Yaya Tea Garden — a café that sells in freshly brewed bubble tea — is set to open up its second location at 2320 86th Street on Sunday, July 26.
Yaya Tea’s Chinatown location, which is pulls 200 to 300 customers a day, is known for infusing teas with various jellies and distictive popping boba pearls. The cafe also serves imported snacks and handmade rice balls, known as onigiri, which are served with special dried seaweed wrapping and different toppings.
For owner Mindy Cheung, who bought the business in 2008 during her junior year in college, there has been a learning curve to running a fast-growing business.
“I had no experience in bubble tea, no experience in business and I kind of went in a blank slate, not knowing what I was doing,” said Cheung. “I got to learn everything as I went along.”
Cheung credits her customers for helping her build up the business through their input and feedback.
“If you’ve ever been to my Chinatown location before, we have a lot of drinks on that menu and they’re actually all created by my customers,” said Cheung.
While much of her customer base has been generated through word of mouth, she also credited social media for helping out the business grow. After deciding to expand to Brooklyn, Cheung looked at storefronts on Sunset Park’s 8th Avenue first, but preferred 86th Street for its wider space. The new location at the former site of A 86 Hair Salon.
“I like this area a lot more,” said Cheung. “I knew a lot of my [regular] customers were from this area as well. They all can’t wait to come here because it will be much more convenient for them.”
Noting the plethora of bubble tea spots on 86th Street, Cheung says she has a formula for setting apart from the competition.
“We’re going to try to do our own thing,” said Cheung. “We’re not big on tapioca [like other places]. We’re bigger on jelly with the pop bolas [in our drinks]. We also don’t really use powder like a lot of other places. Powder is much cheaper and can leave a dry taste in your mouth. Our drinks are more tea form and syrup, which is a little more costly.”
The new location has taken a full family effort. Cheung’s father was put in charge and her uncle did the construction. They also looked into hiring college students, and have already selected six employees out of more than 200 applicants.
Cheung says she has high hopes for the new location.
“Hopefully, customers will like us around here,” Cheung said. “So far, we’ve been having pretty good feedback.”