New Boba Shop Wants to Share Drinks and Culture


Andrea Alonso

Reporters Alonso and Cortez hold their yummy drinks of Strawberry Matcha Latte and Banana Foster Milk at the new Loose Leaf Boba store in DTSA.

Andrea Alonso and Ashley Cortez

Boba can mean many things but to Thomas Liu and Jasmine Yip, it means family and friends that come together and enjoy their homemade Boba drinks.

With ingredients incorporated from many cultures, Loose Leaf Boba wants their drinks to bring people closer. 

“I just wanted to build a business that incorporates ingredients from different cultures and share it with the world because we live in a country right now where we are so divided,” said Liu.  

Liu and his wife, Yip, first got their inspiration right out of high school when they noticed how all cultures have something in common: food and drink brings people together. Noticing how boba is not just liked in one place, they chose Downtown Santa Ana (DTSA) for their latest Loose Leaf Boba store.

“I saw that, like, drinks bring people together because all cultures have something in common we all eat, we all drink, every celebration is food and drinks,” said Liu. 

This is their second location in Southern California, with the Long Beach location their first store that opened in 2018.

They both attended University of the West in Rosemead, Calif. and majored in International Business. Yip became pregnant. And by the time both finished school they were a family of three. 

After they graduated, they realized what they were taught in school didn’t really help them to start a business. College only taught them how to be in business or as an employee. 

Before they started, they noticed how many different cultural backgrounds enjoyed boba and it made them realize they should put a stand near Jasmine’s school, at the Nogales Swap Meet in La Puente, Calif. 

Chinese dragons help Jasmine Yip and Thomas Liu celebrate their two year anniversary of their Loose Leaf Boba store in Long Beach. Photo taken Sept. 18, 2019. (Courtesy of Thomas Liu)

At the beginning of their small business journey, they didn’t have much money to buy supplies. For the first two years, they used milk cartons and filled them with tea and boba, which was freshly made every Saturday and Sunday at 3 a.m., in order to get a spot at the swap meet by 6 a.m.  

Liu and Yip had a difficult time selling to customers and had no option but to walk around the swap meet with a tray of free samples of their boba trying to convince buyers to buy their boba until they had no more of their drinks.

One of their biggest challenges from the very beginning was that they would apply for store leases but every time they were denied. 

With all these hurdles, working during a pandemic wasn’t a big struggle to open a new location. Many places had lowered their rents and the Liu wanted to provide jobs for those who needed one. 

The first two months in DTSA were a huge challenge for the store.

During the pandemic, Liu saw that many people in the community of Santa Ana and their small businesses were closing. Liu and Yip started giving out free lunches to help people that can’t afford food.

Liu doesn’t want a reason why a person needs lunch, he just wants to help out the community.

Liu shows that by morphing different cultures into his occupation many people feel welcome. Aside from their business, they use their Instagram platform to show awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement and the idea of making a difference towards the public.

“We must come together in solidarity and rise up to the occasion,” said Liu.

In the next ten years, Liu and Yip want to have many stores not just for profit but to “help their community and society.”

When ordering drinks you have the option of choosing type of milk, level of sweetness, choice of toppings, and, of course, boba. The most popular drinks they have are the: Strawberry Matcha Latte, Fantasy Berries, Pandan Pina Collision, and The Purple Root (blended). 

Loose Leaf Boba is located in Downtown Santa Ana at the 4th Street Market Place at 201 E 4th St. in  Santa Ana. Check their Instagram @looseleafboba for exact hours but they open daily at noon.