4258 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Mon. to Fri. – 9am-8pm
Sun. – 10am-7pm
The bubble tea experience became familiar to residents in southeast Portland thanks to the owners of Fat Straw Jennifer Vu and Steven Nguyen. This year they are celebrating ten years on Hawthorne Blvd. and will have some special activities including the famous Asian lion dance scheduled for the August Street Fair on August 16.
Fat Straw came into existence the day Steven and Jenny grew tired of driving from their home near the airport to a little hole in the wall cafe in Clackamas to get a bubble tea. I wanted to have a business, Jenny said, and realized that the delicious beverage I was familiar with was not being served anywhere in inner southeast. We spoke with the owner of the bubble tea shop who gave us tips on how to proceed and eventually opened Fat Straw.
Bubble tea or pàomò (meaning frothy/foamy) originated in Taiwan in the 1980’s. It’s their version of a cappuccino/espresso drink with a stand on every corner selling the beverage. Jenny popped my bubble by explaining that bubble tea was originally just cold milk tea shaken until it became frothy. It isn’t named after the boba tapioca pearls like I always assumed.
The tapioca pearls turn the bubble tea drinks into a mini meal. They are a non-gluten starch made from cassava roots that are neutral tasting on their own but do absorb a bit of the tea drink they are in. The most traditional type of bubble tea is a blend of tea, milk (Fat Straw uses coconut milk), sugar, and of course the tapioca pearls. Fat Straw bubble teas are completely vegan. With over twenty five different flavors to choose from there is certain to be something for everyone. Flavors like lavender, taro, lychee and sesame tantalize the taste buds for something exotic.
Other beverages include fruit smoothies that are ice based, slushy style blended with real fruit juice and non-dairy coconut creamer. All flavors are caffeine free except for coffee and espresso smoothies. A large selection of loose leaf tea from the Tao of Tea is available as well as coffee, espresso drinks and Italian sodas.
Fat Straw has always served fresh Bowery bagels. The most popular is the breakfast bagel served with ham, egg and cheese. In recent years they have added the banh mi or Vietnamese Sandwich served on a freshly baked baguette with homemade garlic mayo, pate, onions, pickled carrots and daikon, Jalapeno, cilantro, cucumber, salt, pepper and soy sauce. The cookies are homemade by an employee’s mother.
Jenny and Steven are most thankful for the neighbors who have been such a strong support for Fat Straw ever since they first opened their doors. “We’ve been here long enough to see our customers toddlers grow into teenagers and the teenagers become young adults,” Jenny said. Fat Straw has offered many of these kids their first employment opportunity. “They come here to get some work experience and learn a skill. Several have stayed on for years,” Steven said.
There’s a pleasant comfortable room in the back of the space that can be reserved for meetings and parties. “A yearly reunion of Franklin students meets here, the Attic writers, and other community groups–it’s a nice space for a child’s birthday or a tea party,” said Jenny. Fat Straw has always offered a no pressure space to enjoy a beverage or a snack with good light, comfortable seating and a pleasant neighborhood feel.
Watch for the anniversary celebrations announcements.