Inside the Bay Area’s Corgi Butt Boba Phenomenon
There’s a new boba shop in Santa Clara serving drinks in mason jars decorated with corgis, and it’s blowing up with fans returning over and over again to collect specific cups. Boba Pup is a new boba shop that opened in spring 2021 over by the high school in that plaza that’s kind of a suburban Koreatown. This is great, because now you can have some delicious barbecue and chase it with a sweet boba drink — and again, the cups are collectibles.
Owner Vivienne Tran also owns a boba shop called Moo Bar in Seattle, which she opened in 2017, when her husband started working for Amazon. During the pandemic she wanted to move back to the Bay, and opened her second shop Boba Pup in Santa Clara in March 2021. Tran says the corgi theme grew organically out of popular demand: She originally wanted to use glass containers, to avoid all of the plastic cups and straws that boba shops typically waste. She also happens to love dogs, so she started sketching designs for the cups, partially inspired by her own Doberman. Maybe a cute cup would sweeten the deal, she figured, and encourage customers to reuse their cups to drink water or have a beer with friends at home.
She began testing out different designs at Moo Bar. “We started a series with all kinds of dogs: husky, Shiba, Doberman,” she says. “But people just want the corgis. We tried a lot! But the only thing people care about is the corgis.” She also describes the corgi as “the first dog of Amazon,” meaning by far the most popular breed among those tech workers, who often came into the shop with their pups. So by the time she was opening Boba Pup in Santa Clara, she decided to go all in on cute corgi branding. Boba Pup embraces dogs in the name, with a corgi in the logo, waving his fuzzy peach of a butt at you; and while it does mix it up and offer different designs, the corgi cups remain by far the most popular.
So here’s the deal: If you go to Boba Pup and order a drink, the cup costs $2 extra, and you don’t get to pick which cup, kindergarten rules apply — you get what you get and you don’t get upset. It is possible to online order the specific cup you want and get it shipped, but that’s $8 per cup plus shipping. Boba Pup does not offer any plastic cups or straws whatsoever, which is remarkable. If you already bought a cup, you can bring it back in for a refill, provided it’s clean and labeled. The true fans watch Instagram for the latest releases, if you’re really into corgi butt boba, because who wouldn’t be? Tran says that the most popular release thus far was the workout corgis, straining to do a bench press or a sit-up, which drew an hour-long line on opening Saturday. For the holidays, she’ll be debuting corgis sporting skis and Santa hats; she also mixes it up with animation and comic book-inspired designs.
Rest assured, the boba is actually good quality, too. Boba Pup is part of the new school of boba shops that have ditched powdered creamers and artificial flavors, and insist on using all natural ingredients, including organic milk and fresh fruit, as well as oat milk and other alt-dairy options. The shop cooks the pearls in small batches throughout the day, simmers down their own brown sugar syrup, and purees fresh ube and strawberries. The most popular drink is an ube latte swirled with coconut milk and real mashed purple yams.
Of course, some people complain about the additional cost, and as always comes up in the conversation about reusable containers, obviously plastic would be more convenient for everyone involved. Boba Pup is located right next to Santa Clara High School, so lots of high school kids frequent the shop. But Tran says she’s keeping pricing as low as possible, that two bucks is selling the cups at production value, and she’s ultimately committed to reusable containers. In Seattle, it took a couple of years for people to come around to the concept, she says, but both the people who believe in sustainability and want to collect cute cups kept coming back, and she hopes the same will prove true in Santa Clara.
Upon further investigation, it emerges this is not the first corgi boba shop in the Bay Area. Boba Butt Tea House is another shop in San Francisco, which opened in 2018, and is still temporarily closed, although the website is live if you want to buy merch. It has a totally different owners and a different logo, but one that prominently features a corgi butt. Tran confirms she had already been selling her own dog designs for a while, before she was even aware of this, but she’s also not at all surprised by the coincidence. But why? Why would there be not one but two boba shops in the Bay Area, dedicated to a very short-legged breed of dog’s exceptionally floofy rear end?
“A lot of people don’t actually own a corgi, they just think they’re cute,” Tran says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if more popped up… boba and puppies are a good combination for marketing.” She says that a couple of Instagram celebrity corgis have stopped by the shop. And sometimes her husband even texts her from Costco, when he sees a corgi cup walking around in the wild.
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