Drinking bubble tea is the best way to quench your thirst in Asia during hot summer days. It’s a cold, frothy tea-based beverage that started as a Taiwanese street food in the 1980s, then caught on over the next decade in Japan, China and Southeast Asia. Now, it’s the latest craze in cafe’s in the UK and Europe. This year, Maui jumped on the bubble tea bandwagon with our very own bubble tea shop in the Wharf Cinema Center.
Called Shaka Vibe, it started with family wedding, when owners Ramil and Rowel Basco flew in from Canada and thought Maui was seriously missing out on the bubble tea madness.
“Besides loving the drinks and food we serve, we’ve also enjoyed drinking them over the last several years where we lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada,” says Rowel. “It actually took a big family trip to Maui to spark the idea of opening a bubble tea shop. While we were here last October for our cousin’s wedding, I noticed there were no stores just selling bubble tea like we have back home. We just kept saying how this would be such a big success in a place like Hawaii. So within three months of vacationing in Maui, Ramil and I were back on the island in January to start our bubble tea company. And within three months of our arrival, we opened our first store here at The Wharf Cinema Center on April 6.”
Bubble tea starts with green and black tea leaves that the Bascos brew fresh daily. The possibilities are endless with what kind of drink you can create–like a Subway of tea drinks. Flavors include taro, lilikoi, mango, strawberry, peach and almond. Then you choose the pearls in the drink. They have tapioca pearls (known as boba), but they also have “popping pearls”–little, sweet, juicy balls that come in a variety of flavors. They also have jellies that add even more flavor and texture. Once you’ve chosen all the combinations you want, they stick it all in a special machine that seals your drink with a shrink wrapped lid and shakes it into a bubbly slushy–the bubble tea.
The favorite flavor that’s rising above the rest is the honeydew slushy blended with ice. I tried it with brown tapioca pearls. The experience is pretty unique–you have sweet, creamy fruit flavored icy tea and chewy tapioca. But the store offers something else entirely.
“Our snack treat, the Tornado Tater, is fast becoming our signature product,” says Rowel. “This is a whole potato that we swirl onto a skewer then deep fry into a delicious mouth watering snack. Top it off with your choice of eight different seasonings on top.”
No frozen potato here. I tried the BBQ flavor, but next time it will be the cheddar. Rowel recommends the taro milk slushy with the salt and vinegar tornado tater, while Ramil says his favorite is the mango milk slushy and the BBQ flavor tater.
“We want people to find their favorite drink and snack,” says Ramil. “Whether it’s their first time ordering it or their hundredth. We guarantee they’ll love it or make them one that they do!”
For a kamaaina discount, the shop says that every receipt they give back also acts as a $1 off discount coupon.
“We also show our appreciation to repeat customers by offering rewards cards where they can earn free drinks and Tornado Taters,” says Ramil. “It has been the locals on Maui who have really embraced our products and made our business a success. They’ve used social media like Instagram and Facebook to spread the word of our existence all over the island and we are truly grateful!”
658 Front St., Lahaina