Kelly Zhou grew up in Fujian, a providence in China best known for its tea production.
She says tea has always played a major role in her life.
As a little girl, boba tea — a drink served with “tapioca pearls” — was considered a “sweet treat.”
At 15 years old, she immigrated to the United States where she found others from her hometown running restaurants on Long Island.
Combining her family history in the restaurant business, a computer science degree, and her love for boba tea, it became a “no-brainer” for Zhou to open her own authentic boba tea business: YAAAS Tea in Farmingdale.
“I paid my college tuition working in my family’s restaurant, I was doing like 50 hours a week,” she said. “Computer science has never been my passion, I love technology but I don’t see myself working behind a computer; I really like the interaction.”
In China, Zhou says people’s palettes are a bit different from those in the United States. Chinese people drink more pure tea, while in the United States, she says she noticed people like sweeter, creamier drinks.
With this observation, she decided to fuse the knowledge of her roots with what she learned in the U.S. to come up with a menu.
The vast variety of drinks at YAAAS Tea located at 118 Secatogue Ave. in Farmingdale makes it difficult to choose just one option.
Some of the more popular flavors include Brown Sugar Bobo, creme brûlée-style drinks, classic milk teas, and fresh teas.
The toppings are what really brings the drinks together, like different flavor bobas, lychees, jellies and more.
There’s also other sweet treats such as the boba cake and soft-serve, tea-flavored ice cream.
As one can tell from the photos below, all the drinks on the menu go through a meticulous creation process. It takes two hours from step 1 of shaking powder off the boba, to the end when the fully cooked pot is ready.
To keep up with the demand, the YAAAS Tea team is cooking non-stop in the kitchen.
“We use the best quality boba, that’s the important thing — nothing makes me angrier than like bad boba,” Zhou said. “The shelf life for the boba is about three to four hours, but we make it strictly under two hours, so when two hours goes by, everything goes .… to get the best consistency and best taste.”
The proper way to drink YAAAS Tea’s drinks is to shake them 15 times, jam the straw into the lid on top and simply enjoy.
She also urges her drinkers to snap a pic first and post on social media.
Social media is crucial to the business’s success. From younger customers taking foodie pics for Instagram to even the store’s logo that resembles a hashtag, it’s all about building the brand for Zhou.
On Monday, she announced on Instagram that YAAAS Tea is opening its second location, this time in Huntington.
Zhou confirmed with greaterfarmingdale.com she is looking to open at 347 New York Ave. around Christmas time.
In the end, she says following her heart led her to a job she is excited to wake up for everyday.
“I’m a true believer in women’s independence,” Zhous said. “As a minority woman who has been in the business for a long time, I teach the girls I’ve become a mentor for that to gain real independence, financial or personal freedom, you have to know what you want to do and then put your heart into it.”
Stay tuned for future updates on YAAAS Tea in Huntington on greaterhuntington.com.
Top: Kelly Zhou behind the register at YAAAS Tea in Farmingdale. Scroll through photos below.
Top: Kelly Zhou, owner of YAAAS Tea in Farmingdale.