Rice students struggling with bubble tea addiction can say goodbye to any chance of kicking their habit. The goods will soon be domestically produced: Five students are hard at work creating a boba business here on campus.
Hanszen College senior David Cooper, Lovett College senior Tommy Bennett, Martel College senior Leo Meister, Martel junior David Warren and Jones College senior Drew Sutherland created, manage and own the still-unnamed business.
The students plan to begin operations selling its tea in bulk to Rice clubs for club fundraisers at the beginning of the spring semester. These flavors include plain milk tea, thai tea, coffee, taro, jasmine, oreo and other monthly flavors.
According to Sutherland, the business will sell boba tea to clubs at $2.25 and deliver the drinks 10 minutes before sales begin. The tea will be made the same morning for freshness. The business will sell teas to clubs at variable quantities, instead of in orders of 100, which according to Sutherland, is an advantage over other vendors of the Taiwanese drink when selling to Rice clubs.
“The clubs currently buy tea from Teahouse at $2.50 per tea in bulk orders of 100,” Sutherland said. “That provides limited flexibility. They have to bring their own coolers to Teahouse, load it all up, take it back to the campus.”
Retail sales are planned to begin later in the spring semester. Sutherland said the business will sell teas in college commons.
“You don’t have to walk off campus,” Sutherland said. “We’ll bring [the boba] to you.”
The business began as a project for their Marketing (BUSI 380) last March, and the students spent the summer and fall semester working on research and development. The business will be privately owned by the students and will not register as a Rice-affiliated student-run business.
Jones College sophomore Wesley Yee helped with taste testing and gave positive reviews.
“[The] boba tasted amazing,” Yee said. “I particularly noticed how the tea wasn’t overly sweet and how the boba was soft and tasted fresh.”
Eileen Huang, vice chair of the Rice Asian Pacific American Student Alliance, said that convenience will be a major factor in deciding to which business’ boba the club will sell at fundraisers.
“We have used boba sales as a way to raise money in the past,” Huang, a Martel senior, said. “Most of our boba right now is from Teahouse and we usually have to drive to pick them up. Recently, [Teahouse] has not been accepting orders and it has been very inconvenient for us.”
Sutherland estimates that the business will employ five to ten additional students to make and deliver the tea. The business plans to lease one of Martel College’s kitchens to prepare the tea.
Martel Vice President Itzak Hinojosa said the kitchen was identified as underutilized and that the college voted to lease the space in Parliament after discussing the proposal within the college.
“The vote passed and we are currently working to build a contract and the terms in which Martel will rent the space to the business,” Hinojosa said. “So far, Martel does not foresee any potential problems.”
Martel senior Jonathon Stach was initially concerned about noise and space issues arising with the business’ machines, but was informed that neither would present a problem.
“[I] have been told that the noise level should be minimal, and that the machines would only be operational during specific hours.” Stach said. “So long as the information proves credible, I really shouldn’t have an issue, and would welcome the easy access to boba.”
Warren said the students have enjoyed strong support from faculty and staff, including Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, Chemistry instructor Lesa Tran and Housing and Dining.
“Their assistance along the way has made this possible,” Warren said. “We are very grateful for the opportunity to make our dream a reality.”