Tea Talks: Craftea

Craftea’s Iced Milk Teas Credit: ianchanserelli/Instagram

Two best friends, Emily Wong and Gina Zhou, left their 9–5s to open Craftea in July 2014. The Parkside district boba tea shop is a product of their passion for boba and tea. Without any previous experience in either areas, the pair started from scratch — testing, researching and mixing drinks, and cooking boba. The result is what we get to drink today at their store.

Overwhelming for them, yes. But worth it.

At Craftea, there are the classics like Oolong Milk Tea and Jasmine Green Milk Tea. But there’s also creative concoctions like: Midor-tea — honeydew green tea with citrus, Pearfection — pear green tea with apple bites, and Gummy Bear — passionfruit mango green tea with peach puree.

The ladies give us the lowdown on how to make proper boba milk tea and how to do it all at home too.

Your milk teas taste like they have real tea in them. Can you give us some advice on how to make milk teas actually taste like strong tea, not just sweetened milk?

The way to make strong tea depends on the time and also the amount of tea leaves used during brewing. The idea is to use more tea leaves rather than oversteeping to bring out the true flavors without the bitterness.

We have a set timing for each type of tea. Some teas take longer to steep whereas some takes a shorter time. We do not want to oversteep the tea or it will create a bitter taste. It is important to get the timing right to get the best flavor of the tea.

What makes Craftea different from other boba tea shops in the U.S.?

We focus on making a balanced drink — whether it’s sweetness, amount of milk, or the tea.

Do you have any tricks on how to make boba just right? Not too hard, too squishy or bumpy. How long does boba last after you cook it?

Timing is important in cooking boba, because it affects the texture. There are two steps in making boba, the simmering process and the soaking process. Boba usually lasts for about three hours.

We recommend simmering the boba for 30 minutues in medium heat and soaking it for an extra 30 minutes, but it all depends on the boba you have.

What are two of the biggest challenges you’ve come across since opening a boba milk tea shop?

Some challenges we’ve came across in the beginning of our journey are building a streamlined process and getting our employees fully trained.

If you were going to have 10 friends over for a milk tea party, what would you do to set it all up to be able to serve guests relatively quickly when everyone arrived?

We suggest brewing and cooling the tea the day of the event for freshness. We would offer a self-serve service where our friends would put in the toppings and ice themselves, then give it a good swirl. This gives a chance for everyone to customize their drinks and have fun creating their drinks.

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