From the outside, Koala Tea & Coffee doesn’t look like much.
The location, which is too small for customers to dine in, only offers takeout. But don’t let that fool you — owner Zhengang Chen ensures that every item purchased is quality made and full of flavor.
The shop features a small counter for customers to order an array of teas, coffee and sweet treats.
“Everyone likes sweets,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s boba tea, desserts — everyone loves sweets.”
Chen’s first location, Koala Bakery & Cafe at 2843 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing, opened in 2018. He was excited to expand to a second location across from Michigan State University’s campus. Being within walking distance of the university has greatly helped business, despite Koala Tea not having dine-in services.
“The community is so friendly,” Chen said. “This is a really good spot downtown, with campus across the street and the amount of small businesses nearby. This is a good spot for the traffic.”
The desserts at Koala Tea & Coffee — which includes crepes, cheesecakes and cupcakes — are made fresh at the Meridian Township location and brought to the East Lansing shop.
Chen said he’s always loved sweets, but wanted to enjoy them without the added sugar. His wife began making desserts with less sugar, and Chen turned it into a business.
“I like the sweet stuff,” he said. “My wife, seeing that, was always making desserts for me. It was just a hobby. But the hobby became a business, because not a lot of places were serving boba tea and desserts together.”
Before his first Koala location, Chen had no prior business experience. Starting a new shop was difficult, but he received financial help from friends and family. He’s hoping to expand to a third location in the future.
“The boba tea market is really increasing,” Chen said. “I see a very good future for this. Hopefully, we can get bigger. Starbucks, Biggby and Panda Express, they all started small. So, why not us?”
Koala Tea & Coffee
223 M.A.C. Ave., East Lansing
2 – 10 p.m. Monday
12 – 10 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday, Sunday
12 – 10:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday
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