Southeast Missouri State University student publication

What’s the “tea,” Cape G? New bubble tea studio opens in downtown Cape Girardeau

Friday, November 12, 2021
Photo by Jowairia Khalid

Machines whirling, cups clanging in the sink, customers chatting and music playing: your ordinary scene at Mana Tea, a new bubble tea studio in Downtown Cape Girardeau.

Between seven days a week at his full-time job at Custody Analysis, working toward an online master’s degree in business administration and owning his small business, Steven Phem has his hands full.

Phem said his secret to managing his time is writing down everything he needs to do for the day.

“I try to write down as much [work] as possible. I use reminders and other apps. I start with whatever the first thing I have to do is, and I keep going down my list,” Phem said.

Luckily, Phem does have help from his girlfriend, who manages his business when he is not there.

International business major Soma is Phem’s girlfriend and helps run Mana Tea part-time. While she manages the business, Soma said she still has homework and other assignments to finish.

“When we are not busy, I will start studying. But there are times when I’m not free and don’t have time to study,” Soma said.

Phem is a first-generation immigrant from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Phem said he always had a passion for business and owned a coffee shop in Vietnam.

“The coffee shop was located in Ho Chi Minh City. The coffee shop was located on the rooftop of a 17-story building,” Phem said. “On the rooftop, we served coffee, and there was a bar, as well. You could see the whole city from up there while enjoying your food and beverage.”

Phem came to the United States in 2015 to study finance at SEMO. After he graduated, he became an underwriter at a mortgage company. It was during the pandemic when Phem thought of opening his own business. He said it was his dream to open a coffee and boba shop.

Phem said Mana Tea’s products are organic and imported directly from Taiwan or shipped to Mana Tea from within the United States.

To prepare bubble tea, Phem begins by choosing which type of tea to brew. Brewing the tea takes approximately an hour; then, Phem makes sure the tea is at the appropriate temperature before adding flavors, fruit and milk to the tea.

Phem said he is starting with a small target in the local area first to find out what people enjoy.

“I’m going to start from the bottom to the top, and I think it's better to just focus on a small target right now. I want to test the market in Cape first, and the people love coffee here. If you try something new, people try it,” Phem said.

Phem said he plans to expand his business to the St. Louis and Kansas City areas if the business goes well in Cape.

Besides bubble tea, Mana Tea will serve food like dumplings, pho and Vietnamese sandwiches.

Due to delays related to COVID-19, Mana Tea has not had their grand opening yet but are open for business.

For more information on Mana Tea, visit their website.