ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With the bubble tea industry bursting in Ann Arbor, Ding Tea has thrown its hat in the ring to be a boba competitor.
Having opened on Jan. 13, the international brand’s newest addition in downtown Ann Arbor has been busy.
“It’s a popular brand name, which is why I think we’ve been so busy, ” said manager Emily Tipton. And indeed, the shop on East William St. was full of students chatting and snapping photos during a mid-afternoon visit.
“I can’t tell you how many people have said, ‘I’m from California and I love Ding Tea. I’m so excited to see it here.’ So I think that we have that going for us. I know there’s a lot of bubble tea places kinda popping up all over the place but this is a brand name that people tend to recognize.”
Tipton said that Ann Arbor’s college-town atmosphere was a big draw for the franchise, as well as the city’s diverse population.
While the bubble tea shop has exactly what one would expect from a bubble tea shop, it also offers fruit juices, fruit slushes and hot drinks.
“Some people like hot tea with boba in it still. And, I think that’s really important around here because we have so much of a cold season, “ said Tipton. “ You can still enjoy the bubble tea that you love and not walk outside with a freezing cold drink.”
Considering the competition in the area, Tipton said that the response to their recent opening has been amazing -- sometimes there is a line out the door even after the shop closes.
Bubble tea drinkers can order from Ding Tea’s extensive menu of cold or hot teas, choose their preferred sweetness and ice levels, as well as from various additives like different bobas or jellies.
Drinks range in price from $3.25 to $5.50 without extras.
According to Tipton, the “Monster Boba Latte,” a latte made with mellow milk, black boba, a brown sugar syrup, and sea cream, has been the most popular drink.
Tipton said that while consistency and quality are hugely important, Ding Tea also wants to make sure that its drinks and atmosphere are attractive.
The “Good Vibes” ivy wall, cute decor and colors of the Ann Arbor location were intentional features, with a focus on making the shop more than just a stop for bubble tea.
“We were totally trying to make it this place Instagrammable -- not necessarily only a place that you can come and get bubble tea real-quick, but a place that you can hang out with your friends or come in the morning to do some homework. Just an inviting, comfortable, happy atmosphere,” said Tipton.
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Although the brand is based out of Taiwan, Tipton says that the franchise is operated locally, which she thinks adds to its appeal.
“I think the one thing that Ann Arbor and Ding Tea have in common is that big city, small-town kind of feel,” said Tipton. “It’s a big corporation but they’re [individual franchises] privately, locally owned by people who are part of the community who are hardworking members who just want to bring a quality product to a town that they love.”
With its close proximity to the Diag and downtown businesses, Tipton said the foot traffic has made every day “go-go-go” since opening. The shop has even started a rewards program based on demand from its regulars.
Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays, Ding Tea Ann Arbor is at 607 E. William St.