Boba culture gets closer to Lincoln Park
Pearl tea, pearl milk tea, or boba – whatever you call it, just be delighted that the flavor concoction has caught on on campus.
TSAoCAA, pronounced “tao-tah,” joined the handful of stores specializing in freshly brewed tea when it debuted on September 10, located at 1337 W Fullerton Avenue.
Before entering the well-lit cafe, passers-by can already glimpse the blossoming fruit and 12 different tea bases displayed on the counter through the large mirrored windows.
Owner Jack Shi is responsible for sourcing every store and market in town for the best ingredients.
“When I graduated in 2010, most tea shops only used powder instead of loose leaves,” Shi said. “It’s not very healthy.
Shi and his wife, Jenny Zheng, decided to franchise TSAOCAA in Chicago, a Chinese chain currently spread across Pennsylvania and Nevada, known for using natural ingredients.
In addition to using fresh tea, the couple also make their amber tapioca on site and refuse to use store-bought syrup and frozen fruit.
“The key code is not to buy too much,” Shi said in a telephone interview as he pulled into the sidewalk and prepared for another day of fruit picking. “Just buy the freshest quality.”
Anne Saw, Associate Professor in DePaul’s Department of Psychology, was one of TSAOCAA’s first clients.
Saw visited the new business after her Asian American college colleague “alerted” her to the opening upon seeing her on Instagram.
“My family and I went last weekend and wanted to extend a little grace as it was their opening weekend,” Saw said. “I’m sure they are [still] solve problems.
In addition to being a professor of clinical and community psychology, Saw also teaches Asian American cuisine at Explore Chicago, an experiential learning course for first-year students to help them integrate into the city.
One of the topics of the class last Friday was how the boba generation came about and how for many Asian Americans the boba is deeper than your usual 500ml plastic cup.
“In all communities, but you could say, especially in communities whose histories and cultures are not widely taught or shared, food is often a means for those who live in [the] community to strengthen ties and develop knowledge of pride in their cultures and histories, ”Saw said. “Boba is one of those foods that is uniquely Taiwanese, but has been widely adopted by Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans.”
Soon after Shi and Zheng opened their first TSAOCAA branch in Chinatown in December 2018, they decided it was time to expand.
Almost three years later, this is their Lincoln Park branch.
“Chinatown’s clientele is mostly Asian Americans and we are doing very well there,” said Shi. “Now I want to remove our name from Asia [American] population.”
Much like Saw, Sumana Syed, a sophomore at Columbia College Chicago, also heard about the new venture on social media.
To be a “heavy drinker of boba [who has] tried so many kinds of drinks and different flavors, ”Syed had to pay a visit.
Syed even convinced his sister to join this boba adventure.
Syed ordered the oolong sakura milk tea with strawberry boba with 70 percent sweetness and less ice cream.
“It was really good and just the right amount of sweetness,” said Syed, who previously worked at OneZo, a boba store in Texas. “It also made me nostalgic for the drinks I have at home.”
In addition to their specialty teas like the ones Syed tried, the newly opened cafe also offers food options such as Korean fried chicken, takoyaki (Japanese snack in the shape of a ball made from flour-based dough and octopus), bingsu (Korean dessert of crushed ice) and many others.
The couple-turned-business partner not only emphasizes the freshness of the tea and fruit, but also their chicken.
However, with that comes a higher price tag, which Shi recognizes.
“Our fried chicken might be more expensive, but it’s worth it,” Shi said. “It’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside from the olive oil mixture. [that] makes all the difference.
To make it more accessible, TSAOCAA in Lincoln Park is offering a 10 percent discount for DePaul students and lunch menus for $ 10.95.
Lunch menus are accompanied by your choice of flavors of Korean Boneless Fried Chicken, French Fries and Soda. This is valid from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.