Our 2022 schedule release video showcased the diverse BIPOC and minority-owned small businesses in our community. Our third featured restaurant, Young Tea, puts a sustainable and healthy spin on the tea business! Owner Caroline Lee chatted with us about the story behind the Asian-owned and woman-owned small business with a loyal following.
You can support Young Tea by visiting them in their Chinatown-ID or Wallingford locations. You can also purchase a gift card through Intentionalist.
SoundersFC.com: Hi, Caroline! Tell Sounders fans about yourself and your story, and how Young Tea came to be.
Young Tea owner, Caroline Lee: I was born, and grew up, in Taiwan, and moved to Seattle 17 years ago. I never had any business experience in Taiwan, and have a wonderful family with two boys. I grew up drinking oolong teas, and am a big fan of tea, but didn't like bubble tea, ironically. When my friends in Taiwan learn that I’m running a bubble tea business, their jaw drops! At the end of 2014, a friend of mine invited me to partner with him to open a bubble tea shop. I told him that he had the wrong person, but he kept pursuing me and I changed my mind. My boys were big fans of bubble tea, but I thought it was bad for you - full of synthetic syrups with no good ingredients. When I decided to do this, I wanted to do it differently, to make it healthy and with all natural ingredients.
I started Young Tea eight years ago. I got introduced to tea farmers and suppliers in Taiwan, and use the highest-quality ingredients. We brew our own syrup and make our toppings in-house. Without a budget for advertisement, we spent our time sharing information about tea quality, and providing a healthy choice to the public.
We have a new location in Wallingford, and a location in Bellevue coming this summer.
SoundersFC.com: We featured you during Earth Month because of your emphasis on sustainability. Can you talk about why that is important, and how you make that a focus?
CL: I see our environment getting worse and worse. We have a lot of customers coming in daily; if they can use reusable containers, it can save a lot of trash. We have been been selling the mason jars, and customers love them. We saw that straws were always a problem, so we found a manufacturer to make a reusable straw with a cloth bag. We are always trying to do more to reduce waste.
SoundersFC.com: You didn’t plan on this career path, but you’ve made the most of it! What is your favorite part of being a small business owner?
CL: I’m an outgoing person! I have good people skills and I enjoy interacting with customers; I have a lot of friends who started as customers. We try our best to give back to the community, even though we are small. For example, we sponsor a lot of school events, do fundraising, and donated drinks to healthcare workers and community volunteers during the pandemic. I love helping people, that is my true passion. We are able to do so many things for others and not focus on the profit. Serving healthy drinks to customers makes me happy every day; I feel like I’m doing something right!
SoundersFC.com: We can’t wait to come out and support Young Tea. What is your must-have?
CL: I would recommend our signature milk tea. It’s a very classic milk tea; you can’t go wrong! My personal favorite is iron buddha milk tea, an expensive and exclusive classic oolong tea varietal.