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DUSDAC discusses adding Quickly Tea House to Merchants on Points

Quickly Tea House, a local bubble tea vendor, visited the Duke Student Dining Advisory Committee Wednesday hoping to join the Merchants on Points program. 

Jackie Zhou, owner of the Durham location of Quickly Tea House, discussed this prospective partnership with DUSDAC members at a Wednesday meeting. The 26-year-old said she promised her parents that she would start a business in 2016, drawing inspiration from her wish to improve Durham’s bubble tea offerings. It took Zhou two years to start her business and find a location. 

The Durham location of Quickly opened in the storefront previously rented by Locopops on Hillsborough Road. The restaurant served its first bubble milk teas in December 2018 after a long marketing campaign that targeted Duke students.

“The soft opening was marketed very heavily on Facebook and social media,” Zhou said. “I tried flyering around Duke for a while. I look like a student, so I can pass off being on campus.”

Committee member Allie Rauch, a junior, complimented Zhou on the campaign’s widespread success and visual appeal. Zhou responded that although the company has only one branded logo, she personally designed all other logos in this marketing campaign.

Quickly is technically a “licensed business,” which gives its branch owners a lot of freedom in how they operate their stores, she explained.

“It’s similar to a franchise, but without as many stringent rules or as much support." Zhou said. "How you make the tea, the recipe that you use, the way that it looks inside, the customer service—that’s really all up to the owner."

Zhou has made an effort to capitalize on this freedom throughout the short lifespan of her business. She has a secret menu of her own flavors of tea, and she has a special recipe for her bubble tea—more tea and about 75 percent less sugar than Quickly’s standard recipe calls for. This makes her tea taste much stronger than tea with a typical amount of ingredients, she noted.

“When Quickly moved to America, they thought, ‘Americans like sweet things.’ So they upped the sugar,” Zhou said. “I don’t like sugar, and when we did our soft opening, we found that a lot of other people didn’t like the sugar.”

This came as a relief to Zhou. 

“I was like, perfect, I’ll just make it the way I like it and we’ll be good,” she said.

Quickly offers teas with even less sugar, as Zhou mentioned that customers can drink most of Quickly’s teas with no sugar at all if they want.

Zhou said that she gets all her ingredients from Taiwan—an expensive and time-consuming process—and that Quickly makes the tapioca pearls for its tea two to three times a day. But the extra effort is worthwhile to make bubble milk tea the right way, Zhou said.

In other business

DUSDAC decided on the four food trucks it plans to invite to its third annual Food Truck Rodeo: Soom Soom Pita Pockets, Sympathy for the Deli, KoKyu BBQ and Arepa Culture.

Robert Coffey, executive director of dining services for Duke Dining, discussed the idea of renaming Cafe Edens. DUSDAC Co-Chair Ethan Kwok, a senior, was enthusiastic about the news, agreeing with Coffey that the Cafe should officially go back to its old name, Pitchforks. Several DUSDAC members said they agreed with Kwok’s opinion.