Most Taiwanese bubble milk teas are cocktails of cheap ingredients: schwag tea leaves, powdered milks, industrial-grade corn syrups. A couple of dudes in San Francisco are trying to change all that. Bin Chen and Andrew Chau (pictured below, from left) call themselves the Boba Guys. In 2011 they started popping up at underground food markets, using cocktail shakers to mix up drinks made with primo teas, organic milk from grass-fed cows, and the best tapioca pearls they could find (sooner or later, some writer's gonna tag it “farm to cup,” but you didn’t hear it from me).
Eventually, the Boba Guys landed a regular daily pop-up inside a Mission District ramen shop, and they're now working to open a brick-and-mortar all their own. They’re part of the wave of young entrepreneurs applying craft ingredients to casual Asian foods. (Chau and Chen documented their start-up pains in weekly posts for Good magazine, including what you can learn about sacrifice from Asian parents.)
As a Chinese New Year treat, Chau and Chen invited us over for a snack: Hong Kong toast, made with brioche, organic condensed milk, and homemade caramel. And to slurp through fat bubble-tea straws: jasmine milk tea with honey boba, with brown-sugar syrup and Straus Family Creamery half-and-half (full recipes for the toast here, the milk tea here). Honestly, we can’t think of a better way to celebrate, either the Year of the Snake or just an ordinary Sunday.
Food photos and photo-collage by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com. Boba Guys photo by Kelly Chau.