Tea: Ancient, yet trendy

Tea lounges in the USF area are offering students the chance to use their walls as a gallery. Displaying students’ artwork is one of many ways that International House of Boba (IHOB) and Kaleisia are exploring to increase popularity and sense of community.

“Tea consumption is increasing, and specialty tea is a fast-growing niche in the beverage market,” said Providence Cicero in The Seattle Times. This is evidenced in Tampa by the appearance of IHOB and Kaleisia within the last few years.

Nam Nguye bought the Boba Internet Café from his sister-in-law two months ago and rechristened it IHOB. Along with the new name, the place was given a fresh coat of paint. The brightly colored walls and infusion of throwback pop music are appropriate for IHOB. Anywhere else it would seem outlandish, but the atmosphere compliments the bubble (boba) tea that is the business’s namesake.

Nguye said he wants it to be a fun place. He said he feels there is a lot of potential in IHOB – not only is it close to USF, but wireless access is available with a purchase of $3 or more.

Nguye said he wants to get more students involved, and having USF’s art department display its work on IHOB’s walls as a student art gallery will serve as a way to create a “student hangout.”

Nguye said there is already a large student clientele of various nationalities. This, he said, is the reason behind the “International” name change.

He hopes to increase the diversity of his customers by offering yoga classes, gamer nights and Halo competitions. He is also open to suggestions.

“If you’re interested, we’ll do it,” Nguye said.

As soon as the café’s Web site is up, Nguye said people will be able to sign up for these events online.

IHOB is looking for a new logo to complement its fresh start. As part of his wish for student involvement, Nguye is open to students designing it.

While IHOB offers a variety of drinks and snacks, bubble tea is its specialty. According to bubbleteasupply.com, bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s.

Bubble tea comes in a variety of forms and flavors. Choices range from more familiar tastes such as green milk tea to more exotic ones such as taro – a tropical vegetable – milk tea. Essentially, it is tea with milk or creamer.

The drinks can be ordered with or without boba – sweet, chewy tapioca pearls that sink to the bottom of the cup. The pearls look like bubbles, giving the tea its name. Though the gummy-bear consistency is strange at first, the little pearls are oddly likeable.

“Almond vanilla milk tea is the most popular,” Nguye said. He said he also recommends mango and peach-flavored slushies.

While IHOB focuses primarily on bubble tea, Kaleisia offers a wider variety for a slightly cheaper price.

Two of its most popular teas are the long island strawberry and secret garden, said Kaleisia owner Kim Pham.

Located on Fletcher Avenue, Kaleisia offers loose teas. “We serve teas outside of the bag,” said Pham. Smoothies, vegan lunches, boba and free WiFi are all available at Kaleisia.

Pham opened the lounge to “increase the tea culture and bring it to Tampa.”

What is the difference between Kaleisia’s chai tea and Starbucks’ blend? “Starbucks’ chai is a liquid compared to the traditional chai found at Kaleisia. Here it’s natural,” said Pham. “All of our teas are healthy and pure … if you look at the bottom of your cup, you can see all the ground spices.”

A cup of Kaleisia’s chai is made by grinding up masala chai – a “blend of freshly ground spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves,” according to chai.com – then adding brown sugar and milk.

Beyond brewing all-natural teas, Pham’s goals for Kaleisia include making the café more environmentally conscious, but she is aware that students won’t want to pay more money for biodegradable products. Pham said she is trying to find a cheaper supplier.

Pham said she also wants to make Kaleisia part of the USF community.

“We want to create a sense of community where there wasn’t one before,” Pham said.

Like IHOB, Kaleisia strives to strengthen its ties to the area by allowing students to use its walls to display the products of their creativity.

“I really want students to utilize the wall space (as exhibit space). Musicians, artists, any USF students can use our space,” said Pham.

IHOB: 2664 E. Fowler Ave.Tampa, Fla. 33612813-866-8569

Kaleisia: 1441 E. Fletcher Ave. Suite #133Tampa, Fla. 33612813-977-8266