Kung Fu Tea is a trendy bubble tea shop in Campustown specializing in tasty, refreshing beverages including handcrafted bubble tea, coffee, and slushies. They also offer poke bowls, sushi burritos, and snacks in a colorful, energizing space on Sixth Street. CCP spoke with General Manager Joy Ruan.
What is your background and how did Kung Fu Tea start in Champaign?
I’m originally from China and have lived in America for over 10 years. We started working with the restaurant first in Chicago. We handled the entire Kung Fu Tea franchise in Chicago’s Chinatown. At that time Champaign did not have bubble tea so we decided to open up here in Campustown in the fall of 2017. I’m now the General Manager of Kung Fu Tea here in Champaign, at 707 S. Sixth Street – just south of Green Street.
What is bubble tea and how is it made?
Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea based drink that is usually served cold, but can be served hot as well. Recipes contain tea, milk and sweetener, and boba – which are the tapioca ball “bubbles.” We start the process of preparing boba early each morning. We cook the boba for 30 minutes, then steam for an hour, then we add honey. It takes about an hour and a half for the whole process. We come in at 9:30, but we don’t open our doors to customers until 11:00 so that we can prepare all of the boba. The boba is a kind of topping; it’s chewy and sweet because we soak it in honey. You can add it to any kind of drink you want, but the most popular drink to pair it with is our milk tea.
You also sell delicious poke bowls. Can you tell us more about food items on your menu?
Poke bowls originate in Hawaiian cuisine. They are rice bowls with toppings such as raw salmon or tuna, seaweed, and vegetables. We give customers the option to design their own poke bowls so they are custom made-to-order. We also sell sushi burritos, popcorn chicken, and other snacks.
What is your personal favorite item on the menu?
My favorite is any kind of milk tea. It’s hard to choose since we have so many options on our menu!
Kung Fu Tea is also a hang-out spot for families and students. What do you do to make this such a great environment for customers?
We have board games and other activities for customers to enjoy. If you walk into our restaurant, you will see customers hanging out, some playing board games, and some even studying. It’s a fun, lively environment and great for meeting up with friends.
What was your experience like participating in the summertime 13 Thursdays promotion last year?
We joined Champaign Center Partnership last year and participated in 13 Thursdays for the first time last summer. 13 Thursdays brought many new customers in our doors that didn’t know us before – students and families. It was very successful for us so we’re participating again this year.
What are some ways that you have benefited by being part of Champaign Center Partnership?
Being part of Champaign Center Partnership helps us connect with other local businesses promote our business to a wider audience through their e-newsletter and social media . They are a great resource when I have questions about business, construction or contacts in Campustown.
Follow Kung Fu Tea on Facebook and Instagram at @kfteauiuc.
By Melinda Sevilla, Contributing Writer