By Emily Glory Peters
You live in Los Angeles, so chances are you’ve been to a tea house before. But—you read it here first, folks—the best one yet just might be the newly opened Cup of Cha in Monrovia.
Barely two months old, Cup of Cha is the result of a lot of family support, some ingenious drink recipes, and what all successful entrepreneurs need: good timing. Not from the area, married couple Vivian Luu, a marketing manager, and Jason Wan, an architect, had visited Monrovia one evening for a double date with friends. It wound up being a night that changed the course of their careers.
“Monrovia was meant to be. We walked all over Myrtle Avenue, and Jason saw a vacant spot for a shop. It was so perfect, right in the center of everything,” Luu reminisces. The couple deliberated if they were going to take their dream of opening a tea shop seriously. “He said, ‘We’re only young once—let’s do it!’” says Luu.
Within a matter of weeks, Cup of Cha began to take shape. Luu worked frantically in her home kitchen: testing, tasting, adjusting until she had a suite of enviable drink selections. Her family and friends had been her guinea pigs, but what would the general public think?
One glance at Cup of Cha’s five-star rating on Yelp will give you the answer. When we visited, Luu surprised us with multiple offerings, including Wan’s prized O.M.G. (orange juice, mango and green tea with mango star jelly) and her personal favorite, the mind-numbingly delicious Signature Brown Sugar with organic whole milk, custard pudding, creamy top and warm boba. (She simmers the boba in huge batches until it reaches the perfect gooey texture to contrast with the cool creaminess.) Each drink tasted, to put it simply, special—a reflection of Luu’s personality. That, and the fact that she and her husband care about what they’re putting into people’s bodies.
“A top priority is to offer organic ingredients, quality tea, nothing overly sweet or artificial,” Luu explains, noting that her worst nightmare is having her customers experience a drop in quality. Service is important to the Cup of Cha staff, ready with recommendations and willing to make adjustments. “If the customer comes back with a drink and they don’t like it, we ask them how to improve it otherwise we refund it,” she says. “We’re here to serve you, not to give you headaches.”
Accessibility is important too, like providing customization to everyone from diabetics to vegans to those with food allergies or intolerances. Out the door, a drink—with a larger-than-average pour including all the toppings—typically clocks in at a reasonable $5.
“We wanted to offer something with more exotic flavors but still affordable,” Luu says. “The recipes are a little more complicated, so they take a moment longer to make—but it’s worth it.”
For Luu, coming into her own as a shop owner was arguably predestined. Originally from Vietnam, Luu’s family first started coming to America in the 1970s, ultimately opening a string of successful restaurants. Luu recalls her parents working grueling hours to keep the businesses afloat, noting that her father—an avid tea enthusiast and collector—warned her against going into the food business. But after years in corporate marketing, she succumbed to what she loved.
“He told me it would be tough, but I think it’s in our blood. And I’m thankful to have so much support from my sister, the knowledge and experience from my aunts and uncles and parents,” says Luu, noting that she’s unafraid of competition. “My husband and I put in 100 percent, always trying to master our craft. And we definitely can’t blame the location—because if you can’t make it here, where else can you make it?”
Indeed, their spot on Myrtle has been ideal. When it launched in 2019, Cup of Cha was the only tea house in Old Town Monrovia—but competitors have since opened nearby. Yet customers continue to come, and in typical Monrovia fashion, provide neighborly advice on how to improve Cup of Cha experience. As with her recipes, Luu listens and adjusts, introducing minor but meaningful changes like free Wi-Fi, student discounts and a spacious back area in the back where folks can study or just mingle.
“I came from Vietnam where every village is very close—we did business in the front yard and we knew everyone,” she says. Monrovia, with its tight-knit neighborhood and supportive customers, reminds her of home. “The environment here is so inviting and involved—being here has brought out who I am. It’s a great feeling to be in Monrovia.”
Though conscious of the pressures of entrepreneurship and competition, Luu is similarly thankful for being able to wake up and create every day. So when you stop by (and we know you will), make sure to say hi to her for us—and definitely order the Signature Brown Sugar.
Cup of Cha is located at 521 S. Myrtle Avenue in Old Town Monrovia. To learn more, contact the Cup of Cha team at www.cupofchateahouse.com | 626.775.4227 and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @cupofchateahouse.