At the corner of Blossom and Main Street, only a few blocks away from the University of South Carolina, sits JJ Tea House- making it the perfect go to for students craving authentic Taiwanese food and Boba tea.
Recently opened in 2017, JJ Tea House has become the hub for many college students, especially Asian exchange students. With the availability of dishes from their home countries, JJ Tea house makes Columbia, South Carolina feel more like home to them and their college experience a lot more enjoyable.
I have been going to JJ Tea House since it first opened, and every time I’ve walked in, I’ve been cheerfully greeted by the staff or the owner, Yvette. Yvette is from Taipei, Taiwan and runs the business with the help of her husband Max.
It’s evident that the restaurant is family owned as the ambiance is extremely homey and welcoming. As soon as you walk in, you can tell that a lot of love and thought has been put into the restaurant from the layout of the tables, to the decor and drawings hanging on the walls. The kitchen and cooks are easily seen from almost every spot in the restaurant, adding to the homeliness of the place.
Prior to living in the US, Yvette lived in Taipei, Taiwan with her family. “My father is a business man and my mother a nurse. I have two older sisters; one is ten years older, the other one is three years older,” Yvette explains to me. She then went on to re-tell what her life in Taiwan was like which she explained was“like a normal childhood in the United States”. She and her siblings went to school every morning and did their homework after just like any child would. It sounded like Yvette enjoyed her life in Taiwan, but in 1995 her parents decided to move to the US when she was sixteen.
I asked what attracted her family to the US, and she replied that her father “liked the way of education in the US and happy learning environment with freedom of studying. He wanted the three of us to grow up in this kind of environment.”
I also asked Yvette what inspired her to open a restaurant, which led me to learn that she is no stranger to the food industry. “My mom opened three restaurants in California since 2000. Now she owns another one in Boston. Everything I have learned is from my mother” she informed me.
She further went on to explain that “because there is no authentic Taiwanese food and Boba milk tea in South Carolina, I decided to open the first Boba milk tea restaurant with Taiwanese food”. She expressed that the greatest hardship she faced was finding a good location. “Location is the hardest part and the most important key too. We focus on student consumers, so we have been searching around schools”. Luckily, they found the perfect spot near the University of South Carolina, where students previously had no access to authentic Taiwanese food and good Boba tea.
Menu and Go To Dishes
When I first started going to JJ Tea House, I was amazed by the extensive Boba tea and drink menu. It was hard to pick what to try out, especially being new to it all, but the staff and Yvette were extremely helpful. They walked me through the menu explaining their different teas from milk tea to clear tea as well as their different toppings from Boba to pudding. Their menu also includes fresh juices, flavored milk, lattes and slushies.
Yvette suggested that I try their Jasmine milk tea with Boba which you can get two of for just five dollars. The floral notes of the jasmine tea, the creaminess of the milk, and the sweetness of the Boba makes it one of their most refreshing drinks and my personal favorite.
I also tried their clear peach tea with Boba, which as a tea aficionado, I can say is the best peach tea I’ve ever had. The clear teas are perfect for anyone lactose intolerant who is unable to drink any of their milk teas, but doesn’t want to miss out on all the goodness.
I then ordered their fried fish dish which comes with rice and three sides. The sides differ most days, but the day I ordered it, I got broccoli with a salad as well as steamed egg. Yvette took her time explaining the dishes to me before I ordered and ensured that I did not get pork as a side, after explaining to her that I don’t eat it.
The fish was perfectly golden and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The rice was flavorful with a sweet soy sauce drizzled over it and the broccoli, juicy and perfectly cooked. It was my first time trying steamed egg, and I loved the fluffy airy texture of it.
I also tried their shrimp fried rice which has now become my go-to dish. The dish isn’t oily and is the most flavorful shrimp fried rice I’ve had in the city. The portions are also extremely generous for the price, making it the perfect dish for students on a budget.
What makes JJ Tea House so great is not only their delicious quality food, but also Yvette and her family who have put their love into the place to make it feel like student’s home away from home. Yvette opening her own restaurant after her mother had owned multiple successful ones herself, is an inspiring story to many women out there to acquire as much knowledge as they can and pursue their dreams of opening their own restaurant or business.
JJ Tea House will always be a special place to students at the University of South Carolina who just want to feel welcome and have a good hearty meal to keep them going.
JJ Tea House
Address: 601 Main St Ste D, Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 834-6666
Hours: Monday- Sunday 11AM-9PM
About the Author:
I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s in English. Writing is one of my passions along with leather carving. I share my leather work on my Instagram blog page