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East-West Tea rebrands to The Tea Nook

Vivian Lang / Thresher

By Brandon Chen and Aisha Khemani     1/16/24 9:38pm

Rice’s student-run on-campus boba shop, which was previously known as East-West Tea, will reopen as The Tea Nook Jan. 17, with new menu options. 

Sienna Tu, the general manager of the student-run business, said that it rebranded over winter recess because the name and logo of the establishment were both outdated.

“We did so because we wanted to clarify our values of community and adapt to the changing social sphere,” Tu, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. “‘East-West Tea’ no longer represents the values we are trying to convey, and it might cause harm creating a division rather than the unity that we have been striving for. [We aim to] be more engaged with the campus community [with this rebrand].”

Glenn Baginski (Baker College ‘16), one of the student co-founders of East-West-Tea, now The Tea Nook, continues as a mentor for the business.

“The rebrand was actually a decision which, to my knowledge, involved every East West Tea member at Rice, plus myself,“ Baginski wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Every year, the East West, now Tea Nook, general manager and I sit down to define what success would look like for their tenure at the head of the business. It is a fairly involved process, and it's one of my favorite parts of the mentorship role I play with The Tea Nook. One of the things I discussed with Sienna during our visioning session was what a successful rebrand would look like. It is something I was fully supportive of and in many ways was actively advocating for, since the current management team, I believe, has the perfect skill set to execute this rebrand.”

Tu said the managing team took a democratic process in coming up with a new name.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a while now and have been working on it internally, picking up on things especially during winter break,” Tu said. “The entire team suggested names, and we took a vote on it to narrow down the list.”

Around campus, some students are excited about the changes and appreciate the new vision of the business. 

“I personally like ‘The Tea Nook’ since I feel like it goes along really well with a coffeehouse vibe and feels much more comforting and fits the vibe that goes along in the [Rice Memorial Center],” Spencer Kresie, Sid Richardson College junior, said. 

“There might be more possibilities for people who want to hang out in the area, find a place to study in or just be with friends instead of just getting a drink and leaving,” Felipe Mola Curi, a Sid Richardson sophomore, said.

Maggie Xia, the marketing manager of The Tea Nook, hopes that it becomes a cozy community for students on campus.

“We envision being a cozy space for people to interact with others or to grab a pick-me-up drink,” Xia, a Hanszen College sophomore, said. “We want to build The Tea Nook based on our community values, and we are prioritizing our relationship with our customers by incorporating as much customer feedback as possible through this transition.”

Long-term goals for The Tea Nook include moving into a permanent space at Rice. The management team hopes that this will enhance the student experience, both for employees and customers, into a similar experience to Coffeehouse or the Hoot.

Baginski remains excited about the future of The Tea Nook as it continues to evolve year by year.

“First off, I'd like to acknowledge that without the dedication that every student team has successively put in and without the support of David McDonald, Chef Johnny [Curet], and their teams at H&D, we would not be in operation today,” Baginski said. “Every year, I ask the management team three questions: (1) if they benefit from The Tea Nook continuing, (2) if they think the broader Rice community benefits from The Tea Nook continuing, and (3) if they believe The Tea Nook provides an educational experience which can't be replaced or found anywhere else on Rice campus. So far, the answer to those three questions has been yes for every year we've been in operation, so I've been more than happy to continue in my role!”

[1/19/2024 1:00 a.m.] This article has been updated to include comment from Glenn Baginski, the founder of the Tea Nook.

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