From Japanese green tea to avocado smoothies, a tea shop comes to south Iowa Street

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Shayla Ngole, a manager at Presotea, works behind the counter of the Taiwan-style tea shop on south Iowa Street in July 2020.

A taste of Taiwan has come to south Iowa Street, which in this case, means tea, and perhaps in ways that you’ve never tasted it before.

Presotea recently opened in the shopping center at 2540 Iowa Street. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is the shopping center that houses the breakfast restaurant First Watch and is next door to Applebee’s.

Soon, the center also may be known as the caffeine hub of Lawrence. Presotea has 10 different base varieties of tea — think green tea versus black tea versus oolong tea, for example — and has enough flavorings and add-ins that there are more than 100 different tea combinations on the shop’s menu.

There is one commonality among the teas, though. Each cup of tea is brewed at the time it is ordered.

“There’s no tea sitting around here,” said J.C. Santiago, a manager of the shop said. “It is all brewed fresh.”

Where things get particularly interesting, though, is what else goes in the tea. The shop features several ingredients that are authentic to what you’ll find in several Taiwanese tea shops, said Yen Tran-Santiago, another manager of the shop. That makes sense because Presotea is based in Taiwan. The company only recently came to the United States. Lawrence is just the sixth U.S. store, according to the company’s website, but Tran-Santiago said the company has a large footprint throughout Asia.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Presotea, located at 2540 Iowa Street, is pictured in July 2020.

Presotea is betting that Americans will like some of those unique flavors. Like what, though? How about some red beans in your tea? Yes, we’re talking red beans like you might find in your bowl of chili. But in the Taiwan, those beans are sweetened, which makes them work well in tea, Tran-Santiago said.

But, do they work well in a cake? Customers will have a chance to find out. The shop is in the process of adding a line of cakes from the region, including a red bean and milk cake.

As for the other toppings on the shop’s menu, there are tapioca pearls, which are the key ingredient in turning a cup of tea into boba or bubble tea. If you’ve been to downtown Lawrence, you know there are several boba tea shops where you can get a dose of sweet tapioca bubbles added into your tea. But that trend hasn’t resulted in a lot of boba shops outside of downtown, which is why Presotea wanted to locate somewhere else, Tran-Santiago said.

The menu also includes sweet taro, creme brulee, lychee coconut, and even basil seeds as toppings. There is also cheese foam, which is a combination of milk and cream cheese that adds a savory finish to tea.

The toppings can be a lot of fun, but the tea is still at the root of what the shop does, Tran-Santiago said.

“We have a lot of unique teas,” Tran-Santiago said.

That includes a brew known as Japanese genmaicha. That is a green tea that also is brewed with brown rice. Bits of the rice end up in the tea, giving it both a rice flavor and an earthy flavor, she said. Fans of earthy tea, though, might opt for another one of the shop’s more unusual brews, roasted hojicha. It also is a green Japanese-style tea, but is different than others in that it is roasted over charcoal. (Pro tip: Putting the best china on the Weber grill is not a best practice, I’ve now been told.) While it is not a backyard charcoal type of exercise, the tea not only comes out earthy but does have a bit of a smoky flavor, several tea websites said.

While teas are the focus, I do have to point out at least one other non-tea item on the menu: avocado smoothies. There are guests of a Super Bowl party who would swear they saw the invention of an avocado smoothie when the chips ran out before the guacamole did and a certain somebody found a straw. But come to find out, an avocado smoothie has been a popular dessert treat in Taiwan for a long time.

“Avocado is a sweet treat there,” said Tran-Santiago, who said sweetened condensed milk is added to the avocados.

Other smoothie flavors include a lot of fruit varieties including mango, passion fruit, pineapple coconut, and strawberry banana. But there is also one that I’m guessing is not so native to the region, but has a hint of American to it: coco and the great American invention that can bridge all cultural divides, Oreos.


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