An Authentic Taiwanese Experience at Naga Tea
One of my favorite drinkable treats is boba tea-- whether the weather is warm or chilly, I am always more than willing to take a trip to a nearby tea house to indulge. For those of you unfamiliar with this tasty treat, boba tea (also known as bubble tea) is a drink that was invented in Taiwan in the 80s. Boba is a small marble-shaped tapioca pearl that is chewy in texture, similar to that of a gummy bear. Boba paired with an aromatic milk tea makes for a unique drink that everyone should try at least once!
When my blogger friend, Carlos, of the popular Tampa food blog Carlos Eats, invited me to try out the boba tea selection at Naga Tea, a new tea house located in the USF Tampa area, I was thrilled to check out the menu, but also figured it'd be similar to the other tea houses in the Tampa area.
Boy, was I wrong-- Naga Tea offers a truly authentic Taiwanese boba tea experience to its customers. Located off of North 56th Street, just past Outback Steakhouse, Naga Tea is a cozy tea shop with a fun, community vibe.
The menu selection is small compared to other tea houses in the area, but the best part about the menu is that every drink is fresh and all-natural. Even the fruit teas are made with real fruit, and none of the items on the menu require a powder mixture.
The menu at Naga Tea offers customers drinks in four categories: fresh tea, herbal tea, milk tea and fruit tea. I began my tasting with a green apple fruit tea, which can be made with either green or black tea. I asked one of the owners, Carl, what his suggestion was in regards to a tea pairing. He recommended black tea if I was in the mood for a bolder tea flavor or green tea if I was interested in something more light and refreshing. Light and refreshing was calling my name, so I opted for an iced green apple green tea, which was garnished with chunks of fresh green apples. The taste was perfect-- slightly sweet (I asked for 50% sweetness), with just a hint of tartness.
As I browsed the menu further, I noticed an interesting-sounding drink, called ice cream black tea. With a scoop of ice cream placed at the bottom and mini boba pearls on top, a milk tea is poured over the two layers to create a brilliant, visually-appealing concoction.
My friend Carlos mentioned that while some people prefer to shake and mix up the drink before inserting the straw, he preferred drinking the ice cream black tea as presented. I did the same, only slightly stirring the drink with my straw before taking a sip. It was absolutely delicious-- the ice cream at the bottom completely complemented the milk tea. In my opinion, this is most definitely Naga Tea's signature drink.
For my final tasting, I was curious to try an herbal tea, which actually has a tea bag placed at the bottom. For those of you thinking this is just your regular cup of tea with a tea bag tossed in there, think again. The tea bag is actually meant to infuse the drink in its entirety and duration-- the owners of Naga Tea are very familiar with the steep time for each type of tea, and taking the ice melting into consideration, purposefully made the decision to use tea bags, both to offer consistent freshness with each order of tea made and to preserve the full flavor of the drink.
Carl recommended that I try the pink lavender tea iced. What I love most about this tea is how aromatic it is. Most people know lavender as a scent and not as a flavor-- this tea brings out the beauty of lavender as a flavor. It's the perfect balance, not too strong and not too light. The way the drink is prepared offers a slight hint of sweetness and tartness, similar to that of a tea lemonade.
I got a chance to speak with Carl for a little bit about how Naga Tea got started. He and his business partner, Peter, were both students at USF, Carl studying medical science and Peter studying entrepreneurship, when they decided they wanted to start a business. With the idea of opening a tea house, they set off to Taiwan in January 2014 to learn everything they could about the thriving tea industry, even going so far as to take classes in tea preparation.
Shortly after graduating at USF, Carl and Peter opened up Naga Tea in Fall 2014, which has grown in popularity within the community ever since. With the selection of authentic Taiwanese tea and the freshness of every drink prepared, it's not hard to see why. Naga Tea has become my #1 boba tea destination, and even from all the way in Brandon, I'm willing to make the drive just to indulge in my favorite drink.
Naga Tea is located at 10950 N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace and is open daily from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. You can check out the Facebook page here.