Let the local bubble tea war begin.
On Dec. 29, BBK Tea held their grand opening, making it the second bubble tea shop in Sammamish. Their storefront, located behind Metropolitan Market, brings fresh original drink recipes to Sammamish, making it an interesting alternative to Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea, which opened only one year ago.
Sally Li, owner and founder of BBK, runs the brand’s only store as a family business. Her sister, Christina Li, who is in her third year of college, helps out as the manager.
Christina, who once worked as a boba barista, has been the brains behind BBK Tea’s numerous recipes that customers will not find anywhere else.
“I think the Final Hour’s really special — I don’t really see any blackberry drinks around,” Christina said as she teased one of her favorite drinks.
There are also special drinks like “Space Juice,” made with butterfly pea tea and fresh lime juice, and their surprisingly tasty “Cloud” series of drinks, which include cheese foam. Of course, the classic boba offerings are available as well, with jasmine, original, taro, and milk teas being mainstays on the menu. BBK also serves a variety of fruit teas, freezes, and smoothies.
According to Sally Li, BBK’s original recipes are the result of hours of research and development, and made with fruit that is as fresh as possible.
“I think a lot of customers love how fresh it is, it doesn’t taste manufactured at all,” said Li.
She attributes much of BBK’s success to the choices they made when starting the shop, pointing to their ability to retain creative freedom in their offerings because they are not a franchise. This is especially evident by the popcorn chicken and fries offered on their menu, which often attracts hungry lunch-goers.
Originally planned to open in 2020, BBK Tea, like many other local businesses, was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We started planning, drafting, talking to brokers in 2019,” said Sally Li. “But obviously that didn’t work out.”
According to Li, construction was the biggest challenge to opening. There was a six-month delay during quarantine before she could obtain a building permit, “and this place was a completely empty lot,” Li said.
It would be hard to discern their boba shop’s humble origins as a visitor today. Despite the challenges, Li has managed to turn the space into a cozy, brightly lit hangout spot for boba-lovers. Cute pumpkin plushies adorn the stainless white counters, and there are often students found relaxing in the homely maple wood chairs.
The store’s location also adds to the steady stream of customers.
“We were also very strategic with our location, we have Skyline [High School], and then Eastside Catholic,” said Li.
Eastlake High School is also less than a mile away.
But BBK’s demographic is not limited to students. Li has noticed people from all walks of life trying bubble tea, like grandparents, young kids, and parents who are dragged along by their children.
Proximity to the two local high schools has influenced BBK’s hiring as well, with many high schoolers working shifts.
“The work environment’s super chill, everyone’s really nice so it’s not high pressure or anything,” said Tanisha Kshirsagar, 17, who started working at BBK in December.
To help establish themselves in the community, BBK often gives discounts to students. For instance, they made all drinks 20% off for high schoolers during finals week to help relieve stress. BBK also works closely with Skyline, sponsoring clubs like the robotics team and partnering with the Class of 2024 class council.
“We’re super grateful that [high schoolers and middle schoolers] are so supportive of our business,” Li said. “Giving back to the community is something we’ve always wanted to do.”