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The Pacific Northwest is a place where coffee is king with coffee being declared the official state beverage. But an Ellensburg couple is trying to change the culture a little bit or at least give people in Central Washington a variety.

Emmie Nguyen and Kien Tran opened Young T & Tea in the Elmira Building at 117 E. Fourth Ave. on May 16 and there has been a constant flow of customers ever since.

Bubble tea is a steady purchase, but they offer a variety of different blends and mixtures.

“A lot of people in town didn’t know what bubble tea is. Students already know, so we’ve been introducing bubble tea to the rest of the community,” Nguyen said. “People seem to like trying something different.”

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s and most commonly consists of tea accompanied with chewy tapioca balls. But it can be made with other toppings as well.

“We worked on our recipe for months, finding the best tea leaves for our brew, perfecting the sweetness levels and curating our flavor palette to match,” said Nguyen, who graduated from Central Washington University last year (2020) with a bachelor’s of science degree specializing in biomedical science.

“We serve iced tea, hot tea and other drinks that have flavors. I also have Chai tea too.”

What started as a hobby to bring classmates together grew into a campus household name. Nguyen and Tran have been making and delivering drinks since October of 2018 as a way to make a little extra money to pay rent and utilities. The idea just sort of steamrolled and with the safety requirements during the COVID-19, it turned into a business venture and now a place in the historical downtown district.

The pandemic derailed Nguyen’s plans to pursue a veterinarian career at Washington State University, so she explored other options and hobbies, which led to the concept of bringing tea to a coffee town, and thus Young T & Tea evolved from the creativity born of necessity.

The business will focus on beverages for the time being, but they do have plans to add a kitchen to the space. Tran is a chef, having worked in the restaurant field on the West Side for the past five years, and plans to serve Vietnamese/Thai meals are in the works.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at


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