August 24, 2005
What exactly is “bubble tea?”
Many people have not so much as heard of it, and even fewer have tried it. But it is one of the featured items at Passport Exchange, a new restaurant located on Oak Street next to Cascade Travel.
“Bubble tea started in Taiwan because they weren’t getting much starch in their diet,” said employee Nicole Ricci. “It’s a flavored tea poured over ice and tapioca pearls. You can make it stronger by adding different types of tea or coffee,” she explained.
The idea for bubble tea actually came from a problem with the language barrier that the owner encountered in New York years ago.
“I was in Chinatown in the middle of summer, and I was thirsty,” owner Laura Dingmon said. “I saw a sign that said ‘smoothies,’ so I went in and started pointing to stuff.”
What she got, though, was not a smoothie like we are used to — it was a bubble tea. “It became huge over on the east coast,” she said, “and it hasn’t quite hit over here yet.”
But that is one of the concepts behind Passport Exchange. “The restaurant is themed around travel,” Dingmon said. “Hood River is full of people who travel and have an exploring attitude. This is a place to let people come together and be more worldly.”
The restaurant’s other main focus, crepes, is another thing that stems from Dingmon’s travels.
“I went to Europe around eight or nine years ago, and I fell in love with the creperies in France and Switzerland,” she said. “That’s where everyone went to have a good time. Everything happened there — it’s like America’s coffee houses, but it had more dimension.”
Passport Exchange is also a place that is meant to encourage people to travel. “We want people to come and hang out and look at travel books,” said co-owner Neal Mckinney. “We have eventual plans to sell stuff from many different places throughout the world.”
The creperie offers breakfast and lunch crepes — of both the “sweet” and “savory” variety — as well as bubble tea and fruit smoothies. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.
“This is just the beginning,” said Dingmon. “I have big plans.”
Passport Exchange is open every day from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. The cafe also has an Internet-accessible computer and free WiFi available to customers.