With a name inspired by a popular mobile game called Genshin Impact and drinks named after a wide array songs and artists, Sea of Clouds has made a splash at Bowdoin as the first student-run boba shop on campus—and a strong contender for the most student-frequented bubble tea spot in Brunswick.

The idea to open up the shop came suddenly to its founder, who wishes to remain anonymous, sometime over the summer during a conversation with friends and a professor. At the time, she had already been making boba for her summer housing roommates.

"The more I thought on it, the more [the idea] just became so embedded in my mind—I was writing notes on my plane ride back, and I was like, 'Okay, I think I’m gonna make this a thing," they said. "I was looking at all of these different boba shops and vegan bakeries that I follow on Instagram, so I had a sense of how people do business on Instagram. I thought that this would be a fun side project—plus...we’re pretty centrally located, so it’s like the stars [were] aligning.”

While undoubtedly a big responsibility, the founder finds the boba-making process simple and enjoyable. They especially emphasized their belief in keeping things simple, and they applied this philosophy to the early stages of developing her simple, solid menu. "Gold Rush," the founder's Thai milk tea boba earned its spot on the menu after receiving rave reviews from the founder's summer roommates. "Green Light" and "Purple Kiss" matcha and taro milk teas with boba are featured as the founder's favorites, and plain milk tea exists on the menu as a "staple" item. Other drinks, such as "Cloudbusting," a jasmine milk tea with boba, wound up on the menu when the founder thought of other boba classics that might not be readily available or accessible to students in Brunswick.

The founder credited accessibility as the reason for their low prices comparison to other boba shops in Brunswick. 

“I don't think you should price something just because everybody else is pricing something the way they are,” they said. "It just feels instinctively ridiculous to me to price something so high. I figured [that] I don't want to go into...having such high prices and being inaccessible to certain groups of students. You can just pay the base price and enjoy."

After solidifying “Green Light” as my quality matcha fix in Brunswick, and after getting to meet personally with the shop's founder, I can testify to the fact that “Enjoy” is certainly something that customers and the founder alike do at Sea of Clouds.

“It makes me very happy that people can take something that I've made and really enjoy tasting it. It [does] feel like a business, because there is [an] exchange of money, but I think it's more than that: I'm opening my home," the founder said. "Only four or five people max[imum] can come [for a] one half an hour slot, which [gives me the] time to talk to people [and] prepare the drinks properly. I have time to get my customers’ feedback, and being able to meet new people... has been very nourishing for my soul, honestly."

Throughout the initial months of her business, the founder has also been getting to know the quirks of the boba-making process.

“I'm a big matcha enthusiast,” they confessed (which is a sentiment I relate to wholeheartedly). “I need the ceremonial-grade powder, I need to do the W shape [when using a bamboo whisk to mix the hot water and matcha powder]. I'm artistically defensive about the process.”

The founder also revealed that, out of all the drinks on the menu, "Gold Rush," with house-made Thai tea is the hardest to make. It has quite the intricate brewing process, as they explained it to me: you first have to brew the tea leaves with spices, steep them for an hour, and get rid of all sediment. When it comes time to pour the milk into the tea, she informed me that unless you use a barista blend for oat and almond milk, it will be hard to froth, as they have low fat content, unlike 2% milk. I also found it super interesting that the loose leaves of Japanese green tea are roasted in a pan (as opposed to the oven, which doesn’t allow for temperature control).

The founder has not only amassed knowledge about crafting boba drinks, but also advice on how to run a business. She recommends having a budget and balancing expenditures and earnings, and learning how to use Instagram to promote your products. Above all, Sea of Clouds’ owner urges aspiring Bowdoin student entrepreneurs to be patient, as opening a business as a fill-time student can be time consuming.

Sea of Clouds has also disclosed the release of its hot drink menu, just in time for fall. On it will be ginger milk tea, and Hōjicha, or Japanese green tea, as well as hot versions of many of the shop's beloved iced drinks.

If there is anything to be learned from the success of Sea of Clouds, it's that when you embrace simplicity, good things—and, in the case of this student-run business, delicious drinks—are sure to follow.