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ShareTea: is there a new 'Boba King' in town?

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APRIL 23, 2014

ShareTea, located on Bancroft Way near Telegraph Avenue, is small but hard to miss. Upon entering, customers are immediately greeted with the inviting aroma of roasted sugar. The colorful but minimalistic decor gives the place a chic vibe. Cute artsy posters of the most popular bubble teas hang on the walls, showing customers the ingredients of each drink. Loyal fans and newbies alike will be dazzled by an impressive menu of teas, ranging from classic brews to indulgent creamy concoctions. The employees are friendly and more than willing to give drink recommendations.

On its grand opening Saturday morning, ShareTea threw open its doors to an eager crowd waiting to try the self-proclaimed “Taipei’s No. 1” bubble tea. A three-day promotion gave customers buy-one-get-one-free discounts. This offer was undeniably effective, attracting so many people that a long line formed outside the store.

But we can’t help but wonder if all this hype is temporary. After all, bubble tea is a dime a dozen in Berkeley — Sweetheart Cafe, Quickly and Purple Kow are just a few popular shops that come to mind. Bubble tea is sold at so many places in Berkeley, whether it’s at a tea shop or a bakery.

With so many competitors nearby, ShareTea has to offer a unique, high-quality product to hook customers. Has it succeeded? We visited ShareTea during its grand opening to find out.

The quality of the drinks was excellent — it can best be described as the richness of Purple Kow meeting the fragrance of Asha. According to one employee, the most popular items on the menu are the Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea, Classic Pearl Milk Tea and Kiwi Fruit Tea with Ice Jelly. The Okinawa is essentially milk tea made with roasted brown sugar instead of regular syrup, giving it a distinct flavor and adding a layer of complexity to the traditional drink.

The fruit teas at ShareTea are made with real fruit and contain actual pulp. Both the Okinawa and the kiwi tea had an appropriate balance of sweetness and tea flavor. If you want to customize your drink by adjusting sugar or ice content, customer service is very accommodating. However, we were advised not to change the sugar content in the Okinawa, because the brown sugar is mixed in with the tea powder. Reducing the sweetness would also reduce the flavor of the drink.

The boba itself is perfectly chewy with just the right amount of softness. On the whole, ShareTea’s drinks are less milky and sugary than those of other boba places, so the sweetness of the boba really comes through. ShareTea does not offer as many toppings as most other places, but it gives you the option of “mini pearls” and ice cream.

What will really secure ShareTea’s success is its Southside location, conveniently located right across from campus. It is a short walk from both the RSF and Sproul Plaza. Fans of Purple Kow, Tea Fever and Asha who live near Telegraph Avenue may no longer walk all the way Downtown to get their bubble tea fix. Also, the tall cups may prove to be more convenient for students, as they are much easier to hold than the popular “chubby” cups of Sheng Kee Bakery and Purple Kow.

ShareTea drinks range from $2.75 (brewed tea) to $4.50 (ice-blended). This is a typical price range for boba, similar to those of Purple Kow and Sweetheart Cafe. ShareTea uses the FiveStars rewards program, which offers one free drink after 12 purchases. Customers may also choose to buy a $50 dollar gift card for $60 worth of purchases.

Berkeley has become so inundated with boba shops that it is hard to imagine a new one could be successful. But ShareTea sets itself apart by taking the best elements from each place and combining them to create an irresistible product. It is uncertain whether the long lines of business will continue to flood in, but there is no doubt that ShareTea has already raised the standard for all of Berkeley’s boba.

Contact Tiffany Gong at [email protected].

APRIL 23, 2014

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