By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local
Robin Woods is a Montclair girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written a memoir and personal essay as well as music and fashion columns for various NYC newspapers.
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Kids today are amazing. Eleven-year-old Rose Powell is a business owner and candle maker; the youngest person I’ve interviewed and spent time with so far. Growing up with parents in the home décor and design business, she didn’t receive an allowance and wanted to have money of her own to buy birthday and holiday gifts.
A sixth-grade student at Glenfield Middle School, Rose founded Rose and Co. Candlemakers at the age of 8, along with her dad Vate Powell. He’s the “Co.” Vate dabbled in candle making after he kept having allergic reactions from scented wax candles containing paraffin. Candles made from coconut and soy wax didn’t affect him, and Rose was his willing assistant. He remarked that “Soy candles are safer and do not release as many toxins as paraffin wax. Soy is natural, sustainable and a non-petroleum product.”
After a year perfecting the candles, first making the wax mixture in the kitchen, the candle-making operation moved to the basement of their South End home. The first batches of test candles were given away as gifts before her company was created. Ordering pre-made scents to add to the melted wax, Rose tests 150 or more samples and then chooses the ones that she enjoys. Although she dislikes the smell of roses, she makes these candles at
her customers’ requests. Scents vary by season, with peppermint and Christmas pine in the winter, to spring scents of cucumber, melon, herb garden and lemon verbena grown in her backyard. Summer brings fruit scents and ginger lime, which Rose explained smells like “a sophisticated version of ginger ale.” I could almost feel bubbles dancing on my nose.
I did a “first pour” with Rose in the kitchen, since we couldn’t go downstairs to the basement where the real magic takes place. I watched as she poured the wax mixture into a pot on the stove, and helped her test the temperature of the wax. One hundred and twenty-five degrees is the melting point, but she finds that it is better to heat the wax to 180 degrees and then slowly bring the temperature back down again. Lining up glass jars on the table, Rose guided me in pouring the mixture into glass jars, making sure to go to the fill line.
A second pour is done later on after the wax is set, since it shrinks a bit. We placed candle
wicks in each jar, which was easy since they’re weighted to stay at the bottom and have metal tabs which fit around the jar tops. Once the wax is completely set, the lids go on, tied with ornamental string and decorative labels are applied.
Rose shares usage and safety tips: Remove the string tied around the jar before burning, and let the candle burn until the liquid wax covers the entire top of the candle. This breaks the candle in to burn better for the next usage.
Always put hot candles on a surface that won’t be damaged by heat; keep away from
drafts and never leave a burning candle unattended. If the jar becomes too hot, blow out the candle. Keep it out of reach of small children.
She plans to keep up her business until college, and then study performing arts and botany. As an equal partner, Rose gets a share of the profits. She splurges on purchasing gifts for others, and donated money to Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief and Let Girls Learn. Vate proudly said that he brags about her all the time. Who wouldn’t?
Now that I know how to make soy candles, I wanted to find out what all the hubbub is about bubble tea, the Asian drink made with flavored tea and tapioca balls.
High school and college age kids have been telling me about if for months. Kung Fu Tea opened here in October 2018 (it is a national franchise company, with locations in the USA, Australia, Canada and Vietnam), with partners Cindy Perez, Daniel Perez and Winnie Yee working seven days a week to make various tea drinks, both hot and cold.
It was a Herculean task for me to find out more about Kung Fu Tea, including four phone calls and two visits to the store. Bubble Tea’s popularity made it difficult for Winnie to speak to me the first time I showed up, as she waited on customers lined up to get their drinks of choice. She did prepare a hot coconut milk tea without bubbles for me to sample, and it was delicious.
Cindy finally invited me to come in before the store opened, to watch her prepare the bubbles and get drink mixtures ready for service. When I arrived at 9:30 a.m. on the prearranged date, Cindy asked to see my credentials and press pass before she would speak to me. As a columnist, I don’t have an official press pass, but more than a dozen of my columns are archived online. Luckily, my photographer, Neil Grobowsky, has bona fide press credentials and vetted me. There was an issue of “security” involved, but I can assure you that Neil and I have no plans to open up a bubble tea business in Montclair.
For all I knew, the bubbles were made of rubber, but maybe they’re more like chewy gummy bears. It’s a pleasurable sensory experience for some. I’ve never chewed my tea. Cindy allowed Neil and me to come into the prep kitchen and watch her mix up the bubble concoction. The WOW bubbles she purchases are made from tapioca pearls, marinated in brown sugar and heated up. She strains and rinses for 30 seconds, and then adds the secret honey mixture from Kung Fu Tea’s own recipe. I got to stir the mixture in a huge vat, with a large spoon. Spoiler alert: the bubbles are dark brown.
Kung Fu Tea’s interior is bright and colorful, with a huge board listing the various hot and cold drinks available. You can find out the calorie content, and whether or not they include sugar, gluten, dairy or caffeine. The milkshake-like drinks for kiddies and those with a sweet tooth sounded good, and Cindy mentioned they were adding food to their menu, such as french fries, Belgian waffles and fried Oreos. These are bold choices for Asian-inspired drinks. Cindy remarked, “I drink bubble tea like coffee. I love it.” I drink coffee like coffee, and love it. Sorry to burst your bubble.
In this column:
- Rose and and Co. Candlemakers
- Kung Fu Tea
375 Bloomfield Ave.