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The Lineup: Richmond's oldest bubble tea shop still popular, affordable

Richmondites have lots of memories of Peanut's Bubble Tea, which has been around for almost 30 years

The Lineup column explores Richmond businesses that have the longest lineups (or hidden gems), and the stories behind them. Have a tip? Let us know by emailing dxiong@richmond-news.com

It’s a good thing there’s a long alley outside Peanut's Bubble Tea at Richmond Public Market because there is always a long lineup.

Despite fierce competition as new bubble tea shops open up in Richmond – with new flavours being created all the time – this 29-year-old bubble tea shop is still going strong.

“I’m not sure if we were the first bubble tea shop in Metro Vancouver, but I believe we are the one that has lasted the longest,” the owner told the Richmond News.

Peanut's Bubble Tea opened in October 1994.

People can wait half an hour in line just to have a sip of their original bubble tea or dragon eye ginger tea, or to have a bite of their wheel cake – a Taiwanese-style cake in the shape of a wheel with various fillings.

“It’s a classic staple, no frills, very straight to the point, very affordable. You get bang for the buck – very good,” said Michael Nguyen who was lining up on a recent Sunday afternoon, waiting to order. He noted the prices haven’t changed much over the years.

Nguyen is visiting Richmond with his parents from Portland, Ore. Every time they come, he makes a point of coming to Peanut's to get a cup of Taro milk tea or an original Hong Kong-style milk tea.

“(The wait) is nothing. There are things that are worth waiting. I drove for five hours here from Oregon – I can wait a little longer for some good food,” he said with a laugh.

At Peanut's, a cup of lemon tea costs $3 and a cup of fresh mango juice costs $5, while the majority of milk tea shops nowadays sell their drinks for at least $7.

In addition to various tea and fruit drinks, it also has coffee, tofu pudding dessert and bean slush on the menu – people can customize their drinks by adding toppings such as pearls, jelly, rice balls, ice cream, beans and tofu at an additional charge.

For some customers, Peanut's Bubble Tea has been a permanent part of their lifestyle for years. Among them is eight-year-old Isabella Yip who has visited the shop since she was one year old, carried by her mom.

“I visit it every week because I like it so much, and I’ve been here since I was very little,” said Isabella whose favourite drink is green tea with Yakult.

“(The lineup) is not too long because I always play games and that passes the time.”

In 1994, the Wu family opened Peanut's Bubble Tea after immigrating from Taipei, Taiwan, according to a short documentary that’s part of “A Seat at the Table,” a recently released exhibit that showcases stories of Chinese Canadians in B.C.

They started a yogurt house at first and three months later, introduced bubble tea, a traditional Taiwanese drink. The family has kept the menu almost the same since opening.

“When you’ve run the business for more than 20 years, you will know (your customers’) orders by heart,” said co-owner Peiying Wu, in the documentary.

“When you take an item off the menu, perhaps you might feel that what if one day (a customer) comes and is unable to buy what he’s used to having, he’d be disappointed.”