‘This is everything for me’: Cousins bring family-owned Teabar Boba to Evanston


Beatrice Villaflor/The Daily Northwestern

Teabar Boba is located on 809 Church St. and opened Feb. 14.

Beatrice Villaflor, Reporter

Cousins Mahmoud Qishit and Adam Alnouri are not typical 21- and 19-year-olds.

Instead of splitting their time between studying in the library and partying, they just opened their new bubble tea store, Teabar Boba, in downtown Evanston.

“We’re trying to bring something new here,” Alnouri said. “We’re not franchised. We’re family-owned — we’re not like all those big companies.”

Located at 809 Church St., Teabar Boba does not just serve bubble tea. The store also offers Turkish coffee and smoothies as well as small snacks like crepes and fruit salads. Unlike other bubble tea stores, Teabar Boba closes at 11 p.m. most days of the week, and 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Qishit said he dropped out of college in 2021 to open Teabar Boba with Alnouri. The cousins first took jobs in bubble tea stores to learn more about the industry. 

Now, Alnouri said he’s attending online school while managing the shop. He said that balancing the two workloads was difficult at the beginning, but still marked an improvement from 60-hour workweeks in the service industry.

“I was tired of working for people,” he said. “I’ve worked in five different restaurants. Worst experience of my life.” 

Katie Schultz and Daniel Salazar came all the way from Rogers Park to try Teabar Boba. The pair said the shop’s “cute” environment stuck out to them.

A milk tea with tapioca is located in front of a Teabar Boba sign.
Teabar Boba, as the name suggests, sells milk tea — but also blended fruit drinks and Turkish coffee available to order. (Elisa Huang/The Daily Northwestern)

The store is full of pink details, from the seating and walls, to the cherry blossom-clad paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. Salazar said he loved the tapioca mural on the store’s left wall. 

“I want those chairs in my apartment,” Schultz added, pointing to yellow and pink armchairs by the storefront. 

Alnouri said he and Qishit painted and installed the majority of the decorations themselves. 

They curated the decor to differentiate themselves from other local bubble tea spots, Alnouri said. 

“If you go to Joy Yee, it’s just white tables and white walls. And Happy Lemon — this room is bigger than the whole Happy Lemon,” Alnouri said, sitting in a built-in alcove along the store’s right wall. 

As for the menu, Alnouri said the highlight is the blended fruit drinks made with fresh fruits every day. Customers can customize their drink flavor from the shop’s list of 27 ingredients.

Schultz ordered an iced matcha green tea milk tea. 

“It’s really sweet,” she said about her drink. “It kinda reminds me of the matcha from Starbucks – it’s not bad.”

Salazar said he was disappointed to discover the milk tea was pre-made. As someone who does not drink dairy, he said that the inability to modify his drink with milk alternatives dampened his experience. 

He ordered a blended fruit drink made of blueberry, raspberry and mango with tapioca instead, which he said he liked. The best aspects of the store are its environment and late closing time, he said.

Contingent on the success of their Evanston location, Alnouri and Qishit said they hope to open more stores.

“I’m trying my best here,” Qishit said. “This is everything for me – it’s my future.”

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Twitter: @beatricedvilla

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