Vendor Spotlight: Fresh Brewed Teas
By: Rita Kueber
Photography By: Breanna Kulkin
Bubble tea crafted for adults in mind? Refreshing fruit flavor/tea plus extras, served with or without a special blend of alcohol, and not carbonated. Intrigued? Stay with us here, as we introduce you to a brand new Cleveland company, Drunken Boba by Fresh Brewed Teas, who will be making a big splash at Night Market this year!
Start with fresh brewed green or black tea. Hold it…
First, start with the partnership between Cleveland native Brandon Croucher, Chinese-born Chao Fung and Lo Li. “Both my partners went to Case for their Masters and took jobs here, when they could easily get jobs anywhere,” Croucher says. “We are excited to bring something new to the city – they are falling in love with Cleveland and I’m very proud to call them friends.”
Croucher himself is a self-proclaimed “Cleveland Hawk” with a tattoo of the city’s skyline on his arm and a Downtown/Lakewood address.
Bubble tea is a staple in China and much of Asia, but is working its way into parts of the US, especially food-forward parts, like The Land. Croucher explains Bubble Tea is like having a refreshing fruit flavored drink and eating a gummy bear at the same time, but the gummy is actually a round, flavorful ‘bubble’ of pearl tapioca.
For Drunken Boba, Croucher and partners start by brewing a pound of fresh green or black tea. “We start from scratch,” Croucher says. “We use all natural ingredients. Our strawberry flavor, for example is puree and water.” The crew works with the largest distributor of syrups and tapioca out of China, called Tearen. The process includes boiling the tapioca bubbles, resting them in ice, flavoring and sugar water, and then straining. The result is a bubble the size of a BB that floats in the tea mixture, and is easily slurped up through an extra-wide straw, giving the consumer a mouthful of flavor from the liquid tea and the chewy tapioca bubble.
2017 will be the year of the pineapple, as this is the first year Drunken Boba is offering the flavor. It joins current flavors mango, passion fruit, lychee, strawberry, and green apple. Both the bubbles and the tea are flavored, so it’s possible to mix and match. For example, have a pineapple drink with mango bubbles, served in a 16 or 20 ounce size.
This is actually the third year this Bubble Tea has been available at Night Market. “We were there previously with a food venture and offered the tea on the side,” Croucher says. “We were surprised when the food didn’t sell, but the tea did. We made all our money from the tea, with many people circling back the same night for a second drink.” Croucher and his current partners left the food behind with this new endeavor, to concentrate on Bubble Tea.
Perhaps unique to Drunken Boba is the “insane” amount of work Croucher and his partners have done to create totally unique alcohol infused teas, blending bourbon, vodka, gin and bourbon barrel-infused gin, created by Watershed Distillery out of Columbus, Ohio to their Bubble Tea. “We used family and friends as tasters to determine the best flavor blends to serve,” Croucher says. He describes examples such as the passion fruit and strawberry bubble mixed with gin, or the strawberry mixed with a bourbon twist (the alcohol can be added in a two or four ounce pour). He compares these drinks to a Long Island Iced Tea. “The alcohol is so smooth, it almost has no taste,” he adds.
While the partners all have day jobs, they are working to offer their fresh tea at pop-up and special events throughout the city. Their debut event will be a special pop-up meet and greet, hosted by Night Market Cleveland and Market Garden Brewery’s Speak Easy, as an ongoing collaboration to introduce up-and-coming businesses to the public in a fun and intimate setting! The first event with Fresh Brewed Teas and their brand new drunken boba menu options will be hosted on June 16th from 6-10 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public
From there, the plans – not-yet for publication – get more captivating and ambitious. But for now, Drunken Boba is working to bring the Chinese flair of Bubble Tea with a twist to adventurous palates in Cleveland.