One of the most interesting things that has come about this year is the rise of student-run and (loosely, at least) UR-affiliated Instagram accounts. They span from silly creative endeavors — for instance, the new Pet Rocks of Roc account — to platforms for student discourse — the prime candidate being the infamous UR Confessions. However, some students have chosen to utilize this uptick in social media engagement to their own financial advantage. Enter T5Tea.

T5Tea is a student-run bubble tea shop that does all their business in-house (in the Tiernan 4 (T4) kitchen) that caters to students, faculty, and staff. The students who run the business are a group of five first-years who all live on T4: Everest Galbraith, Michael Michielli, Jack Carmen, Kibin Kyeong, and Tyler Walter. Their advertising is all done on social media, their hours are posted daily on their Instagram bio, and their ordering process takes place over Google Forms and Venmo. 

When I heard about this concept, I couldn’t help but be both interested and mildly unnerved. How is it that a group of first-years could create a food service program running solely through campus facilities whilst following Reslife guidelines? How did the idea for this business come about? And, most importantly, is it any good?

I took a deep breath, shot an order over to the T5Tea boys, and made my way over to Tiernan Hall, as orders are pickup only.

The tea itself is honestly pretty good. There aren’t many options — currently, they offer matcha, mango, and Thai tea — and there aren’t any ways to adjust your orders for those with dietary restrictions or personal preferences on ice and sugar content, but what they do have is a product that tastes how bubble tea should. While the price seems steep, when you take into account the fact that this is a student-run startup, it’s pretty reasonable. Every order is also packaged with a little T5Tea-branded sticker that has their Instagram and Venmo handles, which adds to the endearing small business feeling. 

After trying the tea firsthand, I interviewed the team to get a better understanding of the process and history behind T5Tea. Here’s what they had to say:

How did T5Tea come about?

A member of ours had a craving for bubble tea one day. Tai Chi is the closest spot, and we realized it was either a 60-minute wait with a $10 delivery fee, or a long hike to College Town. We thought about how many people felt the same way, so we decided to bring the tea to campus and make it easier for everyone.

How did you acquire the materials in order to make the tea/packaging (for example, the stickers)?

We use a reliable bubble tea distributor to get all of our materials. But for the stickers in particular, we use a different website and customize them ourselves. We figured that would be an extra touch our customers would love, which is why we give a free sticker with every order.

How did you determine what price you were going to sell everything at?

Our competitors sell their drinks at around the same price when including tax (without a delivery fee), so we figured we could match that with the convenience that we bring to the students on campus.

How much did it cost to start up the business, and have you made a profit? If so, do you have projected earnings for the end of the semester?

It cost nearly $300 to get all the materials we needed to start with. After being officially open for only a few days, we’re close to breaking even with a revenue of almost $250.

Do you plan to start providing delivery options?

We still need to figure out the logistics of our delivery system. However, we sometimes offer delivery upon request, usually when the whole team is available to work the operation.

What are your plans for T5Tea next semester and moving forward?

We plan to come back even stronger next semester. Hoping that the COVID[-19] rules will loosen up a little bit, we will be able to set up our own table on the quad and sell to students walking by.

Why did you choose to run a Google Forms for deliveries?

We found Google Forms to be the most convenient way students can order their tea, attempting to replicate apps like GrubHub as best we could. Having the link right in our Instagram bio makes it easier for the students to place their order and convenient for us, as we all have access to the form and know when we get an order.

Do you have ResLife permission to be running this business/have you run into any issues with using the kitchens?

We have created a legal document which incorporates rules from both the Employee Code of Conduct and the New York State Health Department. We are strictly following these guidelines to run our business and have also looked into the Student Code of Conduct to ensure we are in compliance with all rules and regulations.

Do you have anything upcoming to promote?

Due to popular demand shown by an Instagram poll, we have a new Taro flavor coming in soon. As we continue to expand our business, we are always open to new suggestions and finding out what our people want.

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