibilities are endless." For example, people can get the chili boba and a fruit flavor for a spicier beverage.
"I do really love how creative you can be with the bursting boba and jellies," she said. "It's like a mixer in your mouth."
CuTea Boba is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day at 1525 S. Division St., Suite 105.