Justin Chan, the owner of Sequel Tea, was giving out free boba drinks in his dorm as a Cal Poly freshman in 2016.
Now, he’s returning to Cal Poly’s campus with a weekly boba pop-up starting with a soft launch on Monday, March 14.
The pop-up location will be outside of Vista Grande, Chan told Mustang News.
“To work out a contract with Cal Poly was kind of a dream,” Chan said. “The goal is to be on campus one to two days a week and slowly work up to five days a week.”
Sequel Tea opened less than two years ago as “California’s First Cold Brew Boba Tea Concept,” according to their website, but it all started as Chan’s senior project.
Sequel Tea has two pop-ups at Benny’s Kitchen on Saturday and Downtown Farmers’ Market on Thursday. The shop has also garnered a loyal group of customers who come almost every week.
“It’s just the best boba that I have access to in SLO,” computer science senior Thalia Ward said. “It’s cool to support a pop-up and somebody who understands that we don’t have many boba options.”
Chan’s other goals include opening a storefront and releasing new flavor combinations from a list of about 30 drink ideas he says people will be “very interested in trying.”
“I like how they always have new teas and you keep checking the website to see what’s coming out this week,” customer Craig Stewart said.
How Sequel Tea’s story began
Chan graduated from Cal Poly with a biological sciences degree in 2020. He says friends would encourage him to open a boba shop in town, but he was reluctant.
“At the time, I was really set, and still am set, on medicine — I wanted to go to physician assistant school,” Chan said.
Chan began selling boba for his friends’ Korean fried chicken pop-up when the pandemic first hit.
“Within a couple of weeks we actually decided, let’s just start our own things,” Chan said.
Artisan Tea Project, Sequel Tea’s original name, was born.
They rebranded as Sequel Tea in September 2021, according to their Instagram page. There were several reasons behind the name change, Chan said.
Chan said “sequel” represents the next chapter.
“That’s what I think cold brew tea is — I think cold brew boba tea is the next wave and the next chapter of boba shops,” Chan said.
He says his second reason is the value he sees in storytelling. To him, boba is simply a drink and medium for friends to socialize and share their stories. His hope is for Sequel Tea to provide a space for that.
The boba shop’s logo, which is shaped as half of a leaf and half of quill, captures their brand identity and love for tea, people and storytelling, Chan said.
“Whether it means I’m catching up with a friend from two weeks or two years ago, we all have sequels to share,” Chan said.
Cold brew tea is a tea brewing method in which you infuse tea leaves with cold water for 12 or more hours, depending on the type of tea leaves.
This brewing method decreases the astringency, or bitterness, of the tea while bringing out the aromatics and flavors, according to Chan. Chan began learning about that process through YouTube and Google Scholar in Summer 2020.
Chan said he still plans to attend physician assistant school one day, but delaying his application is a risk he is willing to take.
“Every year that I’m not in school means it’s a year where I’m less qualified to apply for school,” Chan said. “But I also know that this is something I want to just try.”
For now, Chan is working hard to produce a high-quality product that would encourage people to join the movement for cold brew tea.
“Just to have people feel like they’re a part of [the movement], that they get to be a part of this ride and help write this story for us — I think this is a huge part of our brand identity,” Chan said.