Meet – Mercedes Mapua Tea Mixologist
Mercedes is a Chinese-born immigrant raised in the Philippines who traveled to the Bay Area to study Industrial Design. She graduated from San Jose State University at the height of the 2008 recession but was able to find work as a UI (User Interface) Designer in the tech industry. She worked as a designer for 7 years. Mercedes became interested in Mixology while working at LG Electronics in Santa Clara and started to develop Teaquation after she left the company.
Teaquation is the first of its kind and is envisioned to be the new standard for how fresh beverages should taste and look. They serve hand-crafted, all-natural tea cocktails made from fresh fruits, pureed and squeezed daily out of their shop in Redwood City, CA.
What is Teaquation?
Teaquation is a unique tea cafe that serves hand-crafted, all-natural tea cocktails. Every drink is made from scratch with tea and fresh fruits.
Why did you decide to found Teaquation? What were you doing before?
Before starting Teaquation I was a designer for tech companies, but I had been wanting to start my own business for as long as I can remember. My husband and I used to drink a lot of boba tea and wanted to improve on it but couldn’t figure out how. Then, at my last tech job, I attended a mixology event and got the idea to create fresh new tea beverages based on the principles of mixology, without all the artificial flavorings and flavored syrups that are so common in boba teas. While traveling abroad, we also got the chance to taste a lot of unique beverages that have inspired many of our products.
Can you describe a typical day?
There are a lot of tasks involved in making sure the shop runs smoothly: brewing our teas, preparing and pureeing our fruits, making sure we have plenty of fresh ingredients on hand and keeping the shop tidy and clean. We get a lot of feedback from our customers about how clean and welcoming our shop is. We also put a lot of care into making sure every drink is prepared correctly and presented in a visually appealing way. We also interact with all of our customers to make sure their drinks are to their liking. If someone’s drink is not sweet enough, we want to make sure we sweeten it for them. Since we are still a relatively new cafe, we also talk to our new customers to educate them about what we do and what makes us different from everyone else.
What part of your work brings you the most joy?
I get the most joy from creating new drinks and learning new techniques. Also it brings me joy to hear from our customers how much they enjoy our products and how excited they are about what we do and what we bring to the community.
How do you come up with new flavor combinations?
Most of our drinks are inspired by real desserts or alcoholic cocktails. We also encourage our employees to contribute to new drinks and flavor combinations so it is truly a team effort.
What is your favorite drink? What is the most popular item on your menu?
My personal favorite drink is the Gold Digger, which is made from fresh pineapple puree, calamansi (Philippine lime), green tea and our house-made coconut whipped cream. Our most popular item is Orange N Black, which is our version of Thai tea. People enjoy it because it is not as sweet or heavy as the Thai iced tea you might get at restaurants, but it still has that familiar delicious taste.
What are the different types of people you coordinate with?
We try to source our supplies from local companies and support local businesses as best we can, from pastries to fruits and even our in-store technology. That means interacting with representatives from local businesses. We also try to support local schools and non-profit organizations.
How much food waste do you generate on a daily basis and what do you do with it? How do you minimize it?
We generate very little food waste and only throw out food items that have spoiled. Even then, it gets sorted into dedicated compost bins to minimize unnecessary waste. We also compost all non-edible portions (rinds, stems, leaves, etc.) of the ingredients we use. Additionally, we sort our trash and recycling by hand to make sure all recyclable containers and materials are actually going into recycling. We do everything we can to be environmentally friendly.
What is the funniest moment you remember while working at Teaquation?
A customer came in one day and told us that he was on his way to the hospital with his wife whose water had just broken, but his wife wanted them to make a quick pit stop at Teaquation for drinks before going to the hospital. Apparently getting a Teaquation fix was more urgent than delivering a baby!
Any words of advice for kids curious about how to mix fruit drinks themselves or how to open a shop with a unique food idea of their own?
Definitely stay in school and learn everything you can about chemistry and biology. The key to finding great flavor combinations is in the science. Being able to work with other people is an important part of opening your own business so definitely get some experience working for other people whose products and services interest you. You can get inspiration from almost anywhere but a big key to success in opening your own food business is providing something that is unique and different from what other people are offering. Most importantly, be passionate about what you do!