Even before Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea, the first bubble tea shop in Sammamish, has opened, people are already poking their heads through the door, wondering if the iconic Taiwanese drink is within reach yet.
“I think it’s happening more often nowadays,” said manager Sarah Yee during a Feb. 19 interview with the Sammamish Independent after a few eager customers walked in. “We’re training, so the doors are open…And a lot of people are excited.”
Yi Fang’s actual opening day is Tuesday, March 1. They are located in Inglewood Plaza, between Papa Murphy’s and Great Clips.
Although the most common varieties of boba are the black and green pearl milk teas, Yi Fang is famous for, as the name suggests, its fruit teas. Drinks such as the pineapple-jam-based Yifang Fruit Tea, the Mango Pomelo Sago, and the Pineapple Green Tea fill the menu along with the more classic milk teas.
When Yee and her husband, Karson Leung, began playing with the idea of opening a bubble tea shop, they looked at the different brands that they could start a franchise under — and chose Yi Fang for its menu.
It was the lack of places to hang out in Sammamish, as well as the lack of existing bubble tea shops, that drew the two to open a branch in town.
With the three high schools nearby, Yee aims to attract students to the shop in the afternoon. She is also hoping to make the location a place for community activity — somewhere for organizations to hold fundraisers, or local artists to sell their products, for instance.
Health and safety concerns are, of course, ever-present. When the store opens, customers will have the option to order online or at the store. Following the opening period, the store is also planning on having DoorDash, Grubhub, and other online delivery options.
When ordering in-person, furthermore, customers will use a self-ordering system, rather than telling a cashier their orders. First implemented for safety reasons during the pandemic across Yi Fang stores, Yee said that the system also frees up employees to make drinks, and alleviates the stress of having to order quickly to keep others from having to wait in line.
The arrival of bubble tea to Sammamish will come years after its rise of popularity in the United States in the late 1990s, and its transformation into a symbol of cultural identity among Asian Americans. Given the 112% increase in Sammamish’s Asian population within the last decade, and that would-be customers are bursting through the doors before the shop even opens, it is about time.