Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to questions we are often asked.
Q: Why are your drinks so f*cking expensive?
A: Yes, our drinks are 10-30% more than the average boba shop, so we'll cut to the chase: our ingredients cost a lot more. Premium teas, housemade syrup, and Straus organic milk are expensive, but it should be noted that we have a lower gross margin on milk teas than the average boba cafe. This is because the cost of certain ingredients like Straus organic milk, loose leaf tea, or housemade syrup is more than the 30% increase in price.
Also, the price of our drinks are comparable to the best boba shops in other areas such as SoCal and New York. Unfortunately, we have been trained in the San Francisco Bay Area to focus primarily on lowest price. We are still regulars at other boba shops who charge $2.00-$3.50 for a drink despite using cheaper ingredients. And some of these places have lower food service standards and sketch business practices that help with driving down costs. We honor the roots of boba milk tea as a street food, so we're not saying all boba places who use cheap ingredients are bad. Like in anything, you get what you pay for.
It sounds idealistic, but we genuinely want to change the way people see boba and tea. In order to do that, we must change the way people think about ingredients and processes. Appreciation for craft and quality are evident in other industries such as coffee and wine. We want to do the same for boba.
We promise our guests that we will always stand for quality, transparency, and doing the right thing. It may mean we work on smaller margins, but we believe it is how good businesses should be run. And our moms approve of this message!
Q: Why do you use Straus organic milk?
A: They say "Milk does a body good." We believe organic milk does a body better. And Straus Family Creamery is the leader in this space.
Andrew's past life at a major food manufacturer gave him the strong conviction that some, though not all, foods are much better when there are high-quality standards (e.g. organic, no rBST). Although there are debates on whether or not organic products are truly better, most agree on two things: organic milk does not have rBST and less-than-savory production conditions. Also, we think the cows are happier, too. Doesn't that count for anything?!
The real question is if it's worth the price. To us, it is.
Q: Why do your drinks taste different?
A: This is a very complex question, but there are two big reasons: 1) our ingredients are different from most boba shops and 2) we purposely formulate our drinks for a broader range of palates. We tend to describe our drinks as "lightly sweetened."
For the foodies, there's a bit more to it. We have three ingredients that change the taste and mouthfeel of milk tea: Straus organic milk, our housemade syrup, and real tea.
Straus organic Half & Half, when compared to non-dairy creamer, is thinner. Non-dairy creamer is often made with vegetable oil to create the "milkfat" mouthfeel, which can leave that fat-feeling lingering in the walls of your mouth.
Our syrup base is made from real cane sugar instead of fructose, the frequently-used, cheaper substitute. Most shops use manufactured fructose, which is not aligned with our next-level quality commitment. There is an ongoing debate on the merits of fructose vs. sucrose, but our take is that we want to avoid manufactured ingredients as much as possible. If there's a viable alternative like making it ourselves, we will do just that.
Lastly, real loose leaf tea leaves give our drinks a slight tannic taste to pierce through the strong body of the Straus organic milk. Some people like it because it enhances the tea flavor, while others find it "dry." We try to formulate our drinks so it's a fine balance of tea tannins and creaminess.
Q: Why are you doing this? Both of you have full-time jobs
A: We almost shelved this idea after six months of doing a pop-up. But it was our fans messages that kept us going. We didn't know this at the time, but Boba Guys meant more than a boba cafe or tea shop. Boba Guys was a small movement that brought design-centric and responsible business-minded people together.
UPDATE: 5 years later, we're now doing this thing full-time, woohoo!
We are just getting started. We hope you'll come along for the ride!
Q: ARE YOU OPEN TO FRANCHISING BOBA GUYS?
A: Unfortunately, no. Don't get us wrong, we are always so humbled when Boba Guys' fans come to us wanting to help grow our brand and business, but the reason we don't franchise is because at Boba Guys, we choose culture over fast growth and over-expansion. To keep it strong, we take it one store at a time.
MORE DETAILED FAQs
Q: WHY ISN'T BOBA READY AT SOME OF YOUR STORES THAT OPEN EARLY? AREN'T YOU A F*CKING BOBA SHOP?!
A: Yes, we get it. We don't claim to do everything right, but we do believe #TransparencyWins. We had to make a hard choice three years ago when we opened up our Union Square store that opens early in the morning (8am):
1. Start serving boba two hours after opening (10am after an 8am opening, 11am after an 9am opening), or
2. Open late like normal boba shops. Around 11am.
The reason we chose #1 is because the overwhelming majority of people just want milk tea in the morning... around 95% of people just want us to open earlier. In our Union Square store, we had construction workers line up every day at 9am to get a Dirty Horchata with almond jelly. Since our mission is to bridge cultures, we just wanted to get our drinks into people's hands as soon as possible.
Most people don't know that the way we make our boba takes 90 mins. We don't recycle tapioca from previous days, nor do we use quick cook boba. We also sweeten up our boba in a syrup bath, which takes an extra 20-30 mins. It's a lengthy process, but it's why our boba has a rich, brown sugar taste to it.
We've also entertained bringing someone in extra early like 6am to open at 8am to have the boba batch ready in time. Unfortunately, that wasn't cost efficient, especially given the fast-rising hourly wages. The team member has nothing do for 1 1/2 hours. Given that we also pay well-above minimum wage and good benefits, that's like $20/hr x 1.5 hours = $30 worth of cost. We would serve 10 boba drinks max in the first hour (the majority are coffees and morning teas), so it's barely break-even. We might as well open like other boba shops and serve at the normal start time of 11am/12pm.
Q: Why DO YOU [FILL IN THE BLANK]? ThaT's NOT AUTHENTIC. YOU ARE BOBA FOR WHITE PEOPLE. I Don't TRUST BOBA MADE BY SOMEONE WHO ISN'T ASIAN.
A: We can't tell you how many times we've either heard this in person, via email, or seen on social media. For the record, we never claimed to be traditional milk tea. Plenty of people do it extremely well. However, we are authentic. We are true to ourselves as Asians and Americans. We try to bridge cultures by making boba and tea more accessible.
We are pretty popular and well-known by now, so we know some of you reading this might be thinking, "Why do you have to explain yourself to haters?" We don't. However, we are known to be radically transparent and have a reputation in the community and mainstream media-- we want even the haters to know we don't take sh*t. And neither should anyone else after us who tries bring different people together.
And for those individuals who have said/will say "Boba Guys is boba for white people," we're going to call them out on this... that's straight up racist. Whether its our take on our new president or our take on cyberbullying, we stand up to narrow-minded individuals. The world is hard enough as it is. The last thing we want is to in-fight between race, class, or culture.
From our San Francisco and New York stores and strong voice in the community, Boba Guys has introduced boba milk tea to more people than most shops in the entire world. Anyone can sell boba to an Asian kid. Try making it accessible and relevant to a 60-year old from Georgia or tourist from Ukraine! So this is probably the first and last time we'll say this... if this is you, please stop being inadvertently racist! We love you, but y'all need to be put in check. Let's make this world a better place together.