Brew Coffee Lab to bring boba and coffee to Main Library


Madison Bratley/The Daily Northwestern

Brew Coffee Lab will be moving into Brewbike’s former location.

Alex Perry, Development and Recruitment Editor

Main Library visitors will soon be able to pick up boba-filled ube lattes or lychee-jellied calamansi juice to sip while studying, thanks to campus newcomer Brew Coffee Lab.

The Des Plaines-based coffee shop — which offers bubble tea, coffee and pastries — is opening its second outlet next week in the space formerly occupied by Brewbike, which shut down in August after failing to complete its latest round of funding.

Brew Coffee Lab has postponed its opening date multiple times, but founder Japhlet Arañas said details will be ironed out soon and the shop is “99% ready to go.” It expects to open next Monday and will host a pop-up stall on Norris University Center’s East Lawn on Thursday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Both independently and minority-owned, the shop was founded in 2019 as a brick-and-mortar outlet called Brew Coffee Lounge. After converting to a grab-and-go in the Des Plaines Metra station, Northwestern will be its third home. Despite the number of bubble tea shops in Evanston, Brew Coffee Lab will be the first outlet to open a location on campus. 

Arañas said he thought about expanding when a Compass Group representative invited him to tour the library’s vacant space late this summer.

“The most beautiful part about it is the fact that the person that was part of Compass who reached out to us was actually a customer of mine,” Arañas said. “It was really a blessing in disguise that they chose us for all this.”

After touring the space, Arañas immediately sent a follow-up email confirming his interest in opening a Brew Coffee Lab location in the library. Within two weeks, Compass got back to him with an offer, giving him less than a month to set up shop. 

Despite the quick turnaround — Arañas remembers it as less than a month between him touring the space and the first day of school  — he said he’s confident in the upcoming launch because of his shop’s unique offerings, such as the “Mitski:” a vanilla chai with lavender and espresso.

“We have global tea that has unique cultural flavors that you will honestly not see in almost any place around here,” Aranas said. 

The menu boasts an array of Filipino-inspired flavors and includes items like pistachio doughnut lattes and white mocha Oreo “croffles,” which are waffles made with croissant batter. Aranas said he is also excited to introduce Brew Coffee Lab’s signature latte: a coconut and almond milk drink flavored with ube-sweetened condensed milk and topped with espresso.

According to the coffee shop’s student baristas, these new recipes have been exciting to learn.

“The menu is massive. The aesthetic is different,” Weinberg senior and Brew Coffee Lab barista Natalie Rarick said. “The bones are still there, but Brewbike is very much gone.” 

Many of the baristas previously worked at Brewbike. Though baristas have said the increase in menu items has presented a bigger learning curve, Aranas’s management has made the learning process smooth.

Former Brewbike employee and current Brew Coffee Lab barista Rachel Ruddy added that Brew Coffee Lab will still feel like a part of the student body because of the heavy student staffing, which was one of the former coffee shop’s appeals. 

“Northwestern students go hard for boba,” Ruddy said. “I think the new spots are gonna be pretty popular with just how much it has to offer.” 

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Twitter: @WhoIsAlexPerry

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