Chinese alumni opening bubble tea restuarant
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 23:02
Teapioca Coffee and Coffeehouse, 19 W. High St., is a new Uptown restaurant run by Miami University undergraduates and alumni specifically geared to the Chinese international student population at Miami University. Teapioca will tentatively open Wed., Feb. 20, after the health inspection is conducted.
This new business takes the place of the Thanksgiving food restaurant, TGD, which closed in December.
Senior Jason Pan, manager of Teapioca, collaborated with three other international students, two graduates and one current student to find out what students from China would want in a new restaurant.
To cover the variations in regional tastes among Chinese students, Pan and his team created a menu that offers traditional beverages and appetizers that are familiar to China.
“It’s like a Chinese Starbucks,” Pan said. “You can have it anywhere. It’s not from a particular region.”
The goal is to promote a place for Chinese students to study and socialize while eating great food, Pan said.
The menu items range from café mochas to Mala Tang, a spicy hotpot dish.
Pan said the drink that will be featured on the menu is bubble tea, a shaken blend of tea, milk and tapioca pearls. Chinese will be the main language spoken in the restaurant.
“When the Chinese student comes here, they can feel comfortable to speak Chinese without having to translate,” Pan said.
Though they are concerned with welcoming everyone to the restaurant, it’s important for these young Chinese entrepreneurs to stay true to Chinese flavors, Pan said.
“We will not be one of those Chinese restaurants that changes to meet domestic needs,” Pan said. “We’re trying to stay original.”
Over the course of his undergraduate program, Pan said he noticed the growing need for Chinese students to have a place of their own. According to the Miami University Office of International Education, 808 international students from China were enrolled at Miami in the fall of 2012, a 18.6 percent increase from the previous year.
Miami economics professor and director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Brett R. Smith, said the increased need for new outlets for international students could be enough cause to sustain such a unique business as Teapioca.
“The growing population of students would suggest that now would be the time that you might have enough critical mass,” Smith said.
Smith said problems may arise from carving a niche too thin but the specialty of the restaurant could be enough to satisfy that particular segment.
“The positive is that they have the ability to differentiate while other businesses that have failed in Oxford try too hard to appeal to different groups of customers without creating a base,” Smith said.
Miami junior Siyang Zhang from Beijing, China likes to eat out often at the Chinese restaurants Uptown, but she said the food has become predictable and expensive.
“For the weekend, we always think, ‘Which one are we going to go to?’” Zhang said. “Wild Bistro is a little bit expensive, and all those are getting old for us.”
Zhang said she misses authentic Chinese food and is excited for a new place.“There are not too many Chinese restaurants around here, so if there’s one more, we will have more of a choice,” Zhang said. “And we love bubble tea.”