Culture The Katchup

Why Boba Guys Refuses To Ban MAGA Hats From Its Restaurants

Illustration by Sam Brosnan/Foodbeast
Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast episode titled “#94: Boba Guys Is For The Culture Pt. 2,” out now on Spotify, Anchor.FM and the Apple Podcasts App.

The current mainstream political atmosphere in the U.S. has an all-or-nothing, “choose your side” feel, and there’s very little room for moderates who see see the arguments from both ends of the political spectrum, as it can be misconstrued as choosing the wrong side, regardless of explanation.

That is the dilemma that Boba Guys co-founder Andrew Chau found himself in when he was asked about fellow Bay Area chef, Kenji Lopez-Alt, who tweeted (and later retracted) that he would ban customers wearing the infamous, red  “Make America Great Again” hats made in support of President Donald Trump.

The hat itself is polarizing, as to many, it is a symbol of hate that they feel has accrued under the Trump administration. To others, it is seen as a sign of change they wished to see under the administration.

Chau, who is outspoken about his beliefs, made it clear that he is not a fan of the hat and the baggage it comes with. With that said, it didn’t sit right with him to take the type of stance that would lead to banning customers from his Boba Guys locations.

Chau detailed the decision on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast, and explained why he did what he did (The timestamped segment of the podcast begins at: 9:27).

“I’m from California. I’m from San Francisco. Everyone should know where we stand… you know what side of the world we’re on,” Chau said. “My stance is… I don’t ban them, but I’m like, if you cause trouble, you’re on the radar. But I’m not into banning.”

When Chef Lopez-Alt issued his statement on the hat, Chau was immediately asked by his peers, and even his own staff, if he would follow suit. He did his best to explain what he wanted to achieve with his stance on the matter, and while it did not sit well with some, it was a decision he stood by.

“It comes back to dialogue. We forgot how to talk about difficult things,” Chau said. “I said we won’t ban MAGA hats because I think it stops dialogue. The goal is bridging cultures, and you can’t achieve the goal of bridging cultures if I ban MAGA hats.”

He then made sure his guests knew that he was not going to tolerate anyone using the hat to purposely incite problems.


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In the podcast episode, Chau went pretty deep into culture, food’s role in it, and ways he feels culture can be improved through empathy.

While his MAGA hat decision wasn’t a popular one, it is a form of diplomacy that isn’t often deployed in the U.S. these days.

Culture Drinks Fast Food

The First ‘Made In USA’ Boba Is Finally Here, And It Could Be HUGE For Fast Food

Boba’s popularity has grown to encompass the entire United States. With that has come the exploration of incorporating milk tea into fast food. Panda Express has looked into the possibility, and there was an April Fool’s prank this year that had people thinking Starbucks was doing the same. That could actually be a reality now, though, as the US finally has its own tapioca pearl factory up and running.

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Created by The Boba Guys co-founders Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, US Boba Company is now starting to test its first set of tapioca pearls from off of their production line. They’re not the first business to make the chewy balls in-house, as companies like the now-closed Pulse Cafe in Santa Monica have done it before. However, Chau and Chen do have the first in-country factory to make them with, something that could be huge for major chains looking to add the drink to their menus.

It’s not like fast food hasn’t looked into adding tapioca in the past, as McDonald’s has run a limited-time batch of milk tea in Germany before. But bringing in ingredients from other countries comes with a host of regulations and red tape, something fast food companies could now avoid thanks to US Boba Company. They could potentially get all of the pearls they need to consider regional, or even national, launches of bubble tea to continue to proliferate the spread of boba.

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That may not happen for a while, as Chau and Chen continue to test and improve on their initial runs of tapioca pearls. For now, though, you can try them out at the Potrero Hill location of Boba Guys in San Francisco. There will also be the opportunity to visit and tour the new factory in the near future, and photos and footage of it will be displayed on social media so everyone can see how the pearls are made.

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The Boba Guys Drop An Exclusive Strawberry Horchata Milk Tea For One Day Only

If you’re from San Francisco, you know that Boba Guys is THE place to go for high-quality boba milk tea. The brainchild of Andrew Chau and Bin Chen is now dabbling in the food festival game with an exclusive Strawberry Horchata Milk Tea.

strawberry horchata milk tea

Photo: @cyneats

This fusion of horchata and milk tea can be found at Noods Noods Noods Oakland, Foodbeast’s AYCE Asian Food Festival presented by Nissin Cup Noodles taking place on Saturday, April 7th, 2018 in Oakland, CA.

The Boba Guys sling in a generous portion of their trademark chewy tapioca balls. A strawberry puree is poured on top, followed by a signature horchata.

This drink isn’t just all flavor, though, as it delivers big time on appearance as well. The puree and horchata have differing densities, so they layer on top of each other for a strikingly contrasted beverage. After getting photos of the unmixed version, you gotta shake everything together to get a uniform, vibrant pink that looks like a whole other drink, but tastes just as good.

The Boba Guys will be selling the Strawberry Horchata Milk Tea exclusively in the AYCE section of Noods Oakland, which will occur in an afternoon (3:30 PM) and evening (7:30 PM) session. Tickets to those sessions, along with the buy-as-you-go Marketplace, are available on the Noods Noods Noods website.

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The New York Times Just Discovered Boba, And They’re Getting Ravaged On Twitter

UPDATE: The New York Times apologized for their embarrassing boba gaffe, and pretty much changed most of the article. It no longer sounds like they think boba is finally “going mainstream,” instead focusing on the boba shop owners they interviewed.  The headline, now changed for a second time, reads “Bubble Tea Purveyors Continue to Grow Along With Drink’s Popularity.” The tone of the article now reads more like it’s trying to emphasize how boba is trying to be pushed “further into the mainstream.” That’s probably how they wanted the article to sound in the first place, but their latest version doesn’t exactly amount to page views quite like the previous version did. 

I keep reading this New York Times piece over and over, hoping that it’s labeled as satire, but they’re seriously trying to make it sound like they just discovered boba.

Surely we can’t expect everyone in the U.S. to know what boba is, but The Times put out a story Wednesday with a headline that read, “The Blobs in Your Tea? They’re Supposed to Be There,” and it was a bit ridiculous. You have to wonder why The New York Times would take an approach that makes it seem like boba is something new, like if there’s not a shop on every corner in the greater Los Angeles area.

They quickly saw the error in their ways and edited their headline, but it didn’t sound much better, as the second time around they claimed that boba is now, “mainstream.”

It’s baffling that the New York Times would approve such an angle for their story, with every paragraph sounding like they just discovered a new trend, especially when less than a year ago, they put out an article where the headline started with, “Bubble Tea? So 2002…”

It seems that The NY Times were at least somewhat aware that people have been sipping on those little tapioca balls for years, and even acknowledged that it was an old trend, yet they had the audacity to publish this garbage.

The internet was not amused, and as quickly as this story went up, it got torn down by Twitter users, especially within the Asian community, even creating a hashtag called #bobagate:





It almost feels like we’re in the Twilight Zone, with the story incorporating quotes from the president of the Tea Association of the U.S.A., saying things like boba “hasn’t hit anybody’s radar in terms of the next big trend,” and “Innovation is important to any product category.”

What? Boba hasn’t hit anybody’s radar? There are close to a million Instagram posts involving boba! Granted, some of them involve Star Wars character Boba Fett, but I think it’s safe to say that boba is on quite a few people’s radars.

It’s a bit of a shame that this article went up the way it did, because there was actually some boba history attached, along with some pretty kick-ass photos of the popular beverage, but it all gets lost behind the terrible, out-of-touch premise that this boba thing might catch on some day.

Even if you want to argue that they were trying to cater to an audience that might not be too keen on the boba concept, at the very least hammer home that it is a popular trend that’s been around and didn’t suddenly turn “mainstream.”

Hey, New York Times, I know what it’s like to try to grab the reader’s attention with a headline. In the age of digital media, you absolutely have to have an element of clickbait, but at least be accurate with it.

Much love to your experienced food writers who are trying to keep journalism alive, but in this specific instance, you played yourself.


Featured photo by @Foodwithmichel

#foodbeast Culture Drinks FOODBEAST Hit-Or-Miss

Why Does Boba Tea Receive Such Negative Criticism While Starbucks Drinks Get Praised?

Depending on where in the world you live, you call the drink either boba or bubble tea. Whatever you call it, there seems to be a living trend of news articles that creates a negative outlook on boba (lets just call it boba, I’m west coast) as a major health risk.

In an article by VICE’s Celeste Yim, she addresses White America’s demonization of boba as a drink you could definitely do without. In her piece, she continues to explain America’s rising health trend and vilification of all things unhealthy.

In truth, we all know that boba is by no means a healthy drink, but that isn’t the issue. The problem is the overall tone of how it is portrayed in media. In some cases it has less sugar and caloric levels than your favorite Starbucks Frappuccino, yet there are hardly any articles about how you shouldn’t be going to Starbucks anymore.  Do a quick Google search on their “Unicorn Frappuccino” and I will bet all the boba stamp cards that I’ve been racking up, that you will see a headline that reads along the lines of “This is the Cutest, Most IG Worthy Drink Ever” rather than “There’s a Shit Ton of Sugar in this Drink.” The bottom line is that we, as contemporary American media praise Starbucks and similar companies for serving us “sugar water” that look great on camera, but crucify “sugar tea” popularized by an Asian population.

When you compare a cup of Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and a milk tea with boba both at 16 oz. (grande) you’ll find that the standard frap contains 420 calories with 66 grams of sugar, while the tea is just 212 calories with 42 grams of sugar, plus another 200-250 calories with boba added.

The main issue is this: The same people that glorify the sugar cult of America’s leading thirst quenchers are the first critics of boba’s insurgency.  Praising the grandeur of “Freakshakes” while denouncing a simple honey milk tea with boba is where their arguments fall apart.  The hypocrisy is ridiculous.

These demonizing articles that Yim sources have gained enough headway that even the popular NY/SF boba chain, The Boba Guys addressed “the rumors about their balls,” citing comparisons between popular cafes and juicers.  They react with similar acclimations—that their drinks are no worse than the leading American joints.  Let me repeat that: they are NOT worse.  In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, drinking tea has been linked to certain health benefits such as being an anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants.

So the next time you decide to quench your midday thirst this summer, consider your options a little better.  Remember the sugar content of your drinks can always be adjusted to your liking, and you can substitute the tapioca pearls for pudding, grass jelly, or chia seeds (because they are less caloric).

And don’t forget that free stamp card.  It’s crucial for free boba.