There are instances where the execution of your values are put to the test. This has been the case for Boba Guys, which had multiple complaints about microaggressions in the workplace. While this news isn’t the most recent, I view it as a situation which should be analyzed once more.
This year Boba Guys celebrated the release of The Boba Book, the first boba recipe book, which had a central theme of “bridging cultures.” As Janelle Bitker puts it, “It’s the first major cookbook devoted to boba in the U.S., fittingly written by the founders of San Francisco’s immensely popular Boba Guys chain, Andrew Chau and Bin Chen.” The Boba Book contains a multitude of recipes, drawing from different parts of the world.
The founders have stated multiple times that their goal is to bridge cultures with boba. “Not to over-romanticize a simple drink, but boba is an experience — about history, culture, and identity,” the founders write. “And if you look hard enough into that cloudy cup, you’ll probably learn something about Asia, about America, and, we think, about our society’s future.” From this, it’s easy to understand their message. We want to celebrate Asia, and Asian food, and share it with others.
Boba Guys’ mission statement is seemingly inclusive. They state, “Call us crazy, but we believe in changing the way people see boba and tea. That starts with being transparent, above and beyond what you would expect from normal businesses. It also means we dare to try new things. You’ll never know what will come from us next.” Often time on Instagram live, founder Andrew Chau describes how he hopes to bridge cultures, and create an inclusive environment.
But, how true is this in their workplace? Grace Z. Li unpacks some alleged hypocrisy, posing the question: Who does Boba Guys bridge cultures for? She decodes several instances where Black employees were tokenized by the company, yet experienced microaggressions in the workplace. Often times on shift, Black employees would experience rude customers and equally discriminatory treatment from their coworkers.
And while other companies posted black squares and statements of solidarity, founder Andrew Chau posted a video on Instagram, and discussed an incident of inequality in the workplace. I personally watched this video when it was posted, and felt as if he was dodging his responsibility as the founder of Boba Guys. In no way was his statement transparent.
Li states that “After Chau posted the second video, confessions from former employees surfaced in the comments section, alleging anti-Blackness and general toxicity in the company. Boba Guys removed the second video — along with the accusations.” This rises the question on if Boba Guys really is transparent. Do they uphold their values? I’m afraid they may not.