Boba Guys, a San Francisco-based bubble tea shop that prides itself on not using powders or fructose in its drinks, is officially debuting its permanent location in New York this weekend, at 23 Clinton St. on the Lower East Side. The boba shop has gained a strong following since it started popping up in the Bay Area in 2011, and its New York pop-ups in the last few months have attracted thousands of people, too. Lines for its weekend stints at the Lower Manhattan HQ last year extended down the block, and the success of the pop-ups convinced co-founder Bin Chen that it was a good idea to open a permanent location in New York. "Word of mouth had a lot to do with it," Chen says of the following. "We were doing things differently. It was an easy story for people to tell."
Chen and co-founder Andrew Chau started Boba Guys while working at trendy messenger bag company Timbuk2, in hopes of making a modern new bubble tea. Boba Guys uses a blend of three black teas and organic milk for the classic milk tea, as opposed to dairy creamers and powders commonly see in bubble tea shops. They also make syrups in-house with organic cane sugar, and fruit flavors will be slim in the winter in New York because they want to use fresh fruit for purees instead of flavor syrups. "We try to give a damn about everything we do," says Tammy Na, a former fashion designer who's running the New York shop. The company also sources all the tea in the beverages, and a bottled milk tea leg of the company called Pure Milk Tea has been stocked in Bay Area offices like Twitter and William and Sonoma.
Beyond classic black milk tea, New York's Boba Guys offers a Thai iced tea, horchata, chai, and a matcha latte, and seasonal flavors will be added as time goes on. Starting at $4 a cup, the options cost more than a typical bubble tea spot, but the Boba Guys say the quality of their organic, non-artificial beverages is at a different level. "I feel like people had a certain perception for tapioca and boba for a really long time — usually a cheaper, easy to please, Asian street dessert," Chen says. "The thing is, when you use really high quality tea, it takes a whole life of its own." Boba Guys, which has been in soft opening phase for the past week, will be open from Thursday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting this weekend. More hours will be added in the future. Take a look at the full menu below, and let us know what you think if you go.