Following the closure of Mully’s at the end of 2018, the closest college bar to Grand Valley State University at the time left GVSU students without a proper spot to sit down, grab a bite or a drink and socialize off campus.
But at the same location, Tea Time Cafe may fill that niche in an entirely new way.
The cafe, which opened this year, is a modern, trendy shop with poke bowls, ramen and, of course, bubble tea. While they were takeout only upon opening, the location provides promise to be a strong study or social spot, especially when the pandemic dies down.
The cafe’s bread and butter seems to be its bubble tea, which is admittedly its strongest asset. For those unfamiliar, bubble tea is a Tiwaneese drink with a tea base in addition to fruit syrup or milk. Sitting at the bottom are tapioca, or jelly balls, which get sucked up with each sip through massive straws, which are a staple.
The brown sugar milk tea is a spin on the classic black milk tea, the brown sugar adding a welcomed layer of sophisticated sweetness. The combination of simplicity and complexity makes this drink a smart choice for first-time boba drinkers.
All of the milk teas pair well with the original tapioca as the creamy tea works well with the soft but chewy texture of the pearls. The quality of the tapioca shows through the sweet flavor of each pearl, adding a pleasant element to the already flavorful tea.
Despite the cafe’s recent opening, members of the Lanthorn are already becoming regulars, especially with a hankering for bubble tea.
Lanthorn Editor-in-Chief Nick Moran is a diehard coffee milk tea fan, hold the tapioca. It’s less on the sweet side with a familiar java taste front and center, reminiscent of a creamy cold brew. If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, opt for the jasmine green milk tea, a semi-sweet option fit for any time of the day.
News Editor Mary Racette prefers to enjoy the taro milk tea in the evenings since the caffeine content is not as high. The aesthetically pleasing purple color of the drink is a bonus, making for quality Instagram content.
As for food, ramen and poke bowls are mainstays. The ramen is warm, hearty and perfect for the snowed-in time of the season.
However, the poke bowls leave much to be desired. They certainly scratch an itch, but will probably need to be refined as they stay open. Everything felt balanced and fresh, but suffered from unwieldy crab sticks or pieces that could have been chopped smaller and incorporated fuller – a simple change but one that would remove hurdles from enjoying the meal.
On the other hand, the cafe’s sole bento box, a popcorn chicken box, is a stellar lunchtime pickup, especially with an incredible sauce to match. An $8 box with enough food for a late-night snack or a second meal is a win for college students on a budget.
Also worth shouting out are the pork gyoza, which are a perfect balance of tender, balanced pork and a golden brown outside. Pair it with the recommended gyoza sauce for a quick, delicious snack on the go.