Christian Pina, Allegra Cisneros and Gerald Aguilar are regulars at BYOB and come to drink and hangout at least twice a week.

BYOB, revolutionizing the way you drink.

Not beer, Boba.

To most college students BYOB is an agreed upon acronym for “bring your own beer”, to Thomas Liu it has a much different meaning. Liu, student at University of the West in Rosemead, Calif. and married, with two kids at just 23 years old, is the owner and creator of BYOB West Covina. BYOB stands for build your own boba and it’s not your typical boba shop.

Liu, the mastermind behind the whole new way of drinking boba, didn’t always have BYOB envisioned in his life plans. Liu had planned to join the Army, but three days before he was supposed to leave he had a change of heart. He met a girl. Not just any girl, this girl would turn out to be his wife and the mother of his two sons — Logan, 3, and Chase, 5 months — in a matter of a few short years. His wife, Jasmine Yip, 22, assisted him in starting up his boba career. After they had been dating for a while Liu had the idea for the two of them to sell boba together at a local swap meet. He knew of a few friends who were doing that, and it intrigued him.

Growing up, Liu and his friends were always hanging out at local boba shops so he was very familiar with the boba culture. Liu and Yip, the dynamic duo, set up shop at the Nogales swap meet where they quickly met success, while running their competitors out of town. Their boba tent was known as “The Spot” by the local swap meet goers. The Nogales swap meet serves people of primarily Hispanic descent, and it excited Liu that he would be able to share his boba with a larger demographic. “I was inspired to bridge the connection between various cultures,” Liu said.

After doing the swap meet for a while Liu wanted to expand. In 2013, he built an app where people would order their drinks and Liu would deliver the drinks to them. This is where the name BYOB originated and solidified. Liu’s delivery service was based out of San Gabriel, the city he grew up in and currently lives in.

Once his delivery service was up and running he would deliver up to 100 boba drinks per day. He even delivered drinks all the way to Diamond Bar, which is about a 40 minute drive from San Gabriel. People from all around the San Gabriel Valley wanted his boba. Liu eventually grew tired of all the commuting and sitting in the notorious and inevitable LA traffic. He needed a place to call home for his boba. The search for a permanent location thus began.

Liu’s search for a place lasted for a couple of years, and after being rejected by countless places for his poor credit, he was ready to give up. In a desperate and final attempt, Liu decided to take to Craigslist, because let’s face it, you can find anything on Craigslist nowadays, it’s quite scary actually, but that’s besides the point. Craigslist had the miracle that Liu was searching for and through the website he was able to get a lease for his current location in the Hong Kong Plaza in West Covina, Calif.

Wilson Liu, Thomas Liu’s younger brother, is one of the few family members that helps out at BYOB. Photo courtesy of Christian Pina.

BYOB has been at its current location for two years now and is growing every single day. It’s a chill hangout spot that gives off an outdoors vibe as the walls are covered in greenery. When you walk inside it’s as if you’ve actually walked outside. “I wanted to give the shop a backyard feel, like you’re in someone’s backyard because the theme is BYOB,” Liu said proudly.

Photo courtesy of Christian Pina.

BYOB has a unique menu, with all individual tea options, toppings and different types of blends, they also have a menu of “inspired drinks” that were created by regular customers. The creativity lies in the hands of the customer and the possibilities are endless. Liu not only wants to inspire people to “build your own boba”, but overall to build your own success, build your own path in life, to be creative as possible. BYO — ,fill in the blank. Boba is just the beginning.

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