Happy Lemon, offering boba topped with cheese, opens on Shattuck Avenue

Ketki Samel/Staff

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Happy Lemon, which serves creamy salted cheese atop boba teas, opened in Berkeley at 2106 Shattuck Ave. on Oct. 21.

Known for their unusual flavors, the store sells drinks such as fruit slushies and matcha lattes, in addition to classic boba options.

“At first I thought the tea and cheese was a weird combination so I was hesitant,” said UC Berkeley senior Luciano Zuniga. “I liked the blend of flavors of salty and sweet. … I’m actually craving it right now.”

Happy Lemon managing member Jasmine Chen said although the cheese option doesn’t sound as good as it tastes, most people want to order it after trying a sample.

According to Chen, the company — a global franchise with more than 1000 stores — is rapidly growing in the Bay Area and decided to open in Berkeley because it is trying to expand from the South Bay to farther north. In the coming months, they will be opening stores in cities such as Fremont, Milpitas, Foster City, San Bruno and Union City.

Happy Lemon’s first Bay Area store opened in Cupertino in May 2016 — the company’s 888th store. They have stores in countries ranging from Taiwan to Canada.

During opening weekend, the Shattuck Avenue location offered a buy one, get one free deal as a “warm welcome” to draw people in, Chen said. The store broke their Bay Area sale records, selling more than 3000 cups in one weekend. To prepare for the opening, they doubled their staff and placed employees outside to control the lines of people that stretched out into the street.

Vallejo resident Jenny Ear said she enjoyed the boba’s mixture of flavors, saying that the sweet cheese compliments the bitterness of the tea.

“My girlfriend is obsessed with the cheese,” said Jimmy Huang, Ear’s boyfriend. “I am indifferent to the cheese.”

Chen said Happy Lemon stands out because the tea is freshly brewed and has a “nice, fragrant taste” from the fruit — including lemons, cumquats and mangoes — which is grown in Taiwan and shipped to the stores. She added that the company’s priority is to make customers feel that they are tasting the exact same product, whether they are buying tea in Berkeley or Korea.

Zuniga said he came to the opening with his friend because he wanted to try the store’s salty topping. He said although Happy Lemon’s Downtown location is far from campus, it will not have much competition with other boba stores because of its unique flavors.

Campus alumna Kiki Vo said she thought that the store’s lemon logo is cute and a good marketing strategy that draws customers, especially Berkeley’s large international community.

“The tea is soothing for me,” Vo said.

Contact Hannah Piette at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Hannah_PietteDC.