Also known as 茶點 (Cha Dian) among the local Chinese-speaking crowd, the tiny McAllister Alley shop has customers braving the weather and cars pulling up for its delicious Taiwanese treats.
Isabel Lin, who jointly owns the shop with her boyfriend, sat down with Valley to talk about her teas, pastries and more. We spoke with her in both of our native languages, Chinese, for an authentic perspective.
Valley: It seems you’re getting lots of orders and it’s only the second day!
Isabel Lin: I think it’s because it’s a new place. People are always curious about newly opened businesses.
V: Why did you decide to open a bubble tea shop?
IL: For one of the reasons, I did home bakery business before. I’d take people’s orders to do birthday cakes or just regular cake orders. Sometimes I make our own bubble tea at my house just for ourselves.
I’ve tried bubble tea at other places and it’s not that good. All the bubbles are hard and taste uncooked.
I’m from Taiwan and bubble tea is a very familiar thing for us. So my boyfriend and I are trying to make it more authentic, to make sure people have a better impression of bubble tea. Bubble tea is getting popular in Western countries. It’s some new stuff. Why not have a store that sells bubble tea as its specialties, instead of just food and being like, oh we have bubble teas here but they are not that authentic?
V: What’s special about your bubble tea?
IL: I would say the bubbles — the tapiocas. The way I cook them and the way I make them special. The ingredients are different.
Some people cook them and just put them there. So they’re either too hard or don’t have any flavor. They taste nothing.
I put them in the sugar, a different type of sugar. I make sure my bubbles are in the sugar at least for an hour. That’s why from now on, even though we’re open from 11 in the morning, I don’t supply any bubbles until 12:30 because I need to make sure they have the flavor inside. This is the most important thing for my store.
V: Where do you get the ingredients from?
IL: Taiwan. All from Taiwan — including the machines. [The ingredients] are actually imported from New York.
V: What is your signature drink/pastry?
IL: Tea-Time Bubble Milk with Herbal Jelly (仙蛙撞奶). It’s different from the usual bubble tea. It’s whole milk with black sugar sauce and bubbles. It’s hard to explain. Asians know what black sugar is. It’s kind of like brown sugar but it tastes different.
And Tiramisu too. it’s not very Asian, rather American. It’s something everyone would get.
V: What will Tea-Time bring to the State College dining scene?
IL: It’s more international [here] now, with students from Taiwan, China and other Asian countries. The main purpose of opening this store is for all the international students to feel like they are going back home.
I want them to come here and say, “Oh, I feel like I’m back in Taiwan! I miss this so much!” It’s a motivation for us to provide better service, better drinks, better products. Every time we hear people say, I feel so at home, it makes us happy.
V: Have you got anything to say to bubble tea virgins?
IL: If you don’t try it, you don’t know how it tastes. Give it a shot. How would you know if it’s good or bad? Maybe if you try it just once, you might fall in love with it or you just hate it forever.
Well, there you go, readers. Go try out Tea Time!
Photo provided by Tea Time, text overlay by Yuting Zhang