Bubble Tea Shops, also known as Boba, have been popping up quickly across Hawaii in recent years. Drive through Honolulu and you will easily discover 10 stores and the number is growing. However, a new eatery that values quality drinks and service has raised the bar for milk tea in Hawaii that has been lacking in the past.
Teapresso Bar, founded by Steve Nguyen, is a small, family-run business that offers the island’s freshest bubble teas, 100% organic coffee and specialty drinks. The first location opened in January at 1088 Bishop Street in downtown next to Hawaii Pacific University. After expecting to fail within six months, Nguyen was surprised to learn that seven months later, due to its extreme popularity, he had to open a second store. The second location opened in August at 510 Piikoi Street across from the Ala Moana Center.
“I see myself as a customer the way I see my business. You have to look at the whole perspective, ”said Nguyen.
This mindset extends to all aspects of business, from menu items to customer service. Born in Vietnam, Nguyen moved to California at the age of 5 and eventually made his way to Hawaii during his four-year service with the US Army. He noticed the “lack of good quality tea” on the island and saw an opportunity to expand. Nguyen used his experience as a former owner of a bubble tea shop in San Diego, California, as well as knowledge of tea from traveling around the world to start his own business.
What sets the Teapresso Bar apart from the others is the way it is made. There is no “Big Batch Brew” here. Each drink is freshly made to order using the teapresso machine that Nguyen drew inspiration from for the company’s name. The machine can make three different drinks fresh at the same time, and he said he was the only one with the rights to use the machine in Hawaii.
“I like how you can hang out with friends and have fun. The drinks taste unique … and make me really happy, ”says John Lei, a regular customer.
Teapresso Bar offers 18 different tea leaves that are collected directly from their origins: Earl Gray from England, Hibiscus from Jamaica, Assam from India and others come from Taiwan – the cradle of bubble tea. A drink costs around $ 5 on average and is made from fresh fruit, real fruit jams, or non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan syrups. Organic options are also available.
Customers can choose from a variety of house specialties or personalize their drink by choosing a type of drink (tea, coffee, smoothie), flavors, milk options, sweetness and toppings. A large selection of toppings is also offered, such as tapioca balls, fruit jellies, matcha pudding and sea foam, Nguyen’s own creation of a whipped cream enriched with sea salt. The number one drink is the Teapresso Milk Tea, which is Nguyen’s variant of the traditional milk tea with Assam and Hojica tea leaves.
While business has been off to a good start, Nguyen is still trying to adapt to the unique Hawaiian lifestyle.
“Everything is so slow. [People] are in such a relaxed environment, ”said Nguyen, who moved to the state last year.
The question here is to find the right employee who believes in the Teapresso Bar mission and fulfills it. Customer service is vital to Nguyen. The workers will personally deliver drinks to each customer, which not even Starbucks does. And because it takes one to two minutes longer to prepare drinks, customers can use the numerous board games and a popcorn machine to help themselves. Poloroid photos of customers can be seen on the walls, creating a sense of community.
In the future, Nguyen would like to open two more shops, one in Ewa Beach and one in Kapolei in the new shopping center that will be built soon. He also wants to expand the menu and offer dishes such as traditional Vietnamese sandwiches. With four years remaining in the army, Nguyen will continue to grow the business he hopes will build him for the future.
For more information on the Teapresso Bar and monthly promotions, follow them on Instagram @ TeapressoBar2. Don’t forget to get a stamp card and complete nine drink requirements to receive a free drink and enter a free drink competition for a month. Or visit on your birthday where your photo is on the wall and you go with a free drink and mochi ice cream.