By Aye Myat, Staff Writer
Photos by Zachary Werb.
In a small town like Redlands, the food scene can be described as sometimes artisan, but mostly generic. Downtown Redlands has its fair share of staples like À La Minute, but outside of State St. and a few gems such as Saverino’s Italian Deli & Market and Sushi Kimo, options are limited. Within the past couple months, however, a new player has emerged that is changing the Redlands drink scene: Chaca Tea Bar.
Until recently, UoR students and anyone who craved milk tea would have to make the drive out to Loma Linda or Riverside. This is no longer the case with the opening of Chaca Tea Bar on 700 E Redlands Boulevard. Boba milk tea (or simply boba, or milk tea), born in the 1980’s in Taiwan, has quickly become popular in the United States with shops usually being built in Asian/Asian-American centric neighborhoods. This has led to younger Asian/Asian Americans to grow up around boba with shops becoming places of social gatherings. So, what does it mean for Redlands, a traditionally non-Asian/Asian American area to open one up?
For one, with the UoR so nearby, college students of all demographics can experience and see for themselves if boba is worth the hype. Boba is meant to be a cheap, delicious drink with flavors ranging from oolong to taro. With the rising popularity of boba, shops have looked to aesthetics to differentiate themselves. For example, there’s Mini Monster in Anaheim, a shop that offers its drinks in lightbulbs. Another is Boba Guys, who never use powders and promote a modern, minimalist atmosphere.
Chaca Tea Bar follows this aesthetic with a modern, clean color scheme of black, white, and brown. Inside are some tables and Wi-Fi for studying and a basic menu of milk teas and smoothies with your option of standard toppings like boba, aloe vera, and egg pudding. A drink that sets them apart is the Sea Salt Cream topped drinks.
Hedy Yu, a Johnston Student whose emphasis revolves around food, culture, and business had this to say about Chaca and boba overall:
“I'm someone who really enjoys boba when the ingredients inside are natural and fresh. And I wish that more people cared about and appreciated how some places actually brew their tea (instead of using powder) and make their boba fresh (instead of letting it sit overnight). It's all in the details. If you drink your boba milk tea and feel that the boba pearls are warm inside the cold milk tea, you know it's fresh. And it tastes THAT MUCH BETTER. I think it's awesome that students can now just go about a mile from school (and by shuttle) to get boba. Boba for me is comfort food. And there is a deeper history, culture, and feeling of being in a boba shop and sipping through a big straw.”
The opening of a boba shop in Redlands introduces a new study location and a way for UoR students to support a local business. With a constant stream of customers, Chaca seems to be doing well and is a welcomed addition to Redlands.