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3491 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
USA

415-967-2622

We grew up drinking milk tea and to this day are still obsessed about it. We started Boba Guys as a way to share the milk tea we remember from our childhood (only this time with fresh ingredients; none of the powdered stuff).

We use only the finest ingredients: Straus Family Creamery organic milk accompanied with homebrewed heirloom organic tea from Five Mountains. Our syrup and almond jelly is homemade and we use Grade A balls. (We just like saying that. )

Boba Guys Blog

Sucking Is Kinda Our Thing

Bin Chen

Hello all!

We are firing up the blog once again. Twice in a week! We want to proactively address a huge piece of legislation that we endorsed / co-signed this week in the city of San Francisco. We know we can't hide our stance on this given the press conference was at Boba Guys!

Background Info

To catch some of you up, yesterday, SF Supervisor Katy Tang and her fellow colleagues authored an ordinance where the City of San Francisco will prohibit "the use of single-use plastic foodware items such as straws, lids, stirrers, utensils, condiment packages, sleeves and beverage plugs." It's all over the news. You can read about it here:

First off, we know it's a big f*cking deal. If you're reading this, you are probably familiar with our ethos. We don't do anything half-assed. We do our homework and we are transparent with our rationale. That's what we've done since 2011. It's possible that there are those of you who hate us right now. We get it. I just want you to hear us out.

It's About Changing Culture

We always think about the long game-- one in which our society is sustainable and always pushing toward progress. It's why we chose to use organic milk before anyone else. It's why we spend more money on our team than almost anyone in the entire industry. It's why we're throwing a massive cultural festival, Heritage SF, this Saturday. As stated in our mission, we are committed to bridging cultures... sometimes, that means strictly means changing culture.

We understand this law would change the landscape of cafes in San Francisco forever. Let me actually make a bolder statement, because it's San Francisco and people watch what we do, this will change the landscape of food & beverage for the ENTIRE world. We went on record a month ago with Grubstreet to talk about Taiwan's proposed plastic straw ban. In the article, we said, “No single boba shop or manufacturer is going to take on the risk of converting over to compostable when the price premium is so high." I want to add to that statement-- no single boba shop can take on the risk, but one single boba shop (and their community) can surely start the movement. It's what we did for our industry in 2011. We'll do it again for the food & beverage industry in 2018. 

We've been in close contact with Supervisor Katy Tang and the team putting this bill together. To be frank, we're not in 100% alignment on the ordinance. We've talked to them about it. We think some of the timing and roll out requirements are too strict and it'll hurt small businesses too quickly. This includes the 10% mandate for reusable cups-- not compostable, like ones you wash and re-use-- for events on city property (we think it'll drive up costs and make events too expensive for everyday people). We'll sort out the ordinance in the coming months, but we need dialogue.

Sidebar: not sure if everyone knows, but we work very closely with the local and federal SBA along with the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). We are used to thinking about things both from the government and small business point of view.

Getting to the (Boba) Straw Point

So, what does this mean for you? At Boba Guys, we've had a semi-secret project to either work with or start a compostable boba straw company that we can fold under our manufacturing company, US Boba Company. We aren't gonna lie... no matter what we do, these straws will be more expensive than regular straws. That being said, given that it's a city-wide ordinance, every food & beverage operator will have to comply, so while it may add some cost, it'll still be marginal (current straws are about $.04/straw). We hope that in the long run, economies of scale will drive the price of compostable boba straws down.

As with Boba Guys drinks, in which our costs are nearly 50% more than an average chain boba shop (damn f*cking organic milk, organic matcha, and Oatly is expensive), we've figured out a way to absorb a lot of the costs. That's why the actual price of your boba drink isn't 50% more. But we understand the immediate impact-- yeah, it'll increase prices a tiny bit when it rolls out.

We know the main gripe is that it's just plain inconvenient. There's no doubt that this sucks for us the most as our entire company is founded on the premise that we use big straws in which viable compostable ones don't exist. And we've tried those metal straws that'll chip your tooth. And those paper ones that melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. It's going to be a hard transition. But we remember when we started charging for single-use plastic bags. We got used to it and studies showed it worked.

It's about the big picture. 

The Big (Ball) Picture

I remember when the 2016 election happened, I came across this article that explains how our society is fractured based on the idea of "I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People." But as entrepreneurs, we're doers and problem-solvers. Bin and I don't know how else to address crazy sh/t than proactively engaging on the topic. For us, there are many topics that we use our platform to address: discrimination / abuse of power, equal representation, shady business practices, automation, lack of dialogue and empathy and today, sustainability.

The underlying belief against banning single-use plastic straws is that we simply don't care about the future generations. We kick the can down the road. That's an incredibly miopic view of humanity. You might as well be Thanos and fall into the Malthusian Trap. To us, it's pretty simple. There is no denying that plastics and excessive use of fossil fuels are bad for the environment. Or remember Straw Turtle and his marine life friends? Anyone who disagrees with us can stop coming to Boba Guys and any of our family of businesses. It's just bad juju. Or you can come, but you gotta debate us and have dialogue! ;)

Silver Linings Flavorbook

To end, we're all trying to do what's best for us. We get it. "Boba Guys suck for being so idealistic." This world is a crazy place and it feels unfair at times. Why help others when they don't help us? Why do I have to care about you when I got my own problems?

I have a take, if you'll indulge me. Those views are short-sighted. To get people to care about bigger problems, you have to change their perspective. And since it's a lens shift, it takes time and baby steps. In this case, we need a culture of progressive optimism and proactive problem-solving. 

I wrote before about how you don't always get what you want. You can ask our team-- we practically lecture them on having a positive outlook on things. No entitlement. If it's a problem, you have the power to fix it. If it's too daunting, find help. Then together, go back and fix it. Like Matt Damon in The Martian says, "You solve enough problems, you get to come home." (Sorry, one of my favorite movies.)

Let's solve these problems one at a time. Or you can sit there, complain, and be on the wrong side of history. ;)

Have a nice day and a pleasant tomorrow,

Andrew (and Bin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L.A. Story: How We Got Here

Bin Chen

Helloooo Boba Guys and Gals!

What’s good?

Today we officially open our first store in Southern California. People often say you need to pinch yourself to believe if something is real. For us, we’ve been punching ourselves to make extra sure that it’s really happening. It still doesn’t feel real. Here’s the full story.

(Sorry, there is no TL;DR.)

Our Initial Thoughts on LA

For those who know Bin and I personally, you know it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. We originally answered a “What’s Up Wednesday” (a weekly Instagram Stories / Snapchat series I do where I answer questions from the public) about expanding to Los Angeles with a "No, there are other markets to go to first." We actually got several clear-cut “No, you won’t do well here” responses when I posed the question to the public later. I expected to see some “No’s” (this was before Instagram had a polling function), but some of y’all DMs were straight up direct and blunt! ;) So we thought, “Okay, maybe L.A. is way too saturated.” We benched the idea for nearly six months.

I did remember one comment in particular, though. One fan wrote, “We’ve seen a lot of boba places similar to Boba Guys, so if you come to L.A., you need to figure out a way to be different.” We loved hearing that because it really changed our approach to expansion. From that moment on, we said to ourselves that if we were to go to L.A., we’d have to show them something different.

We just didn’t know what the market really wanted. We had lots of landlords approach us during those six months, but we couldn’t pull the trigger and I felt bad leading them on. I have often told people that it’s like a relationship—when you aren’t ready, ain’t no person gonna make you happy! Don’t string them along!

So there we went, content just building stores in SF and NY.

The Turning Point

Then, something amazing happened early last year. At the advice of one of my mentors, I looked at our numbers. Given that we’re fully-independent, Bin and I don’t have a real board, so I really didn’t have a reason to keep our metrics current. We essentially just kept swimming as Dory would say.

My mentor said, “You guys are changing culture. Thousands of people come to your store every day. You have the chance to change not just boba, but the landscape of America. Even the hottest restaurants can only influence hundreds of people a day. You touch tens of thousands.”

She was right. As of today, we serve around 10,000 drinks a day. According to our Square reports, about 60% of our customers are new. That means 2M new people are touched by Boba Guys every year. And given that our culture and approach is atypical compared to the rest of the industry, people generally engage on a deeper level when visiting a Boba Guys. We needed to own that. Thank you, Wen, for reminding me of that.

Back on the Saddle

With our renewed confidence, we starting looking for spaces last year. We almost took a deal in a food hall situation, but we kept going back to the IG comment. We needed to really show something different. We needed a raison d’etre.

Bin, my co-founder, described our rationale beautifully in our recent interview with the NY Times:

“This is our first L.A. location, though people have been asking us for years,” said Bin Chen, who started the company with Andrew Chau as a pop-up in San Francisco in 2011. “Our mission is to bridge cultures, and L.A. has an incredibly diverse demographic — all races, from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Mr. Chen cited the Los Angeles food scene and chefs like Roy Choi of Kogi BBQ as inspiration: “He paved the way for really inventive cuisine that melded and drew from different cultures, much like our own drinks, like the dirty horchata,” which was influenced by the taquerias he and Mr. Chau frequented while working in the Mission District in San Francisco.

In the end, if we want to continue bridging cultures, we needed to come to L.A. If there's one thing that New York taught us is that despite there being hundreds of boba shops around, only a few could truly introduce boba and tea to new audiences. Yes, we've thought about Austin, PDX, and D.C. as well, but we're simply in L.A. too much to avoid it. It was just silly and our fault that it took so long.

After a series of fortunate events, we found ourselves locking down two potential sites, one in Historical Filipino (HiFi) town and one in Culver City. We are opening the Culver City one today. The HiFi location is expected to open later this summer. You can read about it here.

The lesson for us is that we just needed to try. You see, deep down inside, I actually think we were intimidated by L.A. We shouldn’t admit that to the public, but it’s 100% true. Even though this is our 12th location and have been building Boba Guys for seven years, we still have doubts every day. And I share it publicly because we’ve gotten feedback that it helps aspiring entrepreneurs. So yeah, part of the reason we went to New York before Los Angeles is because L.A. is intimidating, even moreso than New York.

The reason is that Southern California is the motherfucking homeland of boba (in the US). The 626. SGV. And yeah, we’re originally known as those two Asian American kids who made hipster, bougie boba. We remember all the comments in the early days like, “you’re boba for white people.” We think we're American Boba, which is entirely different, but we get it. And it got in our head a bit.

Can’t Stop the Feeling

Fast forward, we’ve been soft open for the last three weeks now and we can’t thank you enough. We feel so foolish and silly for waiting to come to L.A. for so long. Those lines… those lines are just plain insane. Thank you so much for making us feel a part of the community.

The Platform in Culver City is actually a special place because that too is a story of serendipitous events. We verbally agreed on the lease terms in two weeks, which is incredibly fast for us. The landlords actually sought us out and figured we’d be perfect for the space. I happen to be in LA in preparation of the HiFi store and was in the middle of eating a sampler plate at Guisados (soooo good) when I got the call. I ran over to The Platform to scope it out and immediately fell in love with the place. I sent pics of it to Bin like we were adopting a puppy or something. It happened so fast. We signed the lease on March 1 and here we are opening on May 12th. Thank you Joey and David for betting on us. 

What to Expect

Lastly, we want to directly address those of you who live in L.A. First, we don’t ever expect to “take over” or “disrupt” the boba and tea scene down here. There are plenty of great shops and we frequent them all the time. The goal is to add to the fabric of what already exists. It’s like adding a new cut to a hit song.

If you follow us in SF and NY, you’ll know that our mission is to bridge cultures. What we’re really trying to do is actually go beyond boba and tea and bring people together from various backgrounds. It's goes beyond ethnic culture-- we often tell our team that Boba Guys bridges all cultures: techie / hip, urban / suburban, East Coast / West Coast, and even Team Edward vs. Team Jacob (sadly, that reference is dated now...).

We see ourselves as an experience company that happens to serve food and drinks. In SF and NY, you’ll see our Flavorbooks, globally-inspired drink techniques, fancy split-flap signs, and mixed-use spaces. Over time, we hope to do that in LA as well. Of course, we do hope you love our drinks and gram that Strawberry Matcha Latte or Dirty Horchata… but honestly, we just want you to experience something different. That’s what bridging cultures is all about.

And if it’s your first time, please feel free to peruse our blog. You’ll see that we try to operate as transparently as possible. Always have, always will.

Thanks again for reading.

Have a nice day and a pleasant tomorrow,

Andrew & Bin

 

Coffee Partner Update: Andytown Coffee Roasters

Bin Chen

coffee__8__1024.jpg

Hi all,

We wanted to make a quick announcement about our new coffee partner, Andytown Coffee Roasters. We got feedback from many of you about who we should work with and it was an extremely hard decision. There are so many amazing coffee brands in the Bay Area. We even thought about bringing over our coffee friend and partner from New York, Parlor Coffee. In the end, we decided to stay with a local brand, given our deep ties to SF!

After over a month of taste testing, our search is over! We have known Lauren and Michael (the owners of Andytown) for quite some time now. If you ever grab drinks with us, we'll tell you how we met-- it involves a tips burglar and security cameras. We've always admired what they have done with their business. We share many of the same views on how to build a sustainable business, such as community involvement, team culture, and transparent communication. We couldn't be more happy to work with our friends as we all grow old together (wait, this sounds like something else...).

There will be a lot more news to come as we're working on some deeper collabs with our friends at Andytown. So hold your horses / plovers / aardvarks about the Snowy Boba stuff, m'okay!? ;)

Stay tuned and thanks for the support!

Andrew & Bin

Coffee Partner Update

Bin Chen

Boba Guys & Gals,
We've been getting a lot of questions over the last few days about our response to the Four Barrel (now The Tide) situation as first uncovered by the SF Chronicle. Our reaction is pretty straight-forward: we are a hurting world that needs to be better. We hear and support the victims.

It's hard to fully articulate a response that adds to the dialogue already happening. We want to avoid sounding trite, because we owe it to you all to be radically transparent (one of our core values). Therefore, this post will be a bit longer than most of our Founder memos. While the situation is straight-forward, our range of emotions are complex, because as we write this, we know there will be financial impact to an organization that still has good people with families and loved ones to support... 

We are leaving Four Barrel / The Tide, our coffee partner in the SF Bay Area, despite their sincere efforts to change. We sent an internal email out immediately on Friday when the news broke to our team that expressed our initial thoughts. We then took the weekend to figure out how it affects our operations. We also spoke to the Four Barrel team and expressed our disappointment, sadness, and hope for redemption and reconciliation. Now, we're communicating the next steps to you. 

We still don't know what it looks like logistically, so we ask that you be patient if our drinks taste off. Despite us being a boba shop, we serve quite a bit of coffee, so our team is scrambling to onboard a new coffee partner over the next month.

...

Our Rationale

A few of you ran into us this weekend asked us to explain the rationale. Some want to give people a second chance. Some felt that a clean break is necessary. The best way to explain everything is to simply say we believe in accountability-- it goes hand in hand with our #TransparencyWins mantra. Radical Transparency equals Radical Accountability. As we told the Four Barrel team, we wish them the best and genuinely hope they transform their company. However, it doesn't mean we forget all that's happened. 

In the meantime, we are focusing on the brave women who spoke up. After working with the team for five years, we knew many of them as friends and colleagues. We cannot fully empathize and fathom what it's like to carry the weight of those experiences. To the victims, we can only offer you our unwavering support. We hope that your courage is the light in what is truly the dawn of a new era.

...

A Bigger Thought (Separate from the Four Barrel Situation)

Given that eyeballs are on us at the moment, we hope you don't mind us delving deeper into the issues of today. We get emails/comments to this day about our thoughts on the election, but it's been a while since we last took the time to express our views and give you a deeper understanding of how our company runs.

We shared the following thoughts with our team in our leadership meeting yesterday. We believe it may be pertinent to the public, our fans, and those who are following this story. As you can see from our blog posts, we're pretty vocal about topics ranging from race to cyberbullying

First, there isn't much to add beyond what's already said in the media about sexual harassment. We're obviously in a watershed moment. Being two guys, we are not thought leaders on how to react to this topic-- we are just following the lead of the women who are speaking out.

However, we acknowledge that it is our responsibility to proactively mobilize a group we do know a thing or two about: ethnic minorities. We urge fellow ethnic minorities, especially Asian men, to speak out against oppression (including dominant patriarchy) and harassment of any kind: by race, sex, sexual preference, gender identity and the oft-forgotten divide of socio-economic class.

The last year has often been described as a pendulum swing. Despite our best efforts, we still see an ever-increasing polarization of American society. Most of you know about our involvement with local and federal government-- we rarely address these experiences directly, but the tension in these meetings caused by cultural differences and ideology is always palpable. It's a fine line between relativism and tolerance and there probably isn't a clear-cut answer, but we do a really sh*tty job working in the grey.

If you're reading this, we understand you aren't fully invested in our company culture, but we want to share with you something that we always tell our team: it's not just about tearing down a culture, it's about building a new one. A bit of it came out when we gave our response to Eater regarding the insensitive NY Times article.

It takes a massive, hegemonic culture to sustain decades (maybe centuries?) worth of misogyny, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination. The tipping point is occurring in almost all ecosystems with imbalanced power dynamics: Hollywood, journalism, politics, tech, etc. (the notable missing one is Wall Street). If it takes decades to build such a leviathan, it will take even longer to transition out of it and into a new, more inclusive, still imperfect union.

Our mission is to bridge cultures. And yes, we're just a tiny ass boba chain, but we also have nearly 5,000 unique people who step into our ten stores every day. We look up to companies like Patagonia who lead not just on principle but with a voice. As bi-cultural/third culture kids, dissecting culture is our natural lens. It's why we empathize with and vocalize support for women, immigrants, minorities (especially African Americans) who feel marginalized like second-class citizens. But it's also why we occasionally defend non-Asians who unintentionally exoticize or "Columbus" our cuisine, but are targets of reverse discrimination and over-shaming. 

In order to bridge cultures or to find some semblance of reconciliation, you need to be an ambassador and help others cross the bridge. This isn't about being a PAA (Progressive Asian Activist, a derogatory term for open-minded Asian Americans), this is about building a sustainable model for humanity: how can individuals from various cultures get along? Is it even possible? Should we sometimes just chalk it up to "cultural differences" and leave it at that? We don't have a definitive answer, but we do know that empathy (or a visceral understanding) is missing from all of this.

We're not saying we need to empathize with or defend the oppressors, but we need to understand that a larger hegemonic culture is creating these individuals and we need to address the systemic issues. In order to do that, we must understand how it works and why it works in order to thwart it from growing and gaining traction. And after it's contained and/or extinguished, we need to address the broken people that it left behind-- similar to the spirit of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation commission , which both us are incredibly fascinated with and inspired by. 

There is no perfect solution as cynics often think our efforts and words are futile. I (Andrew) once heard that whenever a company posts about big issues, it's just "mental masturbation." How sad. ANYTHING is better than what we have now. And yes, we just sell boba, but we deal with cultural misunderstandings everyday as part of our business. We get hate mail (possibly more after this post) from people saying we're too this and too that. Food is deeply personal and happens to be a microcosm of what is going on in the world.

We can't solve world peace, systemic racism, or sexual harassment alone, but the one thing we offer is an ecosystem and culture within our control. We can take a stand and make an impression on our 200 (and growing) team members. We can get our fans to go deep and indulge us on these thoughts. And who knows, a few of you might share this with someone who might find it useful (or completely off-base). What's futile is expressing our thoughts solely in our echo chambers. 

We just want to take a step back and spur on a better version of society. We're all in on that. We hope you are too.

Grace and peace,

Andrew & Bin

 

 

Addressing the Rumors About Our Balls

Bin Chen

Amen, Celeste Yim and VICE. Full article here.

I don't like the term "White People," so we're not going to co-sign everything in this VICE piece, but this Op-Ed covers 99% of what we wanted to say about the viral articles on INSIDER and TASTING TABLE. Everyone and their mother sent us articles about the situation since it is core to our business, so here's our official response:

A Philz Coffee Mint Mojito is 270 calories. A Blue Bottle Coffee New Orleans style at 175 calories is more than our Classic Milk Tea 50% sweet. Even if you add a full serving of boba (~200-300 calories), you would still be drinking the same calories as a Jamba Juice smoothie. Replace boba with our grass jelly, almond jelly, chia seeds, and aloe and you're no worse than a Starbucks Refresher made with flavored syrups. There isn't anything wrong with these drinks, except we don't see health-scare articles written about them. 

Note: we're not even going to cover all the health benefits from the premium tea we use. We're just sticking to calories at this point. 

We started Boba Guys to bridge cultures. We, along with some of our friends in the industry, are doing the first part of our plan pretty well. Now, we're going to teach the public how to talk about culture. You don't do that by shaming something you don't understand.

If the journalists did their homework, they would know that sweetness level adjustments are a staple of the industry. According to our stats, an average drink at Boba Guys is 50% sweet.

So Daisy of INSIDER Food and Delia of Tasting Table, we would love to teach you a little about our culture as we have with other writers at Vogue, Tasting Table, Food & Wine, Quartz, and countless other pieces that get it right. "Your body will thank you" when you stop packing in those Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccinos, calorie bomb pastries, and garlic butter olive oil pastas. Oh wait, you don't hate on those because... c'mon, bruh. I see you. =) 

And yes, for our health-conscious fans, we are working a special page at Boba Guys to break down all the nutrition. We started bottling our milk teas two years ago and some grocers require nutritional facts, so we have the complete facts on those. The Classic Milk Tea one is below. It's made at a 60% sweet formula if you want to compare apples to apples.

#FightThePowder #DoTheRightThing #TransparencyWins

- Andrew & Bin, The Boba Guys

16 oz Pure Milk Tea

For a standard 16 oz drink in our stores, you typically get 12 ounces of the milk tea, plus 4 ounces of ice and topping (e.g. boba, pudding, jelly). The nutrition facts do not include the toppings. Calories for the toppings vary. Boba, of course, is the most caloric. We estimate it's 200-250 calories per serving. Grass jelly, chia seeds, and aloe are the least caloric. Plus, they have additional health benefits.

Situation with Local 22

Bin Chen

 

UPDATE as of 4/19/17: The Local 22 team continues to bully small businesses including us. We have been pretty nice about it, but we'll make an official statement soon. We will become more vocal, especially because they started picketing some of our friends including Potrero Dental. Like us, they are also local and independently-owned. Who protests a local dental office!?

Their fight isn't even with us-- it's with our general contractors who also don't tolerate bullying tactics from the Local 22. We know and work with a lot of amazing unions in the city-- Local 22 isn't one of them. If you feel inclined, please email the union at info@local22.org. Their number is (415) 355-1322.

UPDATE as of 3/14/17: We saw the notorious Grim Reaper today in front of our Fillmore Store. For the record, that store had very little millwork since it was a boba shop prior to us moving in, so it doesn't even apply to Local 22. We're super humbled since we definitely don't deserve such a high-profile villain such as the Grim Reaper. Local 22 will continue protesting us since we won't use their specific general contractors (those who bankroll the protesters). We even offered them a sizable annual donation which they refused. There are a lot of words others have used to describe their tactics. We will stay neutral. But as the public knows, we always strive to #DoTheRightThing, so we will not back down. We apologize for any inconvenience.

UPDATE as of 3/8/17: We met with the heads of the Local 22 carpenters union. We had a spirited and honest dialogue about the situation. Unfortunately, we had to agree to disagree in the end. Out of respect for the union, we will keep the matters confidential unless they misconstrue the events of that morning. We always say #TransparencyWins, so we will document our discussions on this blog. In short, the leaders of Local 22 are decent guys and they've got a job to do. We also believe we're doing the right thing, which is what makes this so complex. There is no bad guy in all of this.

We have been getting questions about the Local 22 protesters in front of some of our stores. It's been happening since Fall 2016. We have been putting letters in our stores explaining the situation, but we want to also echo the message on the internet since some of you asked about it while driving by. We always pride ourselves on transparency, so here we go! =)

The letter to the public (posted below) explains it in more detail, but Local 22 is a local carpenter's union isn't happy that one of our contractors, Bali Construction, doesn't always use union carpenter labor. They have done this to other businesses around town. See examples here. You might recognize them as the Grim Reaper, Rat, or Thumbs Down sign guys. We have reached out to them and talked to their staff countless times. We know Tim, Carlos, Conrad, etc. It's been nearly 40+ days of 5-hour, 2-person shifts from them during the winter, so we have even instructed our team to offer them hot drinks in the cold weather. For the record, we understand their plight. We just believe they channel their resources toward the wrong people.

We never claim to be perfect or always make the most popular decision, but one thing is true-- we believe #TransparencyWins (our hashtag). The situation with Local 22 is unfortunate because we feel deeply that they are picking a fight with a small business. And that's not right. As most of the public knows by now, we don't franchise. We turned down $1.5M-$2.0M in institutional VC funding. We don't come from wealthy families. We are just two guys who turned a passion project into a movement. 

As a son of two union workers myself, I get the struggle. My dad is a retired MUNI operator who had to fight for his benefits. There are a lot of messy politics and economics that we won't bore you with, but if you are reading this, please understand that Boba Guys is committed to the community. All of our involvement and donations in the community, White House, and ACLU aren't just lip-service. You can see it all over the press and our social media. Or ask us in person. We are in our stores 24/7!

We truly believe few companies are run like us. We model our company after Patagonia, Everlane, and In 'N Out, who are all known for their civic duty. It's why we gave up our cushy careers to bridge cultures with our unique experience. With stores on both coasts and fans worldwide, we understand the unique privilege and platform that we're blessed with.

We appreciate your interest in this matter and finding this unlisted blog post. =) Thanks for reading!

note: as we noted earlier and in our email, we have reached out to Local 22 to talk. We fundamentally disagree on the politics of the situation, but we agree something should be done. We ask that you kindly send them a reminder note at info@local22.org or call them at (415) 355-1322.

Have a nice day and pleasant tomorrow!

Andrew (and Bin), The Boba Guys

--- LETTER TO THE PUBLIC POSTED BELOW ---

A Letter to Our Team Members and Neighbors

Boba Guys and Gals,

Sorry for any inconvenience. Here’s what’s going on.

The protesters are trying to get us to force our old General Contractor, Bali Construction, to use union carpenters (i.e. subs). (We didn’t even use Bali on this store!) Despite our relentless commitment to be responsible employers, we are still bound by reality in SF. I (Andrew) even empathize with their plight since I am the children of two lifetime union workers. My dad is a retired MUNI operator. Their fight is with the Planning Dept, not with us. They set the rules on who to use. We use market-value licensed contractors, who sometimes are not union. It’s what most small businesses like us do.

The protestors forget we are self-funded and not backed by a big VC like the big coffee companies or franchised bubble tea shops. Bin and I are obviously not from wealthy families sitting on piles of cash. We're just two scrappy dudes. Just look at our first store in the Mission. It’s scrappy!

As a member of the White House API Initiative, board members on local non-profits, and countless SMB councils, we want to take this time to explain why big-money businesses will take over SF. (We have already voiced our concerns to local congressmen and district supervisors.)

If they protest small guys like us, then only the big chains like ____________________ can build a financially-sustainable business in SF. The big guys are the only ones who can afford the union premium. Not us small businesses. We are known for #RadicalTransparency, so here is a tangible and real-life example: if our millwork is $80K with non-union work, it is roughly $120K with union labor. We would not be building in SF if that was the case. We would divert our capital to other cities or regions.

The savings is what gives our team higher wages (we pride ourselves on having one of the best wages in the ENTIRE industry), our $2500 donation to the ACLU, participation the Arts, employee perks and bonuses, generous community donations, and employee profit sharing (which NO ONE in our industry at our size does). We put our money where our mouth is.

We only have four stores at this point in SF. We commend them for their conviction, but they are picking a fight with the wrong business. They have been doing this to us since Fall 2016. We have a proven track record of community involvement and transparent business practices. Just look at this memo. =) We’re all here to fight the good fight, but let’s address the root issue. If you have the time and support our fight, please email the union at info@local22.org. Their number is (415) 355-1322. Please be kind to them. We believe in civil discourse, but they need to know they are fighting the wrong people. Thanks!

#FightThePowder

#DoTheRightThing

The Boba Guys

 Local 22 just protested our friends at Potrero Dental. Like us, they are independent and locally-owned. They just don't like our GCs because our GCs also don't tolerate their bullying.

Local 22 just protested our friends at Potrero Dental. Like us, they are independent and locally-owned. They just don't like our GCs because our GCs also don't tolerate their bullying.

 Local 22 just picketing our friends with misleading signs. Nancy and her team at Potrero Dental are local, indepently-owned operators just like us. We all use great general contractors-- they just don't buy into the Local 22 racket. 

Local 22 just picketing our friends with misleading signs. Nancy and her team at Potrero Dental are local, indepently-owned operators just like us. We all use great general contractors-- they just don't buy into the Local 22 racket. 

Milk Proteins and Tea

Bin Chen

Do milk proteins cancel the healthy benefits from nutrients in tea?

 

To many, the most well-known nutrients in tea are antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that effectively react with unstable free radicals before it can damage one’s DNA. It is because of this effect that antioxidants are known to reduce the risk of cancer. However, how one drinks their tea is culturally determined and some have hypothesized that some brewing methods and addition of additives like milk and sugar can cancel out the benefits of antioxidants.

This paper is a brief review of relevant scientific work to address whether or not adding milk or sugar to tea can make the health benefits from drinking tea obsolete.

The interactions between tea antioxidants and milk proteins has been studied since 1963, when it was concluded that milk proteins can bind to tea antioxidants. Since then, other studies have confirmed this conclusion. Because of this milk protein and tea antioxidant binding, many fear that the common (and delicious!) practice of adding milk to tea destroys antioxidants in tea. To test this hypothesis, many scientists have conducted in vitro (out of body) and in vivo (in the body) experiments. In vitro studies commonly used simulated models of the human digestive system to digest tea antioxidants with or without milk. Researchers then took the digested tea or milk tea and added it to a colony of cancer cells (HT29) and had their rate of growth measured. The cancer cell colonies that were exposed to both tea and milk tea had their growth inhibited at similar levels at antioxidant concentrations (0.03 mg/mL) and above (Haratifar 2014). This research may have a conflict of interest since it was funded by the Ontario Dairy Association.

A similar study conducted by Unilever concluded that antioxidants bound to milk proteins were just as bioavailable as unbound antioxidants by measuring antioxidant levels of tea and milk tea after three different stages of digestion (van der Burg-Koorevaar 2011). But again, these findings are suspect since Unilever is a British-Dutch consumer goods company that could benefit from calming fears over milk tea antioxidant levels.

In 2001, a research division in the Netherlands equivalent of the FDA conducted an in vivo study on antioxidant levels in human blood plasma after consuming tea or milk tea. They concluded that drinking both tea and milk tea resulted in similar levels of blood plasma antioxidants (Hollman 2001). Another 2001 study conducted by a food and nutrition company, it was reported that both tea and milk tea digestates inhibited the activity of a known mutagen in a bacterial colony at similar levels (Krul 2001).

There are some drawbacks to having tea with milk. One in vitro and in vivo study concluded that milk counteracted the beneficial vascular activity of tea (Lorenz 2007). This study was followed up by an in vitro study in 2009 using soy milk instead and reached a similar conclusion (Lorenz 2009). Another study found that consuming green tea helped subjects undergo diet induced thermogenesis (in other words, they burned more calories at a resting heart rate after drinking green tea), consuming green tea with milk had no such effect (Hursel 2011).

All in all, this topic does not have a clear scientific consensus, as is with most foods (like, are eggs good for you or bad for you this year??). That said, scientists do in fact agree that casein proteins that are present in milk do bind to tea antioxidants. Caseins are a particular type of protein that is produced by mammals so it should be absent in soy, almond, and oat milk.

Soy milk has almost as much protein as milk and some of these proteins are suspected to behave similar to casein in binding tea antioxidants. So if you want to ensure you get the most antioxidants out of your tea, I suggest having a green tea with an alternative milk that is low in protein, such as almond milk. Oat milk will have more protein than almond milk, but less than regular milk or soy.

 by Stephen Lo, Bobarista and Masters in Chemistry candidate, USF

Works Cited

1.      Krul C., Luiten-Schuiten A., Tenfelde A., van Ommen B., Verhagen H., Havenaar R. Antimutagenic activity of green tea and black tea extracts studied in a dynamicin vitro gastrointestinal model. Mutat. Res. 2001;474:71–85.

2.      Lorenz M., Jochmann N., von Krosigk A., Martus P., Baumann G., Stangl K., Stangl V. Addition of milk prevents vascular protective effects of tea. Eur. Heart J. 2007;28:219–223.

3.      Lorenz, Mario, Karl Stangl, and Verena Stangl. "Vascular effects of tea are suppressed by soy milk." Atherosclerosis 206.1 (2009): 31-32.

4.      Haratifar, S., K. A. Meckling, and M. Corredig. "Antiproliferative activity of tea catechins associated with casein micelles, using HT29 colon cancer cells." Journal of dairy science 97.2 (2014): 672-678.           

5.      van der Burg-Koorevaar, Monique CD, Silvia Miret, and Guus SMJE Duchateau. "Effect of milk and brewing method on black tea catechin bioaccessibility." Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 59.14 (2011): 7752-7758.

6.      Hollman P.C., van het Hof K.H., Tijburg L.B., Katan M.B. Addition of milk does not affect the absorption of flavonols from tea in man. Free Radic. Res. 2001;34:297–300

7.      Hursel, Rick, and Margriet S. Westerterp-Plantenga. "Consumption of milk-protein combined with green tea modulates diet-induced thermogenesis." Nutrients 3.8 (2011): 725-733.

A Reflection on Bridging Cultures

Bin Chen

The following is a letter I wrote to our amazing team. Just like our country, they are young, scrappy, and hungry. Please keep us accountable as we continue to bridge cultures.

Andrew, Co-founder of Boba Guys x Tea People

---

Boba Guys and Gals,

As many of you know, this is Page 4 of our Boba Guys Training Manual. Page 4. Before all the hokey platitudes, Pokemon references, and dress code guidelines, we put a giant, loud, orange figure in your face. I want to keep a positive association with this page. =)

I was debating whether or not to comment about what happened last night.  We are just a little boba shop and politics isn’t really our cup of tea. But given my position as a founder, spokesperson, and friend, I want to encourage you all to stick to our principles. As Conan’s quote says, “Don’t be cynical… nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” Even after yesterday, I stand by that creed.

We’ve been very fortunate to have grown Boba Guys from the ashes of the Great Recession. We attribute of a lot our success to the macro-climate of change. President Obama and his team did a remarkable job steering us through a crazy time. I know because many of my friends were on the front lines, protecting our economy, government, and ideals. What happened isn't a direct reflection of his accomplishments.

That being said, as we have all witnessed, we left a huge portion of our country behind during our ascendance. BIGLY. HUGE. I spent four of my formative professional years at Wal-Mart serving everyday Americans-- and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that we don’t listen to each other. We in the big metros aren’t familiar with their struggle. It's definitely an Us vs. Them mentality. Even I—as a consumer marketer that is supposed to speak to these people—felt like I was a foreigner in my own country. In hindsight, I bet they felt the same whenever they turned on the TV or visited “The Big City” on vacation. This was a huge lesson in empathy.

This isn’t just about Rural vs. Urban, or Proletariats vs. the Elites. This is about how two vastly different cultures can get along. As I told many of you this summer, no matter what happens, half of this country is going to be very unhappy and we need to get ready for that. And given that most of you are participating in our process for the very first time, I want to encourage you to have the audacity of hope. It’s easy to be jaded, apathetic, or bitter, but that’s the social inertia that has been tearing humanity apart for millennia. 

This all comes back to our mission at Boba Guys: to bridge cultures. Bin and I envisioned a company that brought people from various backgrounds—ethnicity, gender, hometown, and social status—together. Whenever we look at our team and our guests packed into a small store, we smile and say, “This is what America should look like one day... And we need bigger stores." Some of you laugh when I say, “Boba Guys is a beautiful mosaic of people.” It’s true and I don’t care if it’s cheesy. 

As Barry says, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” On a broader level, I say, “Our brand of Culture is hard.” To get a diverse group of individuals to agree on a common goal is like pushing a boulder uphill. If you like anthropology or history, you’ll know that humans are notoriously bad at getting along with people different from them. It’s why Bin and I even struggle with leading all 100+ of you! You folks are all so different… in a good way! =)

But to give up on bridging cultures is taking the easy way out. It even challenges Bin and I as your leaders because it shapes how best to run our company. Yes, as a business, we can serve a specific segment of the population and it’ll be 10X easier to operate.  And yes, as a business, we can hire a very cookie-cutter team that is easier to mobilize. But that’s not our vision. And that wasn’t our Founding Fathers’ vision. In my best Hamilton voice, the line from the Declaration of Independence goes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are equal.” All men and women.

So in the wake and ashes of a broken country, I ask that we all stay hopeful. It’s not like putting on a fake smile that we all do in front of our parents during the Holidays. It’s a optimistic smile knowing that this is the best opportunity for us Millennials—yes, I am born in 1982 so I am one of you—to show that we can buck the trend of humanity. We can love more than hate. We can work alongside the new—albeit different— regime to bridge cultures. 

I can tell you that being stubborn is only going to make this worse. Like at the end of Frozen, it took the warmth of Anna’s love to melt and change Elsa’s cold heart. As Dad as it sounds, that’s how it works in the real world. Well, we can't conjure frozen fractals, but you get the point. 

No one wins when it’s hate vs. hate. Or apathy vs. passion. At best, it’s a stalemate. At worst, it’s worldwide chaos. We owe it to humanity to listen better and hope for the best in people.

#FightThePowder #DoTheRightThing

Andrew

Boba Guys Pop Up x NYC (Take Two)

Bin Chen

A few weekends ago, we trekked across the country to bring Boba Guys to the concrete jungle that is New York City. We couldn't have been welcomed with more open arms (and stomachs)! Since it was such a hit and we had so much fun, we're coming back for round two! Read about what our pop-up is all about and come check us out October 24th and 25th at LMHQ again!

 

Part of our mission at Boba Guys is to bridge cultures through our milk tea. We took the beloved “bubble tea” from our Eastern Taiwanese roots and introduced it to our Western (American) next-level quality ingredients and business concepts. Now, we’re doing the whole "East meets West" thing again, except this time we’re taking our Cali-Western roots and popping up on the East Coast! 

We’re going back to our pop-up roots & bringing our Grade A Balls to the Big Apple!


Same housemade, #nextlevelquality ingredients you know and love, just this time we’re partnering up Battenkill Valley Creamery. We searched the entire city and finally found the Straus Family Creamery our #nextlevelquality milk teas needed. The crème de la crème. The Brad to our Angelina. The Kim to our Kanye. The Ellen to our Portia. The Michelle to our Obama. Battenkill milk is just a local, natural, rich and smoooooth as Straus. plus it comes from the happiest of local New York cows. Now, combined with using Tea People, loose leaf premium teas, and our housemade syrup, our milk teas are ready to win over the hearts and tastebuds of NYC. 

So if you happen to be in NYC or know some New Yorker boba lovers (or potential new addicts) share our event on Facebook or come check us out in person! 

Here’s the nitty gritty:
Where: Tea People @ LMHQ
(150 Broadway Floor 20, between Maiden Lane and Liberty)
When: Saturday & Sunday, October 24th-25th, 12-5PM

Stay up to date!
Follow us on Instagram: @bobaguysnyc
Follow us on Twitter: @bobaguysnyc

Songs About Sippin'

Bin Chen

When you think coffee, you think, coffeehouse music: indie, singer/songwriter, acoustic sounds. When you think tea, what do you think? What are the musical pairings that go with sippin' on tea?

Recently, the online arts and lifestyle magazine, Paste, posted an article trying to illuminate some potential tea tune pairings. Each song featured, from artists ranging from the Kinks to Iron & Wine, has to do with the tea. While the songs may not answer what genre of music tea should be paired with, they're definitely worth checking out and listening to during your next cup o' tea. 

Click here for your next tea sippin' playlist about tea & share with us what you think pairs well with your cuppa. 

 

Finally, Our Flagship

Bin Chen

Hello Boba Guys and Gals,

We promised big announcements this month and here they come!

In addition to our NYC popup, news just broke about our flagship location in Hayes Valley, so we want to clear the air with our fans first. We know the first two stores are a bit smaller than we'd like-- we just never knew it'd take off like this! That is why we're so excited to finally share this with you all. This location will have seating, better ventilation, and all of the bells & whistles that we envisioned when we first started the company four years ago. Our mission is to bridge cultures, so our flagship will be one of the best vehicles to do this.

We also want to publicly say that we are still a small business and we sincerely care about the communities we put our stores in. As many of you know, we quit our full-time jobs earlier this year to pursue our passion. We obviously want to reach more people through expansion, but we have always been transparent about our triple-bottom line approach. It's been in our DNA since our days writing our column on GOOD.

We always tell people, we are a "Company with a Soul." We want to make this world better through food and immersive, cultural experiences. We know there are a lot of opinions out there. In the true Boba Guys way, we want to be transparent and upfront about it. We understand our presence will spur another debate about gentrification, locals vs. transplants, cultural assimilation, and demographic shifts in the city (we are both Asian). We don't have a great answer, but we do know bridging cultures is on the path toward progress.

We never intended for Boba Guys to be a platform for anything other than boba and tea, but over the past four years, we discovered-- through the Nissan commercial, countless emails, and national press-- that we inadvertently stumbled onto something bigger. We may have one of the most diverse, supportive fanbases out there, but we are all united by our passion for a historically-ethnic drink.

We see you all bringing friends to try bubble tea for the first time. We see you at our Union Square store to learn about tea... from a boba shop! We have young and old, techie and hipster, Nicki and Miley, Mac vs. PC-- all waiting in our ridiculously long lines (which we hope to solve by having a much bigger store). We say #‎BallsForAll because food has brought people together for millennia.

So as we head toward the next chapter of Boba Guys, you will see a common theme dialed up throughout our dialogue with you, the public, and even our competitors: bridging cultures. It's not "us vs. them." It's "us AND them." Yes, we're very aware some people think we're "boba for X people." Or we're too hipster because we use Straus organic milk and fancy ingredients. Or we don't respect tradition enough. We don't have any issue with that, per se. We just have an issue when the labels are used as justification for exclusivity, hate, and prejudice. It's all heavy stuff for a little boba shop to talk about, but as long as have a platform, we will use it for good. After all, we once wrote about Chinese-Taiwanese politics-- you can't get more controversial than that! :) 

Here's to bridging cultures and as always, have a nice day and a pleasant tomorrow!
- The Boba Guys (Andrew & Bin) 

Grade A Balls x The Big Apple: Boba Guys Pop-Up NYC

Bin Chen

Part of our mission at Boba Guys is to bridge cultures through our milk tea. We took the beloved “bubble tea” from our Eastern Taiwanese roots and introduced it to our Western (American) next-level quality ingredients and business concepts. Now, we’re doing the whole "East meets West" thing again, except this time we’re taking our Cali-Western roots and popping up on the East Coast! 

We’re going back to our pop-up roots & bringing our Grade A Balls to the Big Apple!


Same housemade, #nextlevelquality ingredients you know and love, just this time we’re partnering up Battenkill Valley Creamery. We searched the entire city and finally found the Straus Family Creamery our #nextlevelquality milk teas needed. The crème de la crème. The Brad to our Angelina. The Kim to our Kanye. The Ellen to our Portia. The Michelle to our Obama. Battenkill milk is just a local, natural, rich and smoooooth as Straus. plus it comes from the happiest of local New York cows. Now, combined with using Tea People, loose leaf premium teas, and our housemade syrup, our milk teas are ready to win over the hearts and tastebuds of NYC. 

So if you happen to be in NYC or know some New Yorker boba lovers (or potential new addicts) share our event on Facebook or come check us out in person! 

Here’s the nitty gritty:
When: September 26-27, 12-5pm
Where: LMHQ: 150 Broadway, Floor 20, New York, NY
(Between Liberty and Maiden Lane)

Stay up to date!
Follow us on Instagram: @bobaguysnyc
Follow us on Twitter: @bobaguysnyc

The Story of The Tea Fresca

Bin Chen

All summer we’ve been serving up iced drinks (our ice machines can barely keep up)! With the hotter months here (not that San Francisco really knows what hot means), iced drinks are in demand and our tea frescas are the perfect solution. Currently, our house made fruit purees flavors are strawberry and mango. Try our refreshing strawberry jasmine tea-fresca: equal parts strawberry puree and iced jasmine tea. Or try our newest (and definitely prettiest) creation, the layered mango matcha tea fresca: rich mango puree, topped with organic premium grade matcha! 

For now, let us tell you a little about how we came up with our line of tea frescas:

We’re a company that’s always getting our hands messy and experimenting: sourcing new teas and ingredients, testing new drink concepts and mixing new flavors. Our experiments often become our biggest menu hits like the horchata boba: the highest quality of sweet rice milk, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar and a splash of rich organic whole milk. All of which gives a nod to the numerous taquerias in the Mission and with a heaping scoop of boba, it still sticks to our Asian roots. You can order it “dirty,” with a shot of espresso or cold brew and it gives a nod to the artisanal coffee world of San Francisco too. We wanted to do the same thing with our next experimental claim to fame that we’ve recently been rolling out: tea frescas. 

Tea-frescas are our own new Mission meets boba shop fusion. One part Mexican agua fresca or ‘fresh water’, those sweet, fruity and floral blends that taquerias sell in heaping batches. The other part, the oh so familiar syrup based fruit tea that many boba shops are known for. Both being refreshing and delicious in their own ways, we wondered what a drink would look like if we concocted a tea version of the two. 

The idea was to create a next level quality product, sans powder or fruit syrups and instead use fresh, seasonally sourced, housemade fruit purees. Then, mix the puree with our classic tea blends you already know and love over ice. Thus creating our hybrid, the tea-fresca: a fresh fruit tea.  

With the Indian summer here, what kind of new fruity flavors would you like to cool off with?

We're Back!

Bin Chen

Hey boba guys, gals, fans, addicts, obsessers, 

We know it’s been awhile (okay, more than awhile) but we’ve been more than busy lately. In the past year we’ve been growing fast, moving fast and making many new things (drinks, stores, and even a tea company)! But we’re happy to announce we’re dusting off the cobwebs and are re-entering the blogosphere.  Social media has been such a huge part of our journey as a company and having a blog where we can update, connect and share with you all things Boba Guys is important to us. We've moved off of Tumblr and are located right on our very own site bobaguys.com! For now, sort through our old posts and make sure to keep an eye out for new posts soon (very soon)! 

We're back (street) back, alright! 

Bin Chen

We know our specialty is in boba, but last week we entered in @kearnystreetworkshop’s Dumpling Wars! We made a Lapsang Souchong-infused soup dumpling with special sauce… all from scratch! 

Bin Chen

Tea People launched today: http://teapeople.us

We started Tea People because we wanted to share our favorite teas with our friends the only way we knew how, by keeping it simple. Tea People is not just another website to buy tea from, but an honest exploration of everything that tea has to offer. The tea world is way more fascinating than most people give it credit for, just not very approachable. We plan to change that. 

Get 10% off your first order by using the code LAUNCH10 at checkout.