I’ll admit it. AU79 is my favorite boba place of all time — it always has been. I sat down with the owner and we talked about the Ten Ren empire and what makes AU so good. Order the regular green tea with boba — less ice.
Megan Lee comes from a long line of tea experts. Her grandfather was the founder of Ten Ren Tea, Taiwan’s largest tea chain, with locations in seven countries including the United States. But despite being a shareholder in the Ten Ren empire, Lee’s father had a different vision for the company and began his own business, AU 79 Teahouse in 1998.
Today, Lee runs the entire AU 79 Teahouse chain, a bubble tea shop with three locations in the San Gabriel Valley. On weekend evenings, the store is so packed that it’s nearly impossible to snag a seat. But despite the shop’s popularity in the city of Arcadia, Lee notes that the competition between tea houses in the SGV is fierce. She finds herself constantly struggling to appeal to the completely different demographics of customers that pass through her doors on a daily basis.
“When we first started, the crowd was very Chinese, then American-born-Chinese and now Americans,” Lee said.
We caught up with Lee at the Arcadia location to chat about the challenges of running a tea business and the language barriers she and her staff face. The interview was conducted in Chinese. Turn the page for the translation.