Tuesday, April 7, 2020
April 7, 2020

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Food & Drink: Pearl milk tea lovers embrace Sharetea

Tired of driving to Seattle’s, 3 owners opt to place one in Hazel Dell Marketplace

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Hazel Dell Sharetea franchise owners Jeff and NaNa Sisakvanich and Tony Penn. (Contributed photo)
Hazel Dell Sharetea franchise owners Jeff and NaNa Sisakvanich and Tony Penn. (Contributed photo) Photo Gallery

It didn’t take long for pearl milk tea fans to find the new Sharetea in the Hazel Dell Marketplace. During the week, the line of tall teenage girls in volleyball gear, tea aficionados waiting patiently to order, and newbies trying to decode the menu snakes through the white tiled space.

Owners NaNa and Jeff Sisakvanich and Tony Penn opened the store a month ago because they love pearl milk tea. After trying many chains and independently owned places, they liked Sharetea the best. Tired of driving all the way to the Seattle Sharetea, they decided to open their own branch of this Taiwanese franchise founded in pearl milk tea’s birth place in 1992. In the last 28 years, the company has opened about 500 branches in 18 countries.

The owners picked their space because they liked the central location and the newness of the development. All the teas, fruit purees and toppings are shipped from Taiwan. It takes a month to get supplies. For those new to these drinks, they recommend trying the pearl milk tea also known as boba tea or bubble milk tea.

A good drink has high quality tea and firm but chewy pearls. At Sharetea, tea comes in four flavors: black, green, oolong and winter melon. Winter melon tea is made with a Chinese melon and brown sugar. It has a smoky, caramel flavor.

The pearls are round pieces of tapioca dough mixed with brown sugar. At Sharetea, they’re made fresh every four hours. The dried pearl dough balls are boiled in water and brown sugar, making the shop smell like molasses cookies baking in the oven. Customers can pick their choice of whole milk, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk.

Pearls aren’t the only topping choices. Other options are mini pearls, ice cream, pudding, aloe vera, red beans, herb jelly, aiyu jelly and lychee jelly. Co-owner Tony Penn believes pearl milk tea is a good introduction to their products, but if someone wants to get a taste of various toppings, he recommends the QQ Happy Family, which has six toppings: pudding, sweetened red bean, pearls, mini pearls, herb jelly and lychee jelly.

I’m at Sharetea so often, grabbing drinks for myself and my boba-tea-loving children, that when I returned from a weekend trip to Chicago over Presidents Day weekend, Penn asked me where I’d been.

For the uninitiated, it’s best to start in the middle section of the menu marked Milk Tea. Try a classic pearl milk tea with black tea, pick an ice level, and a sweetness level. The Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea is a good next choice. The roasted brown sugar in the drink goes well with the brown sugar in the pearls. This drink can only be dialed down to an 80 percent sweetness, so if you don’t like a sweet drink, this isn’t an ideal choice.

After playing around with pearl milk teas, veer to the left side of the menu and explore the fruit tea. The Hawaii Fruit Tea with Aiyu Jelly is made with green tea flavored with orange syrup and grapefruit. Long strands of sweet but tangy aiyu jelly hover at the bottom of the cup. Passionfruit, Orange and Grapefruit Tea — a green tea with fruit flavors — makes for a refreshing afternoon pick me up. Adding lychee jelly gives this citrusy tropical drink extra fruit flavor and some texture. Another personal favorite is the lime mojito which can be found on the menu under signature drinks.

Lines can be long. Waits are longer on the weekend. But the tea crowd doesn’t have the same hurried vibe as a lunch rush. Tea drinkers are taking time to relax, Sharetea co-owner Jeff Sisakvanich said. Drinks move swiftly from the kitchen to the counter. While waiting, you can play games like Jenga or Scrabble, which sit on a counter in the middle of the room. Better yet, watch the drink-makers fill, shake, and seal the drinks and try to guess if your order will be called next so you can pop a thick pointed straw into it and take your first sip.

Sharetea

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Where: 7902 N.E. Sixth Ave., Vancouver.
Contact: 360-719-2302; www.facebook.com/ShareteaVancouver

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