BoBa Cha Brings Taiwanese Flavor to Over-the-Rhine’s Northern Liberties

After opening earlier this month, BoBa Cha has been attracting a healthy crowd for its bubble tea offerings at 1606 Main Street.

The small Over-the-Rhine bubble tea shop is owned by Ingrid Huang and Andrew Lui. The couple previously owned Tea N’ Bowl in Clifton Heights, and said they wanted to open a shop closer to where their customers were coming from.

Huang and Lui moved to Cincinnati from California to raise their family and open Tea N’ Bowl in April 2007. The restaurant offered both the bubble tea in which they now focus, but also healthy Asian food selections. They won a Best of Cincinnati award in 2012, but after seven years their bubble tea had become so popular that they thought it was time to consider a new concept.

In Chinese, cha (茶) means tea and boba (粉圆) is a slang term that stands for the tapioca pearls typically found in bubble tea, which was popularized in Taiwan in the 1980s.

With their family and cultural roots in mind, Huang and Lui said they were looking for a new location with a steady stream of customers that would also serve as a place that would bring the community together; where friends and families can meet with no worries.

“We decided to move to OTR to make our place more accessible and now focus, 100%, on making the bubble tea better and healthier, and using fresher ingredients than before,” Huang explained.

The new shop does not serve any food, but the owners have set up an arrangement with Maki to deliver sushi to the location should customers chose to order it. In addition to the fresh ingredients, the primary focuses of BoBa Cha is on the overall health benefits of the tea they serve.

“The common thing [among flavors of tea] is antioxidants that help to clean the body and help metabolism,” said Huang. As a result, they are also offering more tea bases like Oolong, Jasmine, Green Tea, Black Tea, Golden Tea, Thai Tea, as well as organic herbs like Lotus, Ginseng, Dandelion Root, Peppermint and others.

In addition to their new Over-the-Rhine shop, BoBa Cha has a drink cart that can be found on Fountain Square every Tuesday and in Washington Park each Wednesday. Huang also says that they hope to bring the cart to Findlay Market on Saturdays and Sundays in the near future.

The owners say that BoBa Cha will close down during the cold winter months, but that they are working on arrangements with area Asian restaurants to sell their tea while they are closed for the season. In the meantime, however, the couple says they are excited to be in Over-the-Rhine.

“Right after opening we felt the welcome and support of our neighborhood,” Huang explained. “It made us feel like we were a big part of the community and so far.”

Located inside a 154-year-old building that was renovated in 2008, BoBa Cha is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 8pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 8pm.

PHOTOS: Holidays in the City [Cincinnati]

It has been quite a year in Cincinnati and it’s easy to sometimes get caught up in all the drama and miss out on the everyday beauty around you. This has been particularly true in Cincinnati this holiday season, but we asked one of our favorite local photographers, Brian Spitzig, to go around and gather some photographs these past two months.

If his name sounds familiar, that might be because you are remembering when we featured two of Brian’s tilt-shift videos on UrbanCincy in February 2012 and March 2012.

After reaching out to Brian again he put together the following collection of 48 photographs from all over the city that capture it in its holiday splendor. If you like Brian’s photos as much as we do, then please follow him on Twitter @b_spitz and on Instagram @bspitz.

This will be our last post this year, but we hope you all had a very wonderful 2013 and wish you the best in the year to come. Enjoy!

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Christkindlmarkt Returns for Three Full Weekends This Holiday Season

Organizers are bringing the Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt back for its second holiday season this year, starting Thanksgiving weekend and operating each weekend until December 15.

Last year’s Christkindlmarkt took place every weekend on Fountain Square. This year the festive seasonal marketplace will spend its first weekend on Fountain Square and then move for its final two weekends to Essen Strasse on the south side of Findlay Market in historic Over-the-Rhine.

“It was decided to move the Christkindlmarkt to Findlay Market for the following two weekends because it is the most iconic market place in the city, and is representative of Cincinnati’s German culture,” explained Lisa Bambach, marketing and creative director for Cincideutsch. “It is a link not only to Cincinnati’s German past, but also to the vibrant German-American culture which continues to permeate the city today.”

Cincinnati Christkindlmarkt
Visitors at Cincinnati’s inaugural Christkindlmarkt on Fountain Square in 2012. Photograph by Paige Malott.

Christkindlmarkt have been a holiday tradition in town centers throughout Germany and Austria for hundreds of years.

“It is a place for people to get together with family and friends to enjoy the seasonal weather and celebrate the holidays,” explained Olaf Scheil, a native of Lübeck, Germany and president and co-founder of Cincideutsch. “We are thrilled to be able to bring this tradition to the people of Cincinnati for the second year in a row.”

After more than 15,000 people visited last year, Scheil expects a similar number of visitors to come and enjoy the Christkindlmarkt this season. To help keep things interesting and active, organizers have coordinated live music, glass blowing, holiday sweets and baked goods, drink, decorations and crafts for sale within half-timbered houses.

In addition to the European baked goods, a hot spiced wine called Glühwein is also considered to be a holiday favorite amongst visitors. And in Cincinnati and German fashion, there will also be plenty of beer to go around.

“Glühwein is something I look forward to making each year since I first tried it in Switzerland,” Bambach confessed. “The aroma of the spices reminds me of Christmas just like the smell of pumpkin makes me think of Thanksgiving. It is a consistent feature at Christkindlmarkt in Europe, no matter which city you visit.”

Cincinnati’s Christkindlmarkt is sponsored by Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and will kick off in coordination with Macy’s Light Up The Square and DCI’s Downtown Dazzle on November 29 through December 1. The seasonal market will then move to Findlay Market December 6-8 and December 13-15. Both locations will have heaters to help keep visitors warm on cold days.

“We received both positive and negative feedback from 2012, and we have worked diligently to improve visitors’ experiences based on those comments,” Bambach noted. “The market is completely organized and run by volunteers, and in our second year we wanted to expand while also ensuring the growth was manageable.”

The Christkindlmarkt will be open from 11am to 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 5pm on Sunday at Fountain Square. The market will then be open in coordination with normal Findlay Market hours when it moves there for its final two weekends.

Metro Celebrates 40 Years of Transit Service in Cincinnati

Mass transit in Cincinnati has been around for 124 years, but the service provided by Metro is still 40 years young. The first buses in the Queen City arrived in 1926 and had grown in popularity by the 1960s.

During this time, it was managed by a private company named Cincinnati Street Railway. In 1973, the City of Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) partnered to establish Metro in order to improve ridership and the quality of the buses. It was then Metro became the city’s first publicly owned and operated transportation system.

Metro 40th Anniversary Vow Renewal
After meeting on Metro’s first day of service 40 years ago, Captain Rex and Anita Settlemoir renewed their wedding vows on Thursday. Photograph by Paige Malott for UrbanCincy.

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Metro hosted an afternoon of festivities on Fountain Square. Four buses were displayed along Fifth Street, including a vintage Cincinnati Street Railway bus which had been preserved by the Cincinnati Transit Historical Society.

Local vendors Queen City Bike, Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, Cincinnati Parks, and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) handed out freebies while Binny and Buddy, mascots for Rumpke and Hoxworth Blood Center, entertained the crowd. Metro’s booth even featured a spin-the-wheel game were participants could win an assortment of products from Metro including hand sanitizer, tote bags, or miniature model Metro buses.

“We’re celebrating 40 years of connecting people and places, supporting economic development and improving the quality of life in Greater Cincinnati,” announced Terry Garcia Crews, CEO of Metro.

In addition to celebrating the organization’s anniversary, a local couple celebrated their 40th anniversary as well. Captain Rex and Anita Settlemoir met while riding Metro in during its first year of service. The Settlemoirs took part in a wedding vow renewal and were escorted to Fountain Square by a Metro*Plus bus; the newest vehicle introduced to the fleet.

“You could just hear the love and see it in their eyes,” smiled Jill Dunne, Public Affairs Manager for Metro.

With 40 being the new 20, the city wonders what’s next for Metro.

“Metro has so many exciting things ahead,” explained Dunne. “Next week, we launch our Metro*Plus rapid bus service in the Montgomery corridor, and we are adding new connections on the west side, as well as more east-west routes.”

“And that is just the start!” Dunne laughed. “I can’t even imagine what our service will look like in 2053. I’m hoping for flying buses.”

PHOTOS: A Look Back at Spring in the Queen City

We have had an eventful spring at UrbanCincy. We’ve had our monthly URBANexchange events at Moerlein Lager House, we hosted the 2013 edition of Bikes+Brews, produced original videography and photography, and dozens of original stories.

Our annual Bikes+Brews ride on May 4 attracted our largest crowd yet and we traveled from Findlay Market through Over-the-Rhine, to Nicholson’s Pub in the Central Business District, across the Ohio River to Keystone Bar & Grill in Covington and The Elusive Cow Cafe in Bellevue, and then back across the river to Via Vite at Fountain Square.

Our URBANexchange events, meanwhile, continue to attract people who are new to Cincinnati and those that are interested in getting more involved with the growing urbanist movement in the Queen City. These events are smaller than the Bikes+Brews ride, but they tend to attract one to two dozen people to the biergarten at Moerlein Lager House. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next one on Wednesday, July 10 from 5:30pm to 8:30pm (come and go as you please).

With summer officially beginning this Friday, June 21, I thought it would be a good time to share 28 of my favorite photos from this spring. Enjoy!