PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On opening day, the owners of the Bubble Tea Cafe couldn’t have predicted the number of curious customers wanting to try something new.
When the cafe opened on Black Friday, the shop was so overwhelmed with people coming in that it ran out of inventory and had to close temporarily. Owners Karen and John Cox said they didn’t reopen until Dec. 6.
Karen Cox had noticed that people who like bubble tea had to travel outside of Aroostook County — going as far south as Bangor to get it. But Bubble Tea Cafe — the only store of its kind in Aroostook — brings the popular Taiwanese beverage into The County, attracting many different customers who won’t have to travel for the treat.
“We haven’t found a flavor yet that hasn’t been popular; just didn’t order enough of it to start off,” Karen Cox said. “I figured we give it a shot here in The County and see if everybody was receptive to it and they have been for sure.”
She had researched bubble tea shops and discovered they were rising in popularity in various parts of the country, such as in Hawaii and Boston. Her sister-in-law introduced her to the beverage when she was visiting family in Texas.
“The day [the Bubble Tea Cafe] opened, I was here to try it and I went every single day that entire week,” said Aroostook resident Emma McNally.
Bubble Tea’s menu offers a mix of dairy-free fruity drinks and popping bubble flavors, along with slushies and milk tea poured over ice. Different tea flavors like Genmaicha, a brown rice tea, golden buckwheat, Oolong green tea and matcha are available.
There are also jellies, tapioca pearls cooked in brown sugar, and cold foam crema with flavors like tiger sweet potato that can be added to any drink.
Once the business has enough ingredients on hand to make drinks, John Cox said they will order smaller cases of certain supplies shipped by UPS instead of relying on larger cases that would have to come in via a more expensive freight delivery.
“It’s hard to judge something brand new to the area. You don’t know if it’s going to be a good thing or not,” John Cox said.
Presque Isle city hall was open to Cox’s business idea and both owners had no trouble getting the Bubble Tea Cafe pulled together, including the necessary permits. The cafe is located in what used to be Boulevard Graphix, which has a new store at 6 Caribou Road in Presque Isle.
“I am very excited, especially since I am from Los Angeles, California, and I miss having this,” said Presque Isle resident Alondra Lopez. “It’s definitely been a great experience to have a piece of home in Presque Isle.”
Lopez said all the flavors offered at the Bubble Tea Cafe are the same as those served in Los Angeles.
“I just thought it would be a fun thing to bring to The County,” Karen Cox said.
Karen Cox has been running The Cutting Edge Salon for the past three years. Opening another business next door comes with its own set of challenges, she said, but her previous experience in the hair industry prepared her for running a business and keeping up with inventory.
The cafe learned the inventory lesson day one, Karen Cox, and wants people to experience the full range of flavors a bubble tea shop can offer.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the origin country of bubble tea. It originated in Taiwan.