Arts

Asian American motherhood inspires canned milk tea company

Local moms create a heritage brand with Twrl Milk Tea

Pauline Ang, left, and Olivia Chen, co-founders of Twrl Milk Tea. Courtesy Twrl Milk Tea.

Local moms Olivia Chen and Pauline Ang launched Twrl Milk Tea, a canned, plant-based pea milk tea, in 2021. Both Asian American mothers living in the Bay Area (Chen is a longtime Palo Alto resident), the duo set out to create a product that honored memories of sipping tea with family members and fit into their fast-paced lifestyles as parents. Hoping to combine traditions of milk tea from Asia with plant-based diets that have become popular locally, Chen and Ang are working to create a brand that reflects their multicultural identities.

Making boba culture more inclusive

Drinking bubble tea has become a social ritual in the Bay Area, and boba shops are gathering spaces for many teens and young adults. Many specialty milk teas, however, have high levels of sugar, and most of these shops open primarily for evening and late-night crowds. These factors make boba culture less accessible for Chen and Ang than for their children, the duo said. Chen said she often seeks caffeine at 7 a.m. while driving her family to her son's volleyball games. Since coffee upset her stomach and energy drinks led to an eventual sugar crash, she longed for a low-sugar, mildly caffeinated product like Twrl's teas. Chen hopes that Twrl can be an everyday drink that allows more people to participate in this milk tea culture.

In addition to sharing their cultural traditions, Chen and Ang have made sustainability a main value. Twrl's biggest departure from traditional beverages is swapping out cow's milk for plant-based pea milk. Chen and Ang chose pea milk because of its high protein content, low amount of carbohydrates, allergen-free nature and lower resource demands than other alternative milks.

Sourcing sustainable teas

Twrl Milk Tea offers three flavors of its canned pea milk tea: Original Black, Hojicha Roasted Green and Supreme Jasmine. Courtesy Twrl Milk Tea.

Twrl Milk Tea is also committed to sourcing tea from family farms in China and Japan. When Chen and Ang took the recipe they developed in their home kitchens for a sample canning run, they were disappointed by the result. The canning process can alter the flavor of a beverage, so the factory had added in flavorings and coloring to imitate the original concoction.

Forced to redesign their entire supply chain, the Twrl team found that sourcing high-quality teas from small family farms allowed them to create a canned product that is flavorful without a number of additives. These farms carefully manage the ecosystems in their fields so pesticide use is avoided.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

Chen said that Twrl Milk Tea's focus on sustainability comes naturally, as she and Ang are mothers concerned about the world they will leave to their children when it comes to both representation and natural resources.

"Sustainability is really important to us because we're moms. The next generation (is affected by) everything we do," she said.

Twrl is currently offering three flavors: Original Black, Hojicha Roasted Green and Supreme Jasmine. They are available in local supermarkets, including Mollie Stone's, Andronico's and Roberts Market.

Twrl Milk Tea, 415-942-0899, Instagram: @twrlmilktea.

Dig into food news. Follow the Peninsula Foodist on Instagram @peninsulafoodist and subscribe to the newsletter to get insights on the latest openings and closings, learn what the Foodist is excited about eating, read exclusive interviews and keep up on the trends affecting local restaurants.

Anthony Shu writes for TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Anthony Shu, a Palo Alto native, started working at Embarcadero Media in 2022. He writes the Peninsula Foodist blog and newsletter and feature stories for The Six Fifty. Read more >>

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Asian American motherhood inspires canned milk tea company

Local moms create a heritage brand with Twrl Milk Tea

by / TheSixFifty.com

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 11:48 am

Local moms Olivia Chen and Pauline Ang launched Twrl Milk Tea, a canned, plant-based pea milk tea, in 2021. Both Asian American mothers living in the Bay Area (Chen is a longtime Palo Alto resident), the duo set out to create a product that honored memories of sipping tea with family members and fit into their fast-paced lifestyles as parents. Hoping to combine traditions of milk tea from Asia with plant-based diets that have become popular locally, Chen and Ang are working to create a brand that reflects their multicultural identities.

Drinking bubble tea has become a social ritual in the Bay Area, and boba shops are gathering spaces for many teens and young adults. Many specialty milk teas, however, have high levels of sugar, and most of these shops open primarily for evening and late-night crowds. These factors make boba culture less accessible for Chen and Ang than for their children, the duo said. Chen said she often seeks caffeine at 7 a.m. while driving her family to her son's volleyball games. Since coffee upset her stomach and energy drinks led to an eventual sugar crash, she longed for a low-sugar, mildly caffeinated product like Twrl's teas. Chen hopes that Twrl can be an everyday drink that allows more people to participate in this milk tea culture.

In addition to sharing their cultural traditions, Chen and Ang have made sustainability a main value. Twrl's biggest departure from traditional beverages is swapping out cow's milk for plant-based pea milk. Chen and Ang chose pea milk because of its high protein content, low amount of carbohydrates, allergen-free nature and lower resource demands than other alternative milks.

Twrl Milk Tea is also committed to sourcing tea from family farms in China and Japan. When Chen and Ang took the recipe they developed in their home kitchens for a sample canning run, they were disappointed by the result. The canning process can alter the flavor of a beverage, so the factory had added in flavorings and coloring to imitate the original concoction.

Forced to redesign their entire supply chain, the Twrl team found that sourcing high-quality teas from small family farms allowed them to create a canned product that is flavorful without a number of additives. These farms carefully manage the ecosystems in their fields so pesticide use is avoided.

Chen said that Twrl Milk Tea's focus on sustainability comes naturally, as she and Ang are mothers concerned about the world they will leave to their children when it comes to both representation and natural resources.

"Sustainability is really important to us because we're moms. The next generation (is affected by) everything we do," she said.

Twrl is currently offering three flavors: Original Black, Hojicha Roasted Green and Supreme Jasmine. They are available in local supermarkets, including Mollie Stone's, Andronico's and Roberts Market.

Twrl Milk Tea, 415-942-0899, Instagram: @twrlmilktea.

Dig into food news. Follow the Peninsula Foodist on Instagram @peninsulafoodist and subscribe to the newsletter to get insights on the latest openings and closings, learn what the Foodist is excited about eating, read exclusive interviews and keep up on the trends affecting local restaurants.

Anthony Shu writes for TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.