Across the street from campus there is one new restaurant rapidly gaining student attention.While it may be new to Pasadena, Tea Spots is not new to the Asian beverage scene. Many of the workers had worked at a Tapioca Express in San Gabriel and saw potential in their own franchise.
When the rent went up on their last location, they were forced to relocate. After much deliberation, they set their sights on Pasadena, knowing that the city suffered from a dearth of authentic Asian cuisine.
“It’s right next to a college and it presented a great opportunity for us,” said owner Mark Ho.
While one can easily drive through San Gabriel or Arcadia and find many teahouses within a city block, PCC students have had to suffer from only having a small Lollicup Tea Zone location near to campus.
Upon entering Tea Spots, the first thing that customers will notice is that it is drastically bigger than its competitor, even with couches for customers. The walls are painted with welcoming colors and the workers are friendly. Ho is usually around to stir up conversation with customers.
While working at Tapioca Express, Ho began to learn what the customer preferred on the menu. That knowledge helped build Tea Spots’ menu, which includes milk teas, Italian sodas, and smoothies.
One of the specialties is grapefruit green tea, which is half fresh juice, half unsweetened tea with a small amount of honey. The tea balances the citrus notes and the honey provides an adequate amount of sweetness. With only 80 calories, it’s a refreshing choice for those trying to watch their health.
If one is feeling hungry, the menu includes teahouse staples such as spicy chicken. The portions are more than generous for the price and the combo plates can be easily split between two people.
Ho realizes his main customers are within the PCC community and has begun reaching out to them through social networks.
“We’re trying to introduce special promotions and discounts for our Facebook friends,” said Ho.
Students have already become comfortable in the environment, with many studying and utilizing the free Wi-Fi.
“It’s pretty homey, a good place to just hang out with friends,” said Thadya Soetaniman, one of the many returning customers the store has garnered since opening two weeks ago.
Ho already has his eye on the future with a plan to expand the restaurant to make better use of the space and create a study area for students. For Ho, the goal is to build a relationship with customers that extends beyond business.
“I want it to be a place for them to study, but also to hang out as friends,” explained Ho.
Tea Spots is located at 1443 E Colorado Blvd., next door to Yoshinoya.