Can boba bring people together? Taiwanese-American chefs Andrew Chau and Bin Chen—perhaps you know them as the Boba Guys—think so.
After meeting in San Francisco in 2011, Jersey-bred Chau and Texas-bred Chen realized that boba itself is emblematic of their immigrant experience, with one foot in Asia, the other in America, and an identity that wavers between the two. They quit their corporate jobs to share this now-beloved—but then still unfamiliar to many Americans—drink and story with a wider audience.
Fast-forward to today and The Boba Guys is now estimated to be worth “tens of millions of dollars” with three locations in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—proof that there really is a kind of boba for everyone.
Just last month, Chau and Chen released The Boba Book. It’s filled with recipes, tips, and tricks for all drinks QQ (Taiwanese slang for “bouncy”). There’s traditional and specialty (not one, but three takes on classic black milk tea). Boozy (who knew to add boba to an Old Fashioned?). Topped (homemade sticky rice, herbal jellies, and of course tapioca balls). And upleveled (to layer drinks for a “Rothko-like” effect, pour slowly onto the ice cubes).
The book could not come at a more perfect time. Food has long been key for community production—whether IRL or URL. And while we can’t meet up for a boba right now, we can try our hand at them together, in our respective kitchens.
Here’s our wildly popular brown sugar boba recipe to get you started—plus three drink recipes from The Boba Book for “home-style bobaristas” that have mastered dalgona and are looking for the next big thing.
How good are you at maintaining the liquid to boba ratio? Brag about it in the comments.
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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga.
When she’s not writing about or making food, she’s thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, “Meant to be Eaten,” explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.