Tea Republic: A Tale of Two Lovebirds, A Pup and Boba
We had the pleasure of meeting, Kristy Zhang, the owner behind this Citrus Heights-based boba cafe. I was so in love with the owner's love story, all details explained below. When you walk into their cafe, the first thing I noticed was the art. In every nook of the tearoom, there was a feeling of pleasantness and open arms. I'm very thrilled to share with you this interview and hope you can drop by.
Need some suggestions for a drink? I recommend the Rose Garden Tea and the Cinderella tea xoxo.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the food business and love for boba?
KZ: It’s a long story. We used to have a little boba shop in Berkeley next to the university. It was very tiny to-go shop. My boyfriend (now husband) and I were still going to school and we wanted to own our own business at a young age. It was pretty successful, but when my boyfriend transferred to Davis, I still wanted my boba shop. During that time they only had T4, and only in several locations.
People here only knew about Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee. For me, I’m Chinese, and we love tea. I especially like tea with different syrups, milk and awesome toppings. We both had three part-time jobs to save up for another boba shop. After two years, we saved up enough money and looked for the right location.
We didn’t want to open in Sacramento because it was already packed. My friends, who live in Antelope and Roseville, would tell me it wouldn’t be convenient for them to drive 30 minutes into the city just for bubble tea. That made me want to open up (in Citrus Heights). There’s a successful ice cream business, Leatherby’s, across the street. So we knew people would enjoy something sweet we had to offer.
Curious...was there a reason for the dog in the logo?
KZ: My husband and I designed everything in the shop. When we thought about our logo, our border collie came to mind. We thought, “Why don’t we just use our first dog as our logo?” Her name is April and she’s three years old. Since we moved to Sacramento, she’s been with us through the whole process. As for the name “Tea Republic”, we know there’s another shop with the same name in LA. Though it's not as unique, the true meaning behind Tea Republic for us is not just boba. In fact, it’s also about the traditional tea.
I really love your cafe’s aesthetic. The whole branding experience is not just a logo, but the vibe of the restaurant. What inspired your wall and pink mural with wings?
KZ: I used to live in LA and I saw this really popular wings mural there. My friends would want to go to that mural to take some pictures, but it’s too far for them. So I told them not to worry! I brought the pink wing mural to my shop. So my husband and I painted a similar version of it!
You all offer other toppings other than boba, including blueberry hearts and passion fruit dolphins. Which is your most popular topping?
KZ:We love the variety that we offer. They’re all really good. People really enjoy the juice-filled boba. I would say our mango stars are really popular. They taste different from boba. They have more of a gummy consistency.
If you can share any advice to other boba owners or inspiring ones out there, what would it be?
KZ: When I was in high school, I used to work in a tea shop. I believe having experience with tea is important. One thing is to go with your heart. That’s with anything you do.
Lastly, learn from others. We researched other successful boba business before opening and tried to do something similar. We learned a lot from the feedback customers give us from Yelp, especially when people gives us 1 or 2 stars. If they say you’re drink is too sweet, find out how to make them a better drink. We believe customer service is very important and the goal is to make them a returning customer. I don’t mind if they give me 1 or 2 stars. As long as I can learn from them, that would benefit me.
Are there any plans of expanding Tea Republic in the future? What’s next in store for your brand?
Tea Republic was technically our first baby, but now we’re going to have another baby!!
We just found out that we are pregnant! We hope to open up another location around this area, too. We have three dogs, and we want to use our second dog as another logo.
Anything else you’d like to share and talk about Tea Republic?
KZ:We have different areas in our cafe where you can talk and study. You can play games with friends. You can even set a reservation for the store to host meetings. We don’t want to do standard milk tea. Many people think coffee is everything, but I want to change their minds. Tea is just as good and so it is our mission to show them that.