Full names: Karim Hemsi and Sara Hamou
Roles: Owners and founders.
DOBs: 25.08.1976 (Karim) and 27.06.1984 (Sara)
Birthplaces: Turku, Finland (Karim) & Warsaw, Poland (Sara)
Twitter Handles: @chewtea
Fun Fact: We’re often found Eating kilos of popcorn in the cinema even after a big meal.
AFAIK you’re the only guys who’re doing bubble coffee around here. Where did the idea come from initially, and what’s the experience been like so far… getting from inception to your first store? Could you talk us a little through the process, and how you came up with the name? Could you tell us your first bubble tea experiences?
Our first bubble tea experience happened a few years ago….we were holidaying in San Francisco when we stumbled across many small tea shops in china town, where we experienced a few hours of detailed tea tasting of different brewed teas. This was such a great experience for us, as we love tea, and after finishing our tea tasting we then stumbled across a bubble tea shop. At first we felt a bit intimated to try it as it was a product we’d never heard of – however as we love tea so much we decided to go ahead and try it. ..
It was love at first sip (and chew), and we fell in love with the whole ‘chewing whilst drinking’ concept. After our holiday, we went back to our jobs, but the experience never left us. At the office it was very common for everyone to be drinking coffees at their desks. It was one day after work when we went home and, sipping on our teas, thinking; ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had some tapioca in there….’
Could you elaborate a little upon how you guys actually make your bubble coffee? I’m fascinated by the tapioca pearls and how difficult it appears to be to keep them ‘chewy’.
We have carefully selected our espresso beans which provide that creamy and full bodied coffee taste, we then grind our coffee to a perfect grind to ensure that texture matches that of a bubble tea, we came up with four different types of bubble coffee, our original which is our plain milky bubble coffee, hazelnut, caramel, vanilla and mocha. The tapioca takes a few hours to make and it takes a lot of TLC as you have to continuously monitor it and ensure it is being cooked at the right temperature. All our Tea Masters understand the perfect texture of the tapioca to ensure we always serve the best.
You offer 3 options on temperature, from full ice to no ice – what is it that makes some of your teas or coffees more suited to being served on ice. I’m sure some work better at warmer temperatures too?
We believe in personalisation as we like to offer our clients their perfect bubble tea or bubble coffee to suit their taste. Bubble Tea is originally served cold and with ice, however, as we do not live in Tropical weather we have customised our recipes to ensure that should the client wish their tea or coffees with less ice or no ice or hot it can be done.
Suppose I wanted to make my own bubble coffee at home, would it be at all practical, and what would I need to go about it?
Everything is possible, so therefore it could be done, however we have to warn you it could take a few hours, as the Tapioca will need over one hour to cook, and you would need to brew your tea which could take up to 20 mins or grind your coffee to that perfect creamy and full bodied taste. It would be difficult, however if you are determined to learn our Tea Masters here at CHEW can always teach you 🙂
What’s it like being a husband and wife in a working partnership. How (or do you?) do you divide work and marital life?
The best way to answer this is communication and respect, we have really good communication and understanding for each other, which is important I guess not only in a marriage but in any partnership. We respect each other and that makes it much easier when dividing work and home life. At times of course it is difficult but we try to stay positive and motivating.
What are some of the most memorable responses you’ve had to your bubble tea & coffee so far? Does it take a while for people to ‘get’ it, or is the process of enlightenment instantaneous?
We have had one customer that drank our bubble coffee in less than a minute and said that was the best iced coffee they have ever had and apparently he was a iced coffee fanatic, and we have had a gentleman in his 80s trying bubble tea for his first time and he loved the whole chewing experience which made us smile. Some people get it instantly and some people need time, it is quite a new experience and therefore it takes some educating as well.
What’s the process of coming up with a flavour like? Is it an ongoing process? When I was there I saw Karim tasting quite a lot of the flavours as things went on…
Its a bit of a hit and miss with flavours, you really have to know your flavours to understand which will compliment the tea base you will be mixing with. It is an ongoing mixing and brewing process to ensure we make the right brew and the right mix with it. It’s amazing how sometimes a minute difference for a brew can really change the taste!
Is healthy bubble tea or coffee an option? Is it possible? You served mine without sugar on request (which I thought was delicious), though as I understand it, it’s pretty high in calories from the creamer?
Yes there are options, we sweeten our teas and coffees with fructose, and you can choose whether you wish to add fructose or not. We add creamer to our milk teas and milk coffees, which is a great choice as we use a lactose free creamer, also the tapioca pearls are gluten free.
Is there a way to get all the pearls out of the bottom yet? Seriously. I don’t know if this is truly possible or if my technique requires some refinement?
That’s a good question, yes next time you try it, make sure that with every sip of your tea or coffee you tactfully ensure you get a tapioca in there.
What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome so far and what did you learn from it?
Learning to not over think and understanding the importance of simplicity. Life is already too complicated.
What do you guys enjoy most and least about what you do?
We enjoy training our staff and reliving our passion with them. The least is probably when we see people very reluctant to try out the drink, it hurts!
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
And then there’s our three customary ridiculous questions
If you could hire any musician, fictional or real, live or dead, to become a Chew brand ambassador and put on a gig to raise awareness, who would you pick and which of their songs would you choose as your anthem?
We would hire Michael Jackson to be the and it would have to be ‘You Rock My World’ – such a great song and he has some really good moves that would be great with him holding a bubble tea or bubble coffee…
If you could invite any famous fictional/real royal (so any King, Queen, Emperor etc), living or dead, to come to Chew and sample your entire range of drinks for a few hours and then hang out in the shop… who would you pick, what would you serve them and why?
Catharine of Braganza – as she became known as the tea drinking queen and I would serve her our original chew assam as its like the British Tea with a twist.
If the army donated a fully functioning tank to Chew (and paid all it’s fuel and ammo expenses for perpetuity) what would you do with it?
We would take the tank out on the streets, and fill it up with Tapioca and declare free Tapioca day and shoot it out all day…yummy.