ThirsTea Cafe has been many Birminghamians go-to source for their boba tea cravings for over six years. They started at their 280 location in Inverness Plaza, and things really ramped up when Hugo Anguiano acquired the store three years ago with a vision of serving boba excellence across the entire Magic City. ThirsTea has been expanding quickly since–opening their first food truck last year, a booth at The Pizitz Food Hall this year, and construction on two now-secret locations already in the works. 

Hugo and his wife Delanie have dedicated their last few years to serving the best teas in Birmingham, along with raising their two kids–but they’ve had family and community to support them along the way. Hugo’s aunt was actually the one who bought the store from the original owner, and eventually asked him if he’d be interested in taking over. “We have been coming here since Tam first opened the store so it just seemed perfect,” Anguiano shares of the couple's thoughts on buying the business.

Hugo hadn’t worked in restaurants growing up, he was mostly working with his dad on various hands-on labor projects–but he jumped into learning the food and beverage industry with an entrepreneur’s ambition. They couple was already passionate about ThirsTea’s delicious menu, and quickly got to work ensuring that their products were the high-quality experiences that Birminghamians deserve.

“Our tapioca is the best,” Anguiano shares, “I have to brag about that because no one else has tapioca like us in town. It’s fantastic.” They get it from Boba Guys in Hayward, California–led by business leaders and boba experts that Hugo personally looks up to. Anguiano even went out to California to learn more about everything that goes into the tapioca creation experience. “I saw the process and how everything was done,” Hugo explains. The tapioca combined with the Tara milk tea is a customer favorite–one of their many impressively expansive flavor options for milk teas, fruit teas, smoothies, and slushies.

They’ve also continued the ThirsTea tradition of selling simple, yet highly-satisfactory grilled cheeses–which many customers plan their days around. They get their bread from local favorite Birmingham Breadworks. “We try to keep everything as local as possible,” Hugo shares, “Mr. Brooks does some very good work.” They are excited to bring waffles back to the menu around August, and are currently having fun experimenting with different “bubble waffle” flavor options. 

They’ve put a huge focus on community, with an impressive collection of board games ready to liven the atmosphere at any moment. ThirsTea also hosts a book club, a monthly Cars and Tea meet-up, D&D sessions, and a movie night every other Monday. They also host occasional K-pop birthday celebrations and similar events, which Hugo says is always a fun time. “We always want people to come in here and have a very good time. That’s the reason we do the events,” he shares, “That’s the reason we always have board games. It’s a place where we want you to come enjoy your tea first of all because it’s delicious, and then sit back and not have to worry about anything else in the world except just to hang out with your friends and play some games.”

When the ThirsTea truck arrives, everyone’s day gets a little brighter. Image from ThirsTea

 Hugo’s previous work experience, and the actionable love shown by his family, came in handy quickly. They repainted the original store while adding walls and benches, then had two murals painted by a wonderful local artist. Hugo’s father then got to work creating the very beautiful food truck that is now a year old. “My fantastic dad did everything,” the entrepreneurial son shares on the truck, “He did a killer job at it too.”

The ThirsTea team was looking at expanding back in 2020, but when the pandemic hit they needed time to focus on taking care of their family while shifting to pick-up and delivery orders to keep serving the community around them. Now they are coming back in full force–with the Pizitz location being the first step. “It’s fantastic. I have a great team out there that took very good care of us to start everything,” ThirsTea’s owner shares, “The customer base up there is really good. We have a lot of UAB students which is really cool.” They are currently in the construction phase on two other stores, and aim to eventually have 10 locations across the Magic City.

For all the growth they have planned, the Anguianos are certainly happy with the boba and grilled cheese loving community that is already found around them. “We want to thank them a lot. If it wasn’t for them we would not be anywhere close to as advanced as we are now,” ThirsTea shares of their supporters, “Hopefully we can see this culture keep going. There’s a lot of people who haven’t tried boba. That’s my goal–is to let everybody try boba.”