Judging from the lines seen in front of Yesenia Gallegos’ Sweet Straw Tea Bar, Napa’s new boba shop is already a hit.
Those who are familiar with the popular dessert drink need to look no further than Jefferson Street to get their boba fix—while folks who have not yet tried boba are invited to stop by Sweet Straw for what may become their new favorite refreshment.
Gallegos grew up in Napa before moving away to attend the University of California, Davis, where she said her love for boba grew.
A double major in communications and sociology at the time, Gallegos said she found a reprieve from her workload by treating herself to boba at various establishments around campus. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco for work where she discovered a number of cafes serving different types of boba.
The challenge of describing boba—also called bubble tea—is that there are many varieties of the drink, said Gallegos.
Popularized throughout Asia, Taiwan claims to have created boba, which in its classic form mixes a cold, dark tea—often black tea, earl tea, or oolong tea—with milk. However, for many, the treat is not only the sweet milk tea but also the gummy tapioca pearls that are slurped up through a thick straw and chewed on in between sips.
The tapioca pearls themselves are often referred to as boba; however, café menus have diversified over time to include a variety of drinks that may be enjoyed with or without the signature tapioca bits.
Gallegos said that what makes boba so lovable is that there is a flavor for everyone.
“If you don’t like dark teas you can get a matcha latte, iced coffee, chocolate milk, different kinds of fruit teas or even smoothies—and it’s all boba.”
A self-proclaimed boba connoisseur with years of experience sampling a variety of different drinks, Gallegos said she’s in touch with what boba drinkers want.
At Sweet Straw, guests can customize their beverage by adjusting the ice and sweetness levels as well as adding toppings such as fresh fruit, jellies, aloe vera or ice cream.
There are also non-dairy milk options to choose from including oat, almond, and soy.
The tea bar’s menu boasts some unique drinks like citrus strawberry green tea, honey lemonade, taro milk tea with taro chunks, grapefruit cooler, Vietnamese iced coffee, wintermelon tea, and a spicy mango smoothie called a mangonada, to name a few.
A first-time business owner, Gallegos said she had been dreaming of opening up a boba shop for years. When the perfect space became available in Napa, on Jefferson Street, next door to Joey’s Bakery, which her mother owns, she could not pass up the opportunity to bring her idea to life.
Gallegos said seeing her mother’s hard work and dedication to her bakery business for the past 15 years inspired and motivated her to open her own business that gives the community something it has not had until now. Gallegos said friends of hers know Sweet Straw is the realization of a dream that she has been talking about since college.
The tea bar owner explained that the business is a labor of love. “Boba is so close to my heart. At first when people would ask about the shop, I would say I wanted boba for myself.” She says, “I want to fill the boba void for the community—and for me.”
Since opening on June 18, the tea bar has been swarmed with customers eager to get a taste of the new local sweet spot. Right across the street from Napa High School, Sweet Straw has been an instant hit with people lining up outside on the sidewalk to savor Napa’s original boba shop, said Gallegos.
“I’m excited!” she said. “This is a product that I am passionate about. I am on a mission to always provide drinks that people love. And with boba, there’s something for everyone.”
In the midst of COVID-19, Sweet Straw Tea Bar is limiting the number of people entering the space to four at a time, masks are required, and Plexiglass separates customers and “bobaristas.”
Sweet Straw Tea Bar is located at 2552 Jefferson St., open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, check out SweetStraw_Napa on Facebook and Instagram.
You can reach business editor Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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