Making boba culture more inclusive
Drinking bubble tea has become a social ritual in the Bay Area, and boba shops are gathering spaces for many teens and young adults. Many specialty milk teas, however, have high levels of sugar, and most of these shops open primarily for evening and late-night crowds. These factors make boba culture less accessible for Chen and Ang than for their children, the duo said. Chen said she often seeks caffeine at 7 a.m. while driving her family to her son's volleyball games. Since coffee upset her stomach and energy drinks led to an eventual sugar crash, she longed for a low-sugar, mildly caffeinated product like Twrl's teas. Chen hopes that Twrl can be an everyday drink that allows more people to participate in this milk tea culture.
In addition to sharing their cultural traditions, Chen and Ang have made sustainability a main value. Twrl's biggest departure from traditional beverages is swapping out cow's milk for plant-based pea milk. Chen and Ang chose pea milk because of its high protein content, low amount of carbohydrates, allergen-free nature and lower resource demands than other alternative milks.
Sourcing sustainable teas
Twrl Milk Tea is also committed to sourcing tea from family farms in China and Japan. When Chen and Ang took the recipe they developed in their home kitchens for a sample canning run, they were disappointed by the result. The canning process can alter the flavor of a beverage, so the factory had added in flavorings and coloring to imitate the original concoction.
Forced to redesign their entire supply chain, the Twrl team found that sourcing high-quality teas from small family farms allowed them to create a canned product that is flavorful without a number of additives. These farms carefully manage the ecosystems in their fields so pesticide use is avoided.
Chen said that Twrl Milk Tea's focus on sustainability comes naturally, as she and Ang are mothers concerned about the world they will leave to their children when it comes to both representation and natural resources.
"Sustainability is really important to us because we're moms. The next generation (is affected by) everything we do," she said.
Twrl is currently offering three flavors: Original Black, Hojicha Roasted Green and Supreme Jasmine. They are available in local supermarkets, including Mollie Stone's, Andronico's and Roberts Market.
For more information, go to twrlmilktea.com/
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