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3491 19th St
San Francisco, CA 94110
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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

It's a Small, Big World

Bin Chen

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You’re reading this because you want to learn more about our new cups! Thank you for the interest! So here it goes…

Two years ago, we wrote this blog post as a reflection on bridging cultures. Two weeks ago, we followed that up with another post about our thoughts on midterms. You’ll notice that a running theme is our fascination with culture.

Over the last year, we’ve been exploring ideas on how to codify our mission to bridge cultures—both for the public and internally. The plastic straw ban and local manufacturing (i.e. US Boba Company) are the first two big ideas out of our newfound resolve. Each initiative took at least a year, but we’re making tremendous progress. It’s given us more courage to tackle something we’ve been toying with for the past few years…

It’s a Small, Big World

Growing up, Bin and I (Andrew) both had a silly obsession with culture. Perhaps is it because both of us grew up as immigrant kids in non-Asian neighborhoods. Maybe it’s due to our music and film taste—all of which leans toward more cerebral topics like sociology and anthropology. Whatever the reason, we loved seeing people with overt differences come together and build a community.


Years ago, we both talked about our admiration for the “It’s a Small World” ride in Disneyland. It’s a ballsy experiment. The ride has been criticized a lot for stereotyping and over-generalizing ethnic garb and traditions. We’ve read all the criticism. While our idea has been shelved for years, we simply couldn’t shake the vision.

Last year, we asked our team to create the first cup that tries to explicitly bridge cultures. We chose cups as the medium because we serve over 4,000,000 drinks a year. Go big or go home, as they say!

It was just a design exercise at first, but we knew where we wanted to take it. We weighed out the implications that could come from a project like this, but as we’ve been saying all along… it’s about progress, not perfection.

Our Inspiration

In our exploration for the cup design, we knew other businesses like Starbucks tried to make statements with their business. When the #RaceTogether campaign came out, Bin and I dissected the campaign and asked ourselves what we would do if the choice was ours. We still keep tabs on the Starbucks’ “Holiday” cups discussion. Whether we like it or not, our belief is that businesses nowadays are inherently political or socially-conscious. We’ve always embraced it. What a company or person stands for is as important as what they make or do.

The question wasn’t what can we draw on a cup. It’s what do we want to draw on a cup. Zodi, our in-house designer, started the exploration with our internal team. At first, it was a Holiday-only seasonal design, so most of the concepts had a Holiday feel to it. But as we saw each iteration, we decided that if we were to do a limited-run cup, it’d make a statement. We wanted it to be timeless.

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Some of you are already asking, why did you have to put faces on the cup? That part is easy. It’s about connecting people. We had ideas to draw various cultural symbols or city landscapes, like San Francokyo in Big Hero 6. It didn’t appeal to us. It’s been done. With all that’s going on in the world, we decided to tackle it the hard way—and that meant using real representations of our community.

The Hard Part

So we chose to use human representations of what it means to bridge cultures. After all, we always tell our team in our orientations, “Boba Guys is a place for EVERYONE.”

This is when it got hard and we almost pulled the project. The conversation even got heated within our internal team. How do you represent everyone on a cup that only fits 12-20 faces? When is it a caricature vs. a symbol? How many permutations of hair styles and face shapes can we combine? How can you draw universality without compromising individuality?

What inspired similar yet distinct faces was the idea that although different, at the end of the day we are all the same. We are all just people. We like what Everlane did with their 100% Human campaign. It was the same core message.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 12.11.44 AM.png

It’s Now for Real Real

This post is written before the cup launches in stores, so we’re not sure how the public will react to it. But we know one question will come up over and over again, so we’ll address it now: Do we wish that we could create a representation of every single person and race so that no one feels excluded?

Yes, but representation is like chasing the sun. We all want it, but we can only get so close. This single design alone took months. We didn’t have to do it. And maybe we’ll learn that it was a mistake. But we are trying. This was an exercise not just for the public, but also for our internal team. At the end of the day, we’re responsible for 300+ team members, most of whom are quite impressionable. We want them to see that it’s about progress, not perfection. We want them to see us try— and maybe, fail.

We know from our experience with the Crazy Rich Asians campaign that #RepresentationMatters, but it is also gradual and incremental. This is not the last time we’ll attempt something so ambitious. We’ll learn and adjust. That’s what we’ve always done.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 12.21.36 AM.png

So after of months of iterations, the design you see going live is our best shot. We did adhere to some parameters along the way: we removed some colors due to cost and added more explicit representations of our community based on the feedback.

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 11.54.33 PM.png

In the end, we just want little kids who come to our shops to identify with at least one of the faces on the cup. It creates a sense of belonging and inclusiveness that begets a strong community. Through community, you create dialogue. And through dialogue, you finally get to bridge cultures.

So that’s the story of our cups. Whew, a lot of backstory for simple cups, right? Let’s just enjoy the cute little faces now! ;)

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Happy holidays!

Andrew & Bin

 

 

Progress, Not Perfection

Bin Chen

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Go Vote!

Hi Boba Guys and Gals,

A lot of you asked about how we’re addressing the election both internally and externally, so below is an internal email that we sent our team which outlines our plans. For the public, you’ll see us participate by giving out our own version of “I Voted” pins. We know it’s not for everyone, but we hope you understand where we’re coming from.

Thank you all so much for the support. We hope we can all figure out a way to work together and reconcile our differences (over a cup of boba). ;)

Progress, not perfection.

-Andrew & Bin


Hi team,

*mic tap* Is this thing on?

Great seeing all of you, especially NY and LA in the last week. As noted in our talks, here's the big email...

The Election and What We're Doing

We want to update you all on what we’re doing as a company for the upcoming midterm election. For background, we encourage you all to read this post from two years ago. It captures our overarching sentiment about our involvement with society and still rings true today. That being said, we recognize that our world fundamentally changed since that post.

At Boba Guys, we are active participants in the community. We won’t always make the right or popular call, but we also do not sit on the sidelines. For this upcoming November election, we are doing two things:

  1. Every team member that votes will receive an hour’s worth of compensation in the new pay period. We’ve heard of companies compensating their employees for things like volunteering, but few do it for voting. We hope people follow our lead. We want you all to know how important this is for our company and society. Civic engagement is bridging cultures in action.

  2. Every guest that comes into our store on Election Day (Nov 6th) and shows proof that they voted (usually an “I Voted” sticker) will receive one of our limited-edition buttons.

Note: We know that not everyone on our team (or even in the public) can vote. We’re sorry. We can’t do anything about that, but we hope that you can support us in building a culture of participation which is just as important as participating itself.

Okay. That’s the easy part. The hard part is about to come…

Progress, Not Perfection


You’ll notice that the free buttons we’re creating contain a phrase, “Progress, not perfection.” I want you all to understand why we chose to use this phrase. And let it be known, I completely stole this from my Soul Cycle instructor who uses it in her classes. 

Our mission is to bridge cultures and our default mode of engagement is through civil discourse. We want to extra clear that it is not the only way to engage in what’s going on, but it is the style that most aligns with our values. Like for our drinks, if someone doesn’t like boba, we don’t put them on the defensive and say, “How dare you say you don’t like squishy balls in your mouth?” 


What We are Trying to Do

If it isn’t obvious by now, we are in the process of building an ecosystem of empathy, grace, and positivity. You can tell by the brands and people we associate with. We believe our approach is the only way we break down this viscous cycle of distrust and cynicism. No one wins when we shame or disgrace the other side. No one.

That is why “progress, not perfection” best reflects our approach to civic duty. If you’re wondering why we even went to this level of specificity, it’s simple: we have a platform, especially with the youth (and young at heart!).

Over the years, we’ve covered a variety of topics— straw banlocal manufacturing#MeToo, and even immigration with all our work in the government. It's even led to some of you on the team and the public demanding action when we stay silent. That’s fair. We own that.


So we’ll try to live up to our reputation. It helps that we have over 2,000,000 unique people that pass through our doors every year. It’s also why those Flavorbooks are so important as people learn our values while they wait in our long ass lines. Thanks for pushing us to stay on top of our values, so please understand “Progress, not perfection” is our attempt to embed those values in our ecosystem.

What "Progress, Not Perfection" Means

I recently came across this amazing study that talks about the polarization of our country. I put it here on Dropbox so you can all read it. On a high level, it segments our political climate into seven factions or “tribes.”

I’m not going to steer any of you toward a specific “tribe” as stated in the study. Most of you know where we fall in the tribes based on the posts and interviews. We’ve been pretty vocal while being in the public eye, so we’ll leave it at that. 

The goal is to implore you, our team, to understand that there is a big, big world around you—and we need to empathize where others who disagree with you are coming from. It starts with empathy. Empathy creates reconciliation. And reconciliation ultimately leads to a more stable equilibrium. This formula is the basis of our upcoming book. It’s the key to bridging cultures.

In most cases, progress doesn’t look like what we all imagined it to be. It rarely does. But we’ll bring it back to what we know: making boba milk tea. 

If we got defensive and snapped back at every competitor, vendor, or troll that threw shade at us, we’d still be in this death spiral. In the early days, we did a lot things wrong like using slow processes, bad vendors, or poor training procedures. Some of you recall that we even received hatemail and personal attacks. But you and the public were all gracious enough to look beyond our flaws. And right now, we still have a lot of things to work on, but you’re still here. You believe it’s about progress, not perfection. That's how it's supposed to work.

So Now What?


"Progress, Not Perfection" is the mindset we want you and the public to adopt more of. Based on the study, we know that up to 20% of you might still be on the extreme ends and vehemently disagree with our approach. That’s fine. We ask that you engage in dialogue instead of stonewalling. Otherwise, you’ll only be working for and associating with a very, very small segment of society. 

Some might think we’re too centrist or diplomatic, when we tend to avoid being too extreme or polarizing. It’s okay. Let’s figure it out how to coexist together.

Lastly, I'm writing this because the fans and guests will ask why and how we're getting involved. You're all on the front lines, so you'll need to explain it on our behalf. Your roommates and significant others might also wonder why we went the extra mile and decided to put a tagline on our election support. It all comes back to bridging cultures. We don't mind taking the heat-- progress, not perfection.

Have a nice day and a pleasant tomorrow.

Andrew & Bin 

Continuing the Movement

Bin Chen

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We made history this weekend with Crazy Rich Asians and want to keep the momentum moving!

#GoldOpen has always been about representation, so we are expanding our efforts and supporting two new chapters in the movement:

  1. Searching with John Cho and directed by Aneesh Chaganty
  2. BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee.

The first set of buyouts start this Friday in collaboration with A3 Foundation.

Support for John’s movie goes without saying. John is an icon and helped lay the fertile soil that allowed Crazy Rich Asians to sprout from. He, Aneesh, and team put together an amazing, innovative film that currently sits at 86% on the Tomato Meter.

About BlacKKKlansman

The #GoldOpen support of BlacKKKlansman is simply something we’ve always wanted to do from the beginning: to bridge cultures. And we are well-aware of some the recent feedback between our communities.

Following the lead of Lena Waithe, Barry Jenkins, and Ava DuVernay, we understand that while we can’t build a bridge overnight, we can start brick by brick. As my SoulCycle instructor said today, “It’s about progress, not perfection.” 😜

But to be candid, some of us organizing for #GoldOpen don’t know how to approach it, so we’ve been working with leaders in the African American community to make sure it’s in the spirit of collaboration and empathy. For example, which movie do we get behind? And why would some of us use our resources in this manner? Shouldn’t we channel our efforts behind the next big AAPI film?

As we have been saying, “high tides raise all boats.” We are changing the tide. As a lower-middle class kid from a tough part of Jersey, I have been transformed by Spike Lee’s work— in my office sits an autographed street sign from Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” signed by Spike himself. #DoTheRightThing is a hashtag we’ve been using for over seven years, so the latest Spike Lee joint and film / source material spoke to us.

For others, it is about the big picture. We know there are a ton of other AAPI projects to support, but the same could have been said about Barry, Lena, and Ava’s co-sign of Crazy Rich Asians. In the end, it’s about building a culture of inclusion and empathy.

We don’t represent every AAPI in the U.S., but we do have a mini-platform. A few buyouts alone won’t solve everything, but it might inspire others in our community to deepen the cultural dialogue by laying down a small foundation of empathy and curiosity. This is not a token gesture. This is a small, albeit important, brick on a new house that we are all building together.

To learn more about the #GoldOpen buyouts, you can join our private FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/goldopen

If you are in SF, the first BlacKKKlansman buyout is this Friday at 6pm. Until then, keep supporting Crazy Rich Asians and the slew of upcoming films in the wake the Movement.

- A3 + Boba Guys

Crazy Whole, Rich Asian Americans

Bin Chen

 “A single tree does not make a forest; a single string cannot make music.” - old Chinese proverb

 

There is little left to contribute to the dialogue around Crazy Rich Asians that hasn’t already been said. The coverage and discourse has been more than the community could ever ask for. It’s a movement. It’s a throwback to the RomComs of yesteryear. And most notably, it’s a symbol of a changing tide in representation in media. That being said, we’ve been getting questions from both our fans and team about how and why we’re supporting the movie so openly. A friend said, “It’s about Asian pride, right?”

We’re in the food business, so we try not to overreach and stay in our lane. In our world, we had amazing trailblazers Iike Eddie Huang, David Chang, and Roy Choi pave the way for our current American gastronomic rennaissance. Even our success with Boba Guys or Sunday at the Museum is built on the backs of the generation before us. Before we introduced our chapter of American-style boba, our forefathers (and mothers) did it with the gua bao, ramen, and kalbi tacos. Boba Guys has always been a pipe dream, so to change an entire industry— much less be writing a whole book about it— is a privilege. We’ve always said the food world has one of the better platforms for representation— food, at its core, is democratic. Channelling my best Bourdain, “There is nothing more political than food.” Our commentary is about culture.

I remember watching Crazy Rich Asians for the first time on the big screen earlier this year. I was sitting among peers and the cast, wondering, “How the f*ck did we get here?” As soon as the title card appeared, I knew something special was in the air. I could hear it in the cheers. I picked up the chuckles after nuanced musical references. And I felt it during the food porn scenes. Brother Jon M. Chu, the cast, and the bold team at Warner Bros hit a home run. 

It wasn’t that we never felt it during years of Jackie Chan, Margaret Cho, Kelly Hu, Harold & Kumar, Crouching Tiger, and uh... Memoirs of a— never mind. Even with Master of None and The Big Sick, I still felt something was missing. That’s not a knock on any of the strides made thus far— unlike in food or in fashion, the representation hasn’t permeated culture to the same degree. And I know this is heading toward a conversation about White Worship or Columbus’ing, but I am just speaking to Bin and my experience— as Asian American kids growing up in Texas and New Jersey, I didn’t feel fully represented. There were some moments, but it was fleeting. I didn’t feel whole. (You don’t ever feel whole when you wonder when it will end.)

I think it’s like when someone went to my family’s old restaurant in New Jersey and ordered chicken chow mein. I mean, you come to Hunan Palace, the pinnacle of Chinese cuisine in Woodbridge, New Jersey and all you order is chicken chow mein?! Here’s the issue: it’s a two-sided problem as my business school professors would say. On the demand side, the residents of our small town didn’t understand terms like duck sauce or bok choy (remember, this is the late 80s), so they stuck to what they knew. And my parents, immigrants from China and Taiwan, only translated and offered what they knew how to make. Neither side could fully understand each other and there wasn’t a product that was equally accessible and available at the same time. The ground-breaking, culinary achievements of General Tso’s chicken had not yet reached Yan Can Cook heights yet. Note: did Martin Yan come before or after General Tso? It’s all hazy but that’s the point.

I’m going to get some internet flack for this, but stick with me— Crazy Rich Asians is like a fully-realized, whole Asian food concept. It’s not chicken chow mein. It hits our cultural core but is also enveloped in pretty packaging. It isn’t a Panda Express. (Sorry. Though, I love my Orange Chicken and Cheese Rangoons.) It makes us feel whole. It’s probably why the community is rallying around it. It’s like when McDonald’s goes overseas and you eat a burger, milkshake, and fries in front of Jing’an Temple in Shanghai. It’s a solid cross-section of American culture. Sure, McDonald’s has some local items like Japanese rice cheese balls or Haupia pie in Hawaii, but it’s essentially a fully-baked cultural concept inside another culture. Like a Tur-Duck-En of culture. That’s Crazy Rich Asians.

We do these movie nights at Boba Guys where we buy out theaters for our team to celebrate our hard work. I remember two recent movies in particular that stood out, Coco and Black Panther. It’s true that us in the organizing community have read and admired the passion about Black Panther. I can’t speak for each ethnic population, but I know it meant something visceral to some members of our team. I could see it in their eyes or hear it in their tears. As Awkwafina put it, “... that is the power of representation.”

Over the past few months, we’ve helped organize 5+ screenings across the country. I myself have seen the movie four times and have cried every single time. It’s that good. I rank it up there with two other classics: Serendipity and You’ve Got Mail. You may think RomComs are sappy or dated, but given our society’s tone at the moment, we all could use an injection of optimism. Or just watch CRA for a front row seat to an emerging cultural war between US and China— a topic which we’ll surely cover in our book. ;)

Lastly, as I wrote in this post about AAPI Heritage Month, “As a history buff, I often see how one group’s rise to power often comes at another’s expense... both realized and unrealized.” This isn’t about power or pride or a tug-of-war between two cultures. And this post isn’t just for the underrepresented Asians in media.

Today, it is Crazy Rich Asians, because that’s a visible domain and serves as a proxy for culture. If your CRA isn’t your story today, there will be one for you tomorrow. Later, it will be in the domain of education and schools, in which another segment of the population is underrepresented. Then maybe politics. And after that, it will be members of another marginalized group— anyone that never felt treated as a “whole.” That is an idea that goes beyond being Asian or American. It’s universal.

If you aren’t Asian, I invite you to join us on a path to bridging cultures. Yes, this movie is a chance in which we share our culture in the wrapping of a gorgeous RomCom. We hope we are good hosts as you venture into our world. In return, we hope you invite us to your iconic films, tastings, and events and maybe we can learn from each other. Whether it’s rich and poor, urban and rural, or techies and hipsters, we know the first step toward understanding others is to travel within another culture.

Thank you all for the love and support that allows us to continue pushing toward progress.

Onwards,

Andrew & Bin

p.s. Again, major kudos to Warner Bros, Jonathan M. Chu, and fellow publishing peer Kevin Kwan (go Random House!) for believing in telling whole, rich stories across cultures. You guys deserve all the credit for bringing this project to life. 

We Still Kinda Suck

Bin Chen

This is a follow-up post to our original post in May

 

 14,000,605 Possible Outcomes

14,000,605 Possible Outcomes

We are here sitting in a hotel room in Taichung, Taiwan in middle of writing our book about bridging cultures. Over the last week, there has been an unbelievably cynical strain of criticism that is sweeping the nation over the now-passed SF straw ban. Friends, family, and fans all over the world are showing us articles and comments about us. Everyone knows we give zero fucks about short-sighted people. But we do care about our community (including our team members across the country) and how to equip them with a way to fulfill our #dialoguewins goal. This post is for you.

We don’t want to re-hash our original post. We stand by every word we said. And yes, the most recent SF Chronicle article sheds light on some of the backstory of our search for a viable straw replacement. The new ordinance in SF will go into effect on July 1, 2019. That gives us about a year to find our solution.  

As of right now, we are likely going with paper straws. We’ve already shared that with the public on Instagram Stories two weeks ago. We hope to also subsidize that with some reusable solutions like metal or alternative material straws that you can purchase at our stores very soon. (An hour from where we are right now in Taiwan, there is a supplier that makes straws out of sugar cane... it’s pretty f*cking amazing.) Many of you know we’ve been looking into this for over a year. We saw these bans coming. We pride ourselves on being pretty globally-minded, so we got wind of cities and countries like Taiwan proposing a ban from pretty early on.

The issue we have right now is the astonishing amount of criticism coming from the anti-straw ban movement, especially from those who don’t do their homework. We get that there are a million issues to solve as our world is a f*cked up place. Yes, maybe the straw ban won’t materially impact the amount of plastic we consume. And yes, we should still dedicate more resources to the homeless. The world is conflating all the issues and we need to stop that sh*t. My old business school professors used to scold me when I confused strategy and tactics. Years later, I now know what it feels like!

We’re just really good at complaining. If you know us or work for us, you know we f*cking HATE whiners. Like allergic. Nothing gets done with whining. And those people laughing at us or saying how foolish we are... let them laugh. Just take it. Don’t retaliate or trade blow for blow. That is not the Boba Guys way. We have ALWAYS been on the right side of history. Most of you know I am a die-hard Hamilton: The Musical fan. One of my favorite lines is, “History has its eyes on you.” It’s true. We can’t forget that.

To bring back some Professor Frank Schultz, I will talk strategy. This straw ban is about two things: 

1) Changing consumer behavior about straws

2) Reducing the amount of ocean plastic that harms marine life

#1 is obviously working because everyone and their mother is talking about it. Starbucks also joined the cause, so that’s that. Mission accomplished.

#2 is what people forget. The small plastics that get into our ocean do truly harm marine life. We already got rid of microplastics like those tiny beads that used to be in our soap. If someone thinks the straw ban won’t help the marine waste situation, they’re probably also a climate change denier— and we’re not down with that. We’re pretty patient with people, but we’re also allergic to ignorance. We got more problems to fix than convince them of the basics. 

For the record, politically, Bin and I are both centrists. We work with both sides of local and federal governments on a variety of issues, so it should be clear that we’re not extremists. (Some would say we are SOLIFICOs, if you know what that means.) That being said, we do think it’s irresponsible to say that rules and regulations are bad. It’s how the anti-straw ban comes off. While it might not be their intention, the vitriol and viligence in that community is extreme. As a former marketer, I am drawn to public perception. I can tell you it comes off as “Don’t take away our guns. Don’t take away our straws!” We do not endorse this rhetoric.

However good the intentions are, you don’t win any arguments by attacking people... especially us. Again, Bin and I could care less. We’ve been in the public eye for seven years. We’ve learned to understand how media and public commentary works. But as families, friends, and fans who are associated with us, we understand it might put you in an awkward position to some of your peers who ascribe to this myopic mentality. Our best recommendation is to point people to a common goal. 

Rules and regulations are goal-agnostic. Some rules work, some don’t. It’s not black and white. Some bans have worked in the past and some haven’t. The larger concern is that we as a society, especially Americans, rarely have a big picture mindset. If you know your history or read more about what happens in the world around you, it should be obvious that this ban is likely on the right side of history. We’re not banning silly things like shoes or contact lenses. We’re banning straws of which there are many suitable replacements. Yes, those solutions aren’t readily available just yet, but we’ll get there. That’s why we hate cynicism. We prefer to be optimistic about it. Being cynical gets you nowhere.

The city obviously knows about the supply issue. We warned them about it a month ago. We even told them our stance when SF Chronicle reached out to us. One of the reasons we even informed a large part of the SF Chronicle is to hold the city and SF Environment accountable. In this particular case, they understand the big picture and the impact of supply on small businesses. We are here to balance both sides. Focus on the goal and tackle the tactics one by one. 

The best way to describe what’s happening is at the end of Infinity War. *spoilers ahead* We love our memes and one of our favorites is when Doctor Strange explains to Tony that “there was no other way.” Out of 14 million plus possibilities, this is the only way. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean there won’t be casualties, but this is what we think is our best path toward progress. Blame us for helping wipe out half the population in the universe— or just wait and see what happens in Infinity War 2. ;) We’re hopeful that it’ll be all right in the long run. 

Keep on sucking. 

 -Andrew & Bin

 

How to Practice LGBTQ Allyship

Bin Chen

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hello everyone, Andrew and Bin here. As two cisgendered males (we're still learning all the terminology so please bear with us!), we knew we couldn't be the ones to write about LGBTQ issues but we acknowledged there was a lot to learn and understand about the LGBTQ community, and we're all about bridging cultures at Boba Guys. Two months ago at a shift lead meeting in New York, we were presented with the idea of doing staff trainings to educate our own staff on how to become an LGBTQ ally by Mars, one of our awesome bobaristas. They work at our Canal Street Market location. We were excited about the initiative and have started to roll it out in our stores, to the benefit of both our staff but also those that stop by our shops. We've gotten permission to share this publicly for everyone's benefit, whether you're a business owner like ourselves and would like to introduce similar training and dialog in your business or if you just want to be more informed about LGBTQ issues. Thanks again to Mars, Jae, Liana and everyone else that helped write this article.

It’s Pride. What does that mean for you? Maybe you are going to attend Dance on the Pier, now called Pride Island, in New York. Maybe you will be marching down Market Street in the San Francisco Pride Parade. Or maybe you will go to your local Pride events wherever you are in the world. Regardless of what you do during Pride, for LGBTQ folks it’s about celebration, community, and being fabulous.

With the widening acceptance of LGBTQ people and policy, there are more allies than ever in the world, but “ally” is not an identity. Anyone who has delved deeper into activism will tell you that allyship is an active practice. For many people, their first action is self-education. If you are new to the world of active allyship, you may not know where to even start your education process. That’s why your we’re here to help.

In this article you will learn the basics of identity, the transgender umbrella, and what coming out means. A lot of this information may be new to you and possibly overwhelming. Since you are just starting your active allyship journey, you will make mistakes, and that’s okay! Mistakes happen because you are trying and putting in the effort is the only way to becoming a better and more informed person.

Let’s start with the following diagram:

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 12.52.19 PM.png

This diagram introduces four terms that make up a person’s identity: gender expression, gender identity, attraction, and sex.

The dotted line enveloping the Genderbread Person on the outside is gender expression. Gender expression is how you present yourself to the world through clothes, interactions, and behaviors. This can be anywhere on a scale from feminine to masculine. It can even be a combination of both.

Next we have gender identity. This is how you, and only you, define your gender. It’s based on how you feel you align or don’t align with what you understand to be the options for gender (usually it’s just option A: girl or option B: boy). As you can see on the diagram, this scale can also be separated into two: from non-gendered to woman-ness or man-ness.

Following gender identity, there’s attraction which can be separated into sexual attraction and romantic attraction. Attraction is who you are physically, spiritually, or emotionally attracted to, or not. This ranges from asexual (no sexual attraction) to men only or women only. It also ranges from aromantic (no romantic attraction) to men only or women only.

Lastly, there is your sex. Sex is objectively defined by the physical characteristics you’re born with or develop, including genitalia, body shape, voice pitch, hormones, chromosomes, and more. When you are born, this is what the doctor, or doula or whoever is delivering you, labels you as when they first see you.

Sometimes assigning a sex can get complicated for intersex babies. According to the Intersex Society of North America, “Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” Usually sex is only determined by genitalia at birth which is why some intersex people don’t find out their intersex status until later in life.

All of these things can be combined in an infinite number of ways. For example, you can be a biological male who identifies as genderqueer, presents as feminine, and is sexually attracted to no one. Another example is you can be a biological female who identifies as a transgender man, presents femme, and is attracted to femininity. An important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t assume what someone identifies as based on one or two physical characteristics. 

Onto gender:

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 12.54.59 PM.png

Since you’re probably on your way to get some ice cold boba, I’ll only highlight two terms from the above infographic: transgender and cisgender.

 

Transgender is an umbrella term to describe those whose gender identities differ from their sex designated at birth. Sometimes you’ll see trans or trans* which are variants of the word transgender.

The term cisgender or cis means a person who identifies with the sex they were designated at birth. This term was created so that being transgender wouldn’t be a synonym for abnormal. In fact, cisgender originated from the transgender community. The prefix “cis” means “on the same side of” and the prefix “trans” means “across.” Trans people come in all shades, shapes, and sizes and since our community experiences increased rates of harassment and poverty, there are a lot of us who aren’t so willing to come out. In order to create safer spaces for the trans and other LGBTQ people around you consider these do’s and don’ts:

DO:

  • Incorporate gender inclusive language into your everyday life. Instead of saying “you guys”, “ladies,” etc. use: “excuse me, folks,” “hello, everyone,” and “have a good night, friends”

  • Make a habit of asking everyone for their preferred pronouns. You can do this at the start of a business or extracurricular club meeting, book club, a social gathering at your local Boba Guys location, or wherever you’re meeting someone new. It is especially important for cisgender people to do this so that this process can become normalized. To help you with making this happen in your life, here’s a little script to follow: Hi my name is John. I use he/him pronouns. What are yours?

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 12.56.32 PM.png
  • Affirm a person’s identity by using their preferred name. Some trans people may choose to continue using their birth name, also referred to as legal name or dead name. Others may decide to change their name. This change may not be reflected on paper so if you are taking a person’s Boba Guys order or are in charge of someone’s employment paperwork, just two of many applicable scenarios, ask if the person has a preferred name.

 

DON’T:

  • Assume someone’s attraction based on their gender identity. Nor someone’s gender identity based on their perceived sex.

  • Assume a person’s pronouns. When in doubt, ask. And then use them! If you hear someone misgender your trans coworker, friend, boss, or professor, correct them. This is what practicing good allyship looks like. A good follow-up question to ask your trans companion is, “are there any situations when I shouldn’t use your pronouns?” Sometimes trans people are limited in the spaces they can use their preferred pronouns.

  • Bully a trans person about their legal name or deliberately use the wrong pronouns. Please note that both New York City and California have gender discrimination laws protecting transgender people.

  • Use terms like “tranny” or “transvestite.” These are generally inappropriate to use in any situation and are seen as slurs.

  • Out someone. Outing is when you disclose an LGBTQ person’s identity without their consent. For more about the difference between coming out and outing, watch this video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FD-HUDlueLCdMPQW8LkmNNdYDaKfeKF5/view?usp=sharing
     

This is by no means an all-encompassing how-to guide to practicing allyship. As I mentioned before, allyship is about action. It is a constant state of education, checking yourself, and supporting those around you. I have included a few resources below for you to continue your self-education. It has been an honor to lay the first plank in the bridge from Boba Guys to the LGBTQ community. Boba Friends, I wish you an informative and prosperous allyship adventure.
 

Written by Mars Marson
With the support of Jae-Young Park
Edited by Liana Huynh

Mars Marson is an animator and illustrator who moonlights as a bobarista. They live and work in NYC with their partner and trained rabbit.

Liana Huynh is happy to be here.

Further Reading:

Online Resources:
Asexuality
https://www.asexuality.org/?q=overview.html

Discrimination Laws
https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2017/06/DFEH_WorkPlaceDiscriminationHarassmentPoster-1.pdf
https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/legal-guidances-gender-identity-expression.page#3.1
http://outandequal.org/2017-workplace-equality-fact-sheet/

The Genderbread Person
http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2015/03/the-genderbread-person-v3/

Gender Inclusive Language
https://medium.com/the-harry-potter-alliance/why-i-stopped-saying-you-guys-8208daa31c60

Intersex
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAUDKEI4QKI
http://www.isna.org/faq/what_is_intersex

Singular They  
http://iheartsingularthey.com/
https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-nonbinary-they

Terminology
http://thepbhscloset.weebly.com/a-list-of-genders--sexualities-and-their-definitions.html

Transgender
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXI9w0PbBXY

Violence
https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2018
https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-the-transgender-murder-rate-reveals-the-ugly-lie-of-acceptance-10

Practicing Pronouns
https://www.minus18.org.au/pronouns-app/


Films:
Kumu Hina (2014)
Pariah (2011)
Paris is Burning (1990)

Books:
Fiction
“Speak No Evil” by Uzodinma Iweala
“Love is the Higher Law” by David Levithan
“If You See Me Don’t Say Hi” by Neel Patel

Non-fiction
“The Twilight of Equality?” by Lisa Duggan
“Gaga Feminism” by J. Jack Halberstam
“Cruising Utopia” by Jose Muno

 

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?