By: Sidney Dills, Diversions Editor
The start of a new school year can be overwhelming. Sometimes we just need to go and relax, often with a beverage, cake, and ice-cream at a local coffee shop. Next time you need a break from the hectic pace of Furman life, why not try winding down at a teashop instead?
Downtown and part of the riverside swamp rabbit trail, there is a small family owned teashop called O-CHA. With a riverside view that lets you watch people casually walking by, the shop provides a relaxing atmosphere for those who do not like to be locked up in a dark room smelling of java beans. If you do not want to go to O-CHA
to study, the shop hosts and sponsors events throughout the year. Most Fridays they have live music and, on the weekends, they host events like Cosplay in the Park or, most recently, the Japanese Bon Festival.
O-CHA is by far most famous for its bubble tea. Bubble tea is a tea that has “pearls,” small black tapioca beads, sunk into its depths. When cooked, these beads are soft, chewy and sweet. You can drink the tea and suck up the pearls at the same time by using a bubble tea straw that is much wider than the standard McDonalds-found variety. Bubble tea is popular in parts of Asia and has only recently spread to the U.S.
If bubble tea does not sound like your cup of tea, O-CHA also offers its customers green or black tea with milk or non- milk. The shop also makes soy options available. If you are in a more adventurous mood, you can purchase an ice or slushie. The first is normal tea over ice, tasting more like fruit juice than, whereas the second presents tea in a sort of Icee consistency. O-CHA offers customers a selection of flavors that are mixed in with the tea and can even be mixed together. If you felt like it, you could get vanilla, strawberry, peach, lime, and passion-fruit flavors mixed in with your drink. Strawberry-lime black bubble tea (with pearls!) is my favorite.
A small tea with pearls is $3.45 and a large is only 25 cents more. The shop has a loyalty program called the Bubble Tea Club that allows members to earn a free bubble tea after a certain number of purchases. Bring a friend; club members who do so earn double points towards their free drinks.
This tea bar boasts approximately sixty types of tealeaves and sells a two-cup pot for $2.50. Say it is a warm summer day and you don’t want hot tea. Well, then you can buy ounces of any of the shop’s tealeaves to take with you and make whenever you’d like. The employees will even give you steeping instructions. The perfect way to warm up in colder weather is to get a LatTEA made of steamed milk and hot tea.
O-CHA also sells homemade pasta salad, hummus, crepes, croissants and pastries.. I will warn that the food is a bit overpriced for what it is, but the tea is the entire center of attention at this store.
At this point I have mentioned O-CHA’s food and beverages, but what about its ice cream? Well, O-CHA sells something called mochi. Mochi is a type pastry ball made from rice. It is a dough consistency. At O-cha it is frozen and flavored but can be also have flavored fillings. The available flavors of mochi may seem odd at first, but include red bean, green tea, mocha, and chocolate. Mochi is very similar to ice cream in taste, though it is a little chewier. The store often has specials on their mochi so be sure to check out their Facebook page.
Finally, let me say that this tea bar is fantastic. It is by far my favorite place to go downtown and the tea is great. The employees are nice and quickly learn loyal customers’ names. Don’t be afraid to try bubble tea or mochi, although it may seem weird at first. Be warned, however: The normal food is overpriced and occasionally (5% of the times I’ve been there) the pearls are not cooked fully and can be hard and powdery, not at all good. Even with these setbacks, I am still addicted to O-CHA and head there for tea about twice a week.