Boba shop YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea opens near UC Berkeley campus

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea, a boba store specializing in organic and all-natural teas, opened at 2516 Bancroft Way in Berkeley on Sept. 10.

The location’s previous occupant, Yogurtland, closed permanently in October 2017. The YiFang in Berkeley is the first California location for the Taiwan-based international chain, according to Roy Lam, YiFang’s Northern California general manager and a UC Berkeley alumnus.

The chain has stores worldwide, including in Taiwan, New York, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Canada and Australia.

Lam said YiFang serves healthy, high-quality beverages — the store uses organic sugar and Taiwanese tea, and does not use artificial syrups, powders or flavorings. Lam said he wants to change how the boba industry functions in the United States, and said the new store is filling the existing gap in boba quality.

The boba is made with a “simple recipe, highest-quality ingredients, and most of all, love,” Lam said.

Lam said he “believes in doing things that other people don’t want to do,” such as spending more money on ingredients in order to serve customers high-quality products. The store uses the organic Clover milk tea, even though it is more expensive, to create the healthiest option, according to Lam.

The menu at YiFang, which has prices ranging between $3.75 and $6.50, offers many fruit teas and lattes, including the store’s signature brown sugar pearl latte.

During its Sept. 14-15 grand opening, YiFang held a special “Buy 1 Large Fruit Tea Get 1 Free” deal, with consistent lines out the door. Lam said the lines represented how “the Berkeley community believes in quality.”

YiFang joins the cluster of boba tea stores in the area, such as RareTea Berkeley and Gong Cha. RareTea store manager Nemo Dang said he does not think YiFang will majorly impact RareTea’s business.

“Even on their opening days, business was pretty much the same,” Dang said. “We focus on fresh-brewed teas, milk teas, and are more versatile and like to try new things.”

Blake Tickell, a campus fifth-year senior majoring in computer science, said the tea was “a little pricey for my taste,” but after his first sip, said the tea was “really good.”

Campus law student Sarae Snyder came on her birthday because the store’s long line, pineapple balloons and “aesthetically pleasing sign” drew her attention.

“I think the opening of YiFang is great, as a person who loves boba in general and seeks it out,” said Tarin Kim, a junior computer science major and employee at Gong Cha. “It seems to be more of a natural option than syrups or artificial ingredients.”

Contact Lauren Good and Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected].