If you're standing at the intersection of Liberty and Main Streets in Over-the-Rhine, you have a choice: head south on Main and hit up all the shops, restaurants, and bars it has to offer, or push north into the impending base of Mt. Auburn and beyond.
Your choice to head south likely stems from experience. You know MOTR is comfortable with good beer and a private courtyard. You know The Pony has those wings that keep appearing in your dreams, and Japp's has that weird little cocktail you can't get anywhere else. Main Street south of Liberty is familiar territory to you.
Or, your choice to head south may be due to unintentional ignorance. "What's north of Liberty on Main aside from an elementary school and some stairs?" You ask.
In the spirit of Robert Frost, we urge you to take the road less traveled, because when you do, you'll discover one of the best-kept secrets of Over-the-Rhine at the 1600 block.
Boba Cha, a modest little bubble tea shop at 1606 Main Street, is merely a few steps beyond the aforementioned intersection.
If your unfamiliarity with bubble tea matches your unfamiliarity with Main Street north of Liberty, let's get you up to speed. Simply put, bubble tea is tea with milk, fruit, sugar, and tapioca "bubbles." Tapioca isn't just a pudding your grandmother enjoys; it's harvested from the cassava root and made into little chewy pearls for a variety of delicacies, including bubble tea. The drink was created in Taiwan in the 1980s and entered Western culture soon thereafter.
You know traditional milk-based bubble tea when you see it. It has the appearance of a milkshake with little dark spots at the bottom of the clear plastic cup. The top of the cup is usually machine-sealed, requiring you to stab an extra fat, pointed straw through the cellophane Capri Sun-style. The drink is flavorful and refreshing, without the heaviness of a standard milkshake.
While the milk-based tea is considered the traditional form, it's Boba Cha's fruit-based tea that I find particularly satisfying. The cup, cellophane, and straw of the milk-based drink are the same, but the drink itself is more of a sweet juice mixture than a milkshake. Replacing the chewy tapioca pearls are delicate translucent balls that burst with a rush of flavor when the slightest pressure is applied.
Absolutely nothing I've had on a hot summer day is more rejuvenating than this drink. You don't have to wait for summer to enjoy bubble tea, though. Take that road less traveled between 2:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and noon to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday for a chance to experience bubble tea yourself.
- - -
Boba Cha is located at 1606 Main Street (45202).