A shiny, happy tea shop at Ta-Lin
By Jennifer Wohletz
It's shiny, happy teatime for patrons of the Ta-Lin world market. Lollicup, the bright and shopper-friendly café next door, offers a quick retro relaxation stop with a modest menu and a mile-long list of teas, hot or cold, for the most sophisticated sippers.
I paid an afternoon visit to Lollicup around that time of day when my brain needed a caffeine uptake, ASAP. I was greeted by grinning stuffed daisies, lemon-yellow walls, snazzy neon furnishings and a huge plasma-screen TV. I was definitely feeling a B52s-video-meets-college-dorm-room atmosphere, complete with '90s alternative music at a reasonable level floating down from unseen speakers. The only thing missing was a lava lamp.
The furniture was obviously chosen for style rather than comfort, as the tiny bistro tables had just enough room for two sets of elbows and two glasses, and the lone window bench against the back wall was smothered with colorful flowered throw pillows—but keeping them on the skinny seat was an excellent exercise in multitasking. I could tell immediately that space was an overall issue, as the entire dining area couldn't be any larger than your average strip mall smoothie store. But the smiling daisies don't care—they just keep smiling.
I was, however, impressed with the selection of magazines to read during my pit stop—everything from Time and Newsweek to Latina and Vanity Fair. I also noticed a stockpile of games to play, including a nice chess set, Chinese checkers and vintage Battleship.
Putting my fight with the décor pillows temporarily on hold, I made my way to the counter to order a tea.
The beverage menu is ginormous, but they all seem to fall into five categories: coffee/espresso drinks, teas (hot or cold), milk teas (made with milk), slushies (fruit ices), snow (fruity cream slushes) and other (juices, etc.). There are also shaved ice treats and snow cones complete with choice of syrup. And since boba-tizing your drinks is now the big new thing, Lollicup is in the vanguard with those irresistable tapioca marbles available in any drink for an extra $.50. With every drink ranging in price from $1.99 to $2.99 each, Buckies (that's Starbucks to the uninitiated) just doesn't seem worth the extra trek.
Tea selection is a serious thing here, and it took me at least 10 minutes to navigate the list. Of course I wanted to sample something exotic, so I ordered an iced lavender milk tea. The daisies seemed to smile in agreement. I passed up some really cool-sounding drinks, though, such as a creamy almond snow, a mint chocolate slushie or a toffee mocha blast.
My tea was fabulous--it was rich, sweet with honey, fragrant with lavender and a beautiful taupe color.
The food here is nothing to write home about, but the presentation is quite lovely. Every dish is duly decorated with puffy fried rice noodles, or a mix of shredded carrots, daikon radish and cilantro. They offer a modest appetizer menu—egg rolls, pot stickers, fried tofu and four choices of entrée: noodle bowl, rice or curried rice bowl, or wrap, with a choice of tofu or chicken for $6.99.
A shop-n-stop tea house is a bit innovative for Albuquerque, but we are ready for it, especially at this location. With the profusion of local coffee places, Lollicup gives a welcome change from a latte in a dark, intellectual-hunting-lodge atmosphere to a bubble tea in a sunny, perky café ambiance. And the smiling daisies are always there.
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