Bubble Tea Trend Gains Steam on Long Island

bubble tea
Purple Sweet Potato with golden bubble tea Getty IMages

Arnor Crepes & Bubble Tea debuted last month in Stony Brook, joining a growing roster of bubble tea shops on Long Island.

Chewy tapioca “bubbles,” also known as boba, and a silky-smooth texture are among the highlights of the Taiwanese beverage that has enjoyed increasing popularity on LI and nationwide in recent few years. 

“Bubble tea is definitely becoming more popular because there are all kinds of flavors and toppings available,” said owner Tony Pang. “We have tapioca, mango, strawberry, chewy bubbles … all of them attract young people.”

The past four years have seen tremendous growth in the bubble tea sector on the Island as the drink’s popularity grows. Originally found mostly on the drink menu in some Asian restaurants, besides Stony Brook, bubble tea shops have also opened in Great Neck, Williston Park, Hicksville, Centereach, Lake Grove, Garden City, Syosset, and more since 2016. 

From specialty milk teas to fruit-flavored slushies and shakes, as well as a variety of toppings and sugar and ice customizations, the number of combinations may seem endless and overwhelming for a first-timer. Pang recommends Arnor’s signature rose milk tea with bubbles ($5.95), which he says sets the chain apart. The bubbles found at Arnor are a delight to the senses, with the perfect texture and give, while the milk tea base is shaken with specialty equipment to produce a quality blend.

Pang admits that opening a shop during a pandemic hasn’t been ideal, but the store’s specialties have helped keep it afloat amidst fierce competition. Six years after opening his first Arnor location in Brooklyn, Pang is hoping that joining a bubble tea menu with an extensive offering of crepes will help him repeat his success in an area where three other bubble tea establishments have opened in just the last two years.

Kung Fu Tea, student-run Jasmine Tea House on the Stony Brook University campus, and a Chatime food truck that is open when school is in session, are among Arnor’s closest competitors. Pang says he chose the Stony Brook location for its proximity to the university campus. 

According to Brian Wang, owner of neighboring Kung Fu Tea, Asian students generally make up 50 percent of their customer base during weekdays when school is in session. Stony Brook University statistics show that in 2019, 37.6 percent of its student population of nearly 26,000 identified as Asian. But more local residents are now enjoying the delicacy, Wang said. Over the year and a half the store has been open, Wang said he’s seen a significant increase in the number of customers who were familiar with the bubble tea concept. 

Carl Buchman, manager of Coco Fresh Tea & Juice, another bubble tea shop in Syosset, said despite initial concerns that a wave of anti-Asian racial profiling would hurt the store’s sales in March and April, sales actually doubled following the store’s reopening in mid-May. 

Buchman emphasized that bubble tea is uniquely suited for delivery services such as UberEats or DoorDash, as it is generally served with a plastic seal to avoid spillage. He also noted that due to the limited number of bubble tea shops in the area, many customers traveled far distances to enjoy his shop’s offerings.

And with the region recently entering phase four of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown, bubble tea proves an ideal refreshing drink to celebrate restaurants’ resuming sit-down dining

Arnor Crepes & Bubble Tea is located at 1113 North Country Rd. in Stony Brook. It can be reached at 631-364-9730 or facebook.com/arnor.crepes.sb

For more food and drink coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/food-drink

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