World travels inspire GR Asian fusion and boba restaurant

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids restaurant invites customers to hang out while enjoy boba tea and Asian fusion food.

Toastn’ Tea — a name referencing two tea drinks being toasted — celebrated its grand opening in February 2023 in a strip mall at 2500 E Beltline Ave. SE near Lake Eastbrook Boulevard. It originally focused on boba tea, but has since expanded its offers to Asian fusion eats.

Owner Mai See Xiong said it was her travels before the pandemic that inspired the restaurant. South Korea was her favorite, followed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Toastn' Tea owner Mai See Xiong. (May 8, 2024)
Toastn’ Tea owner Mai See Xiong. (May 8, 2024)

“Before COVID, I got the opportunity to travel the world,” she said. “After that all the travels (were) canceled just because of COVID.”

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The pandemic gave her time to think about what she wanted to do next. She decided to open her own business, inspired by her family, who also own some businesses in town, and her travels.

“I just kind of wanted to bring all the things that I saw when I traveled overseas over to the Grand Rapids area,” she said.

Toastn' Tea in Grand Rapids. (May 8, 2024)
Toastn’ Tea in Grand Rapids. (May 8, 2024)

The menu offers food from multiple Asian countries, like the Vietnamese pho and Korean corn dogs, which are some of the restaurant’s most popular items. For drinks, Xiong said people particularly like the brown sugar milk tea, ube milk tea and the layered lemonade drinks.

The restaurant offers comfortable seating, board games and a photo backdrop.

Toastn' Tea in Grand Rapids. (May 8, 2024)
Toastn’ Tea in Grand Rapids. (May 8, 2024)
Toastn' Tea in Grand Rapids. (May 8, 2024)
Toastn’ Tea in Grand Rapids. (May 8, 2024)

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Xiong said she wanted to offer a place for people to hang out, especially for those who want something like a coffee shop but don’t like coffee.

“I wanted people to come in here and just enjoy themselves,” she said. “Whether you’re here to study or you’re here with friends, I wanted to create a space where people can come and just really enjoy themselves.”

Prior to opening Toastn’ Tea, Xiong worked at a corporate job. She said the transition from that to owning a restaurant was challenging, but rewarding.

“I was so used to the eight to five job,” she said. “(Now) I’m a really active owner, I’m here almost 24/7. I do all my social media … I’m the main cook, I come up with new recipes. It’s been hard, but … it’s really rewarding as well.”

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