Georgetown Bubble, a student-run startup that sells bubble tea, sold out in less than an hour at its first pop-up shop on the second floor of Lauinger Library Tuesday evening.
The business sold out of its bubble tea faster than expected, running out of tea after about a half an hour of operation.
“We started at 8:30 on the dot, we had people lining up probably at 8:10,” Co-Founder Natalie Kaliss (SFS ’18) said. “We sold out of the 25 $1 cups in probably less than 10 minutes and we sold out of our two batches which are two pots and our whole jar of actual tapioca in about half an hour.”
Kaliss, along with Tim Yim (SFS ’17), Michelle Hur (SFS ’17) and Rachel Villanueva (SFS ’16), hailed their shared love of bubble tea as one of the reasons they decided to form the startup.
“For us, bubble tea is almost like lemonade … it’s all over Taiwan. We had access to it as a special treat for completing major field exercises in the army,” Yim said.
Bubble tea, a Taiwanese drink, is also known as pearl milk tea, or boba milk tea, and was invented in Taichung in the 1980s, gaining popularity in most parts of East and Southeast Asia during the 1990s. Bubble tea typically has a milk and tea base with large, chewy tapioca balls added at the bottom of the drink. While the business currently only has the original black tea flavor, the founders plan to introduce jasmine green, rose and Thai teas in the near future.
“One thing that is unique about us is that we actually brew the tea instead of using the powder, unlike a lot of bubble tea places. So we used English breakfast tea for this one,” Hur said. “Everything is made by Tim. He has his master recipe. That’s something that differentiates us with other bubble tea shops in D.C.”
And while there are other bubble tea shops in the District, there is a distinct lack of them in the Georgetown area, a fact that Yim, Hur and Kaliss pointed to as motivation to create their business.
“I’m from San Francisco so there [are] over 75 or 80 shops within the city limits, so I grew up drinking bubble tea. But when I came here, and Tim also had the same thoughts: Why isn’t there something at Georgetown?” Kaliss said. “This is something that’s cheap, in demand, even if a lot of Georgetown students don’t know about it yet.”
Earlier in the semester, Georgetown Bubble reached out to Innovo Solutions, a consulting resource for university student entrepreneurs, to help with some of the technical aspects of running a business that the founders were unfamiliar with.
“We probably need some extra help, some sort of analytics because I don’t have a business background. … So I assumed we need a little help with certain things and that’s why we have Innovo helping us onboard. They’ve been a great help so far,” Yim said.
Georgetown Bubble’s Facebook event for their first pop-up had 205 people RSVP as attending, garnering campus attention ahead of their opening.
Nicole Carolin (SFS ’17), who had tried Bubble Tea once before she went to the pop-up to support Hur, commented on the product.
“Yeah, I really like it. I don’t even know what the little bubbles are made out of but they taste good,” Carolin said.
Georgetown Bubble is registered with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and therefore subject to the 10 percent D.C. tax rate. A standard price for Georgetown Bubble’s bubble tea is $3.99 with tax.
“We decided on this price because really we looked around the neighborhood,” Yim said. “We’re keeping it low, we’re keeping it convenient, and really we’re just hoping that this is a hit.”
While the organization eventually hopes to open a store, Georgetown Bubble plans to hold more pop-ups around the Georgetown campus in the coming weeks and will be at the farmers’ market on March 25.