You could go to Made in Hope Cafe every day for a year and not drink the same boba tea twice. My daughter and I fell for boba teas years ago, and these imports from Asia get trendier here in Hawaii every year. Boba is said to have originated in Taiwan when street tea vendors started adding fruit flavors to their teas. Boba tea is also known as pearl tea and bubble tea.
Made in Hope Cafe opened as a Stir It Up Cafe in August 2016, and then gradually changed their name, while keeping the Stir It Up products. I sat down with owners Peter Selvey and Chris Kanemura to find out more about the tea craze and what the Made in Hope brand means.
“In the beginning we started as Stir It Up Cafe,” says Selvey. “Chris Kanemura co-founded Made In Hope nonprofit organization, to talk about human exploitation and work outreach with youth, and Chris and I used to go to the same church in Oahu. The cafe was a partnership with our friend who owned Stir It Up in Kahala Mall to provide some financial contribution to our community work with Made in Hope. But also to have a marketplace to meet people and families. The idea is to put your phones away and play board games.”
After a while Made in Hope bought out the Oahu startup for the Maui location.
“It ran for many months as Stir it up until their business was really growing in Oahu too, and it was going to be mutually beneficial to that we would buy them out,” says Selvey. “So now myself and Chris co-own the cafe. We want to keep going. The response has been fantastic. We are still serving the Stir It Up products–we’re all friends. So it’s Made in Hope Cafe featuring Stir It Up drinks. They did all the hard research on the recipes, and we want to honor that. There are a lot of people who are huge fans of their Kahala Mall location. They come here and we stamp their stamp card.”
The cozy cafe and their board games are some of the reasons my daughter and I stop by when wanting boba drinks and acai bowls. We like to sit and play Bananagrams, Boggle and any other word-related board games we can try. The drinks are a sweet treat but having conversations and playing a game away from devices and screens is it’s a special kind of refreshment.
If you haven’t ever tried boba tea, feel free to ask someone there. Amanda Selvey, Peter’s daughter, works behind the counter and knows a lot about the flavors. Basically boba teas are a base tea plus a flavoring, with boba or other add-ins. The boba are these marble size pearls made of tapioca starch that have a chewy texture. They’re delicious with tea.
“The jasmine green tea is more floral; the black tea, the lemonade, the milky teas with non-dairy creamers, those are your base,” says Peter. “The milk tea is a particular kind of black tea that’s specific for making the milk tea base. But the other teas are jasmine green tea and black tea. Then of course you have all the flavors that you can add to them. If you’ve never had boba tea, it can be confusing.”
Selvey says they recently streamlined the menu to make it less confusing. The menu is up on digitized screens on the wall, to the left you will find all the base teas and the flavors they come in–45 in all. To the right all of the add-ons. Drinks start at 25oz for regular at $5.95, larger versions at 32 oz go for $6.95 or mason jar size for $11 and you can get mason refills for $5. If you don’t love boba, there are 29 other things you can have dropped in your tea drink. This is a beverage with chunks of stuff that gets dropped in and you slurp it up through a straw. Some are even decadent.
“We usually point people to the Top Stirs Menu because that can help,” says Selvey. “If you like cookies and cream you will like the #5 with milk tea, crushed Oreo, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup with boba. Or you can create your own. We have a father and son in here twice a week and they create these complicated strange concoctions. It always throws me. They sit there and play checkers.”
If you look to the left of the register they have a menu called Top Stirs, those are the top 12 boba tea concoctions that are already tried and true. The strawberry bomb has strawberry black tea, condensed milk and strawberry jelly. The “jelly” on the menu are like little cubes of firm Jello type bits you can have in your tea, as opposed to boba. Then there is the “popping”-little molecular gastronomy derived balls of sweet flavors, lychee, mango, strawberry, etc.
I’ve taken to their acai bowls this summer, too. They come in a regular ($8.95) or large size ($10.95) and are filled with organic granola, banana, strawberry, acai, honey and blueberries. There is a tropical version that has pineapple and mango, or a chocolate version with Nutella, brownies and chocolate chips, for a couple bucks more.
The drinks sound unusual and even futuristic, but that’s the fun of it. The cafe also has a little gift shop with jewelry, totes and cookies that contribute to their nonprofit’s mission of improving human traffic issues and working with youth to educate and oppose exploitation. They also use a space next door as a community center for their outreach and they plan to expand another nearby space in the future into a bigger gift shop.
MADE IN HOPE CAFE
752 L. Main St, Wailuku