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Bubble Tea Sam: From Quickly to Coco, Running Bubble Tea Shops for 20 Years in NYC Ep 245

By Felicia Lin

Sam Lin is the New York-based veteran bubble tea shop owner who you heard from in episode 238 about bubble tea featuring Kristin McCoy-Ward. If you’re a bubble tea lover, that episode is definitely worth a listen, Kristin covered everything you’d ever want to know about bubble tea and more.

Sam talked to me about how he grew up in Taiwan eating tapioca in desserts, before there was even this thing called bubble tea. Consequently, he has some interesting thoughts on who invented bubble tea.

He brought the Quickly bubble tea shop from Taiwan to New York in 2003, and looking back on his first year of running a bubble tea shop, he recalls the trials and tribulations and that he barely survived it. With perseverance and an improved understanding of how to run a bubble tea shop, Sam moved on from Quickly to opening and running Coco bubble tea shops. Sam now owns and operates 22 Coco bubble tea shops in New York, New Jersey and Boston.

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • Sam’s connection to Taiwan
  • How Sam grew up eating tapioca before there was bubble tea
  • How Sam brought the Quickly bubble tea brand from Taiwan to New York in 2003
  • How Sam struggled during the first year of running his first Quickly bubble tea shop and later ran eight Quickly shops
  • Which tea shop in Taiwan invented bubble tea
  • The outcome of the 10-year lawsuit over who invented bubble tea Chun Shui Tang (tea shop in Taichung, Taiwan) or Hanlin (tea shop in Tainan, Taiwan)
  • How Sam got involved in opening and running Coco bubble tea shops and now runs 22 shops in New York, New Jersey and Boston
  • What affects the texture of tapioca balls (and makes them too hard or too soft)
  • How the bubble tea scene in New York has changed since Sam opened his firs bubble tea shop in 2003
  • How bubble tea is a relatively easy business to run compared to other restaurant or food-related businesses
  • How tapioca balls only last for 4 hours after being cooked
  • How Sam believes that there is more opportunity for bubble tea shops to open up in the U.S., and that there should be a bubble tea shop in every college town
  • How it’s important not to undercut the price of bubble tea to maintain the health of the bubble tea industry
  • Bubble Tea Kristin’s YouTube channel
  • The need for a bubble tea business association
  • Important considerations for people who want to open up a bubble tea shop
  • How much capital is needed to start a bubble tea shop business
  • What is required to set up a bubble tea shop
  • What makes a bubble tea shop successful

Related Links:

Quickly bubble tea:


Coco bubble tea:


The rise of bubble tea, one of Taiwan’s most beloved beverages (an article from CNN):


Chun Shui Tang (tea shop in Taichung, Taiwan):


Hanlin (tea shop in Tainan, Taiwan):

Kristin McCoy-Ward: Everything About Bubble Tea from the “Boba Queen” Ep 238

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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