Fresh tea leaves imported straight from the mountains of Taiwan are the base for dozens of traditional, fruit and flavored tea offerings at East Lansing’s new Ding Tea — the first foray for the international tea shop chain in the Midwest.
Popular in Japan, Taiwan and China, Ding Tea already established itself on the west coast of the United States.
On the menu is a variety of 14 flavored teas and 19 milk teas from kumquat to lychee, passion fruit to matcha. It also offers fruit juice, yogurt and coffee. Most drinks are below $4.
Owner Jimmy Duong decided to make the jump into small business ownership after trying out Ding Tea in California.
“I’m a tea guy, so I went about trying out different places and eventually found Ding Tea, which is really big out there,” Duong said. “I loved it, contacted them and brought the franchise over here to the Midwest.”
Born and raised in Lansing, Duong went to Lansing Community College to be a radiology technologist, but he found the field hard to enter. After his trip to California, Duong talked to corporate headquarters in Taiwan, where the company sent him for training.
“It was a long interview process.
Luckily, we qualified for the position,” he said.
He went with his brother Robert Duong, now co-owner of the business.
“It was a roller coaster because we didn’t know the language, but we beared with it and made it,” Duong said.
It’s more than bringing a business over, but the environment as well, he added.
“I try to bring the atmosphere of Taiwan back; the feeling and vibes.”
Inside the store is a lush-looking wall of faux plants, emblematic of tea houses in Taiwan.
The store also has a mural by local artist Tea Brown of Tea Time Art entitled “Ding Wings.”
“I already had customers come in who have never seen or experienced anything like this,” Duong said. “They are happy something over there is here and I love to hear that. It’s something new that Lansing people haven’t seen already.”
For those new to Taiwanese and Boba tea, Duong recommends Ding’s signature milk tea as a starting point. Taro milk tea is also vastly becoming popular, he said.
The business also has a handy top 10 drinks menu for those looking for community consensus.
Ding Tea is set apart from other tea shops because its tea is brewed freshly in back each day, Duong said. Most drinks come from a base of assam black tea, jasmine green tea or oolong tea.
The company’s slogan “Shake for Life!” is a testament to the process of the flavored teas being made with a tumbler.
Even after they are made, Duong eancourages customers to give their drinks a shake and not to worry — the tops can withstand it.
The tea shop market is not saturated in the Midwest yet, Duong said. “Now is the time to get in on it.”
The new store brought 15 jobs to East Lansing.
“I want to see my customers happy and satisfied. Having our doors stay open is all I can ask for.”
For more information on Ding Tea, visit www.dingtea.com
Ding Tea Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. 970 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing (517) 580-7077 www.facebook.com/ DingTeaEL