It’s not often that we hear the words “all-natural” and “bubble tea” in the same sentence, but a new shop in town offers drinks made with ingredients that will be music to the ears of health-conscious individuals and those with dietary restrictions.
Buns and Boba (327 East Broadway) recently made its debut in Mount Pleasant, specializing in bubble teas made with natural ingredients and non-dairy substitutes, as well as house-baked buns.
Owner and co-founder Katrina Louie is a lactose intolerant bubble tea-lover, which meant she wasn’t able to have the regular options offered around Metro Vancouver.
“I travelled to San Francisco a lot, and because it’s so healthy down there, they have a lot of [bubble tea] places that offered non-dairy alternatives,” Louie told the Straight in a phone interview. “That kind of sparked something, and that’s how [Buns and Boba] all started a year ago.”
The 1,200-square-foot space can comfortably accommodate 16 guests in a minimalistic and clean interior. Inspired by Japanese minimalism, customers will be greeted with a preserved moss wall, hanging greenery, and a neon sign that says “But First Boba”—it's a spot that’s truly photo-worthy.
Aside from the establishment’s aesthetics, the stars of the show are the beverage options and home-baked pastries.
One of its most popular bubble teas is the B&B milk tea, which is an original take on the classic Hong Kong-style milk tea. Made with three different organic teas (two assam teas and orange pekoe), guests can also add tapioca balls (sourced from the U.S. and free from preservatives) to their drinks.
Other thirst-quenchers on the menu include fresh taro milk tea, black sesame milk tea, matcha latte, lemon green tea, and earl grey milk tea. Coffees are also available, which are brewed with fair-trade and organic beans from a local roaster in Squamish.
“Our menu is limited compared to regular bubble tea stores because it’s all natural,” explained Louie. “We make nut milk and oat milk in-house for people, [and] we don’t use any powder or concentrate.”
The newly opened spot also bake fresh buns daily, with flavours such as cinnamon, matcha, coconut, black sesame, and cheese-and-green onion.
“It’s similar to a cinnamon bun dough recipe, but we fill it and braid it to create that knot,” said Louie. “Because it’s knotted and layered, it actually gets a crispy exterior and a soft pillowy interior. We make them fresh, and we do them in small batches.”
Folks who are gluten-free and/or vegan will also be able to satisfy their sweet tooth with items like banana bread and brownies.
It’s a little under a year away, but there’s one issue that the owner of Buns and Boba couldn’t ignore: Vancouver’s plastic straw ban that will go into effect on June 1, 2019.
The shop currently offers reusable stainless steel straws in smaller sizes, but has yet to find thick straws that they can buy in bulk.
“We use as much compostable and recyclable material as possible. I did source out a compostable straw that’s quite thick, but not thick enough for our pearls,” said Louie. “It is unfortunate that there’s not enough [reusable] product in the marketplace yet that can suit bubble tea, but I’m hoping people can catch up.”
There are a lot of bubble tea destinations around Metro Vancouver, but Buns and Boba stands out for being the first to offer bubble tea that isn’t wholly unhealthy.
“I feel like it’s catering to a whole new crowd of people who are more health conscious and care about what they intake into their systems,” added Louie. “I hope that people are excited that we are using natural ingredients and that we care about what people are putting into their bodies.”