By Valerie Wu
Boba Guys, a popular milk tea chain known for its unique flavors, will open in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village shopping center this fall.
The store joins several other boba shops in the Palo Alto area, including T4 on University Avenue and Pop Tea on Cambridge Avenue. Currently, Boba Guys has locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Carlos and New York.
According to co-founder Andrew Chau, motivation for opening the new Palo Alto location came from widespread customer interest and a desire to continue the growth of the brand.
“I think [people in] Palo Alto and Stanford are really into social justice, about what to do beyond yourself and what to do for the community,” said Chau. “And that’s really what Boba Guys is all about too … what we care about is changing cultures and bridging cultures.”
As reported by the brand’s website, Boba Guys caters not only to the Asian community, but to all communities. So far, it claims to have “introduced boba milk tea to more people than most shops in the entire world.”
Expanding Boba Guys to Palo Alto embodies the city’s entrepreneurial spirit, according to Chau, as new drinks will be customized specifically for the location.
Yet despite moving into a crowded market — Palo Alto is already home to five other boba shops — Boba Guys claims that its experience is unique from others.
Boba Guys advertises its exclusive use of organic ingredients. According to Chau, the brand’s key marketing ingredient is the use of real tea leaves, organic milk and house-made syrups.
Vivian Xiao ’19, co-chair of Stanford’s Taiwanese Cultural Society, believes that Boba Guys offers a non-traditional approach to boba that will prove popular with Stanford audiences.
“I think that a lot of Stanford students would be willing to switch to Boba Guys,” said Xiao, whose favorite boba shops are currently Sharetea on Bryant Street and Teaspoon on Middlefield Road. “It’s pretty convenient in terms of location and it’s really good quality … I’m excited for its opening.”
Vivian Young, who graduated from Palo Alto High this spring and is a frequent T4 customer, echoed Xiao’s sentiments.
“I would definitely pay a little more for Boba Guys’ ingredients, so it’s really great that they’re expanding,” Young said. “There’s a lot of hype about it on Instagram, so I have a feeling it’s going to be super popular.”
However, others believe that Boba Guys will be only a novelty, and that the hype will be short-lived.
“I know that Boba Guys is actively trying to produce more unique flavors rather than classic boba milk tea,” Rosalie Chang ’19 said. “It’ll appeal to millennial audiences at Stanford who like using social media, which is good for publicity, but my opinion is that it won’t be a staple. To me sugar is just sugar, no matter which form it’s in.”
Chang expressed a preference for more “authentic” Taiwanese milk drinks, such as plum boba tea and date milk tea.
Xiao and Young said that Boba Guys could offer more special incentives to Stanford and Palo Alto High students for increased attention. For example, Sharetea, located in downtown Palo Alto, offers a 10 percent student discount. For a more competitive edge, Boba Guys’ Palo Alto location could also localize their brand by providing benefits for students, the students said.
And according to Chau, these deals are especially relevant to the brand’s mission — establishing community.
“People really engage with us more because of the dedication we have to storytelling,” Chau said. “Unlike other boba shops, we make an effort to get involved in the community. Boba Guys is our way of having people understand each other a little more. ”
Each store provides brief narratives on the origins of drink ingredients and sourcing. The two founders also run the Loose Leaf Podcast about their own experiments with tea-making.
According to their website, Boba Guys wants to “change the way people see boba and tea” through healthy endeavors. For Palo Alto residents, the opening of Boba Guys means greater accessibility to nutrition in the brand’s exclusive use of organic ingredients. Chau hopes that Boba Guys will play a key role in the appreciation of artisanal boba.
“Boba Guys is the future,” Chau said. “What we’re trying to uphold is really our interpretation of the modern world.”
Contact Valerie Wu at vwu.19 ‘at’ Presentationhs.org.