With the popularity of the Boba Guys name—their pop-ups in NYC boasted snaking lines of dedicated fans waiting to try their stunningly creative drinks—it is no exaggeration that a permanent Boba Guys outpost in Manhattan has been at the top of pretty much every foodie’s wish list.
Finally, at the beginning of 2016, this wish was fulfilled as the San Franciscan bubble tea start-up finally found a permanent home on the Lower East Side. So the next time you get thirsty (shut up, we’re still talking about boba), head on down to 23 Clinton Street between East Houston and Stanton.
Since its opening on the West Coast during the summer of 2013, Boba Guys hasn’t messed around with its motto of producing the highest quality bubble tea with all-natural ingredients. And hopefully business booms—Boba Guys is anticipating success in New York, but as of now, it’s still too early to know how it’s all gonna play out.
To celebrate this new addition to the NYC food scene, we popped by the store to have a chat with Gordon Huang, the documentarian, “bobarista” and Director of Products at Manhattan’s recently-opened branch of Boba Guys.
Gordon first took interest with food in college, where he combined his food and photography interests into shooting pictures for food reviews for his campus newspaper and gained a greater appreciation for a ton of interesting cuisines. His interest in food and drinks led him to a similar interest in boba, and there you have it – the beginning of his inspiring boba-filled future.
Spoon: Can you give us an example of something that sparked your interest in boba?
Huang: There’s a high-tech bar in NYC called Booker and Dax, and the founder of the bar wrote a really cool book called Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail that I really liked. So basically, the book states that there are 4 parts to a perfect cocktail: sugar, alcohol, acid and ice, and a good balance of these four parts is necessary for a good cocktail.
Through my interest in cocktails, I learned the theory behind designing the ultimate boba drink, because this idea of a balance of ingredients for cocktails crosses over to Boba as well—where a good Boba drink drink needs a balance of ice, sugar, liquid and acidity.
Spoon: Can you tell us about the most important step of making a good cup of boba?
Huang: Like a lot of things in life, making a good cup of boba tea is all about achieving a balance, first between the ingredients, and then between the quality of the drink and the time needed to make it.
The more someone pays for something, the faster they expect it, and we wouldn’t have been as successful as we are if we hadn’t been able to achieve a good balance between measuring everything precisely and freely pouring into a cup. As such, part of my job is to be objective and set the tone for how we make things, to ensure that the quality of our drinks is high yet at the same time deciding where efficiency can happen. The ultimate goal for us is to produce a perfect drink, every single time.
Spoon: What’s the craziest drink you’ve ever had/made?
Huang: Boba Guys had a pop-up in [Berkeley], California in 2015, and this popup was unique because we had a beer and wine license which resulted in some pretty interesting alcoholic versions of our boba. For example, we served horchata with unfiltered sake, which surprisingly tastes a lot like very fresh banana.
While the drinks were delicious, this pop-up also brought up the whole other issue of having to check IDs at a boba shop, which is a unique experience for most people, both the staff and the customers. It was pretty funny when some people came to tell me that they were doubly sad that they had lost their wallets recently, first because they didn’t know where their wallets were and also because they didn’t have the chance to try our alcoholic boba.
Spoon: Do you have anything you would like to share with our readers?
Huang: Don’t be apathetic, be empathetic. If you show compassion to someone when they most need it, not only will the world be a better place, but they’ll definitely pay you back tenfold. I wouldn’t be where I am today if the owners weren’t patient with me. If you’re kind, people will be kind back to you and things will work out.