**UPDATE • 11/30/17 • 2:30pm: This morning, shortly after the publishing of this article, Rabbit Crew released a statement on Facebook stating that this Sunday, December 3rd, would be their final day of service. We reached out to Dominic, Rabbit Crew's owner, for comment and he stated that the store would be closing for personal reasons.
Sources close to Rabbit Crew informed DiscoverDTLA that the shop is closing due to its investors parting ways. The brand will, however, live on!
Have to say, we're sad to see them go!
One of our favorite establishments in all of DTLA is the hip, fresh and delicious coffee & boba milk tea shop, Rabbit Crew— located on Santa Fe and Sacramento in Arts District South. Founded by up and coming businessman and entrepreneur, Dominic Yip, we frequent the store often because of it's close proximity to our office and Rabbit Crew's clean and spacious interiors.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Dominic about the inspiration behind his latest venture and what brought him into the coffee / tea business. Truthfully, he had a lot of interesting details to share about tea and boba production. Here's our conversation:
What brought you to the coffee & tea industry?
I always wanted to be a businessman, it didn't really matter what it was. I moved from China to the States when I was 15 and in high school. There wasn't a good boba tea shop in my area. I realized, if i could import all the products from Taiwan or Asia myself, and track down better sources, then I could serve a better product in a market that needs better representation.
I worked as a barista through college and did some roasting for a company, which gave me some knowledge of everything. That's when I started to notice that there was something missing. A lot of coffee shops have great coffee, but don't serve good boba milk tea; likewise, good boba milk tea shops don’t serve good coffee. So, I opened my first coffee & boba tea shop in Cupertino 5 years ago. I've have been in the industry for some time now during which I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't.
Rabbit Crew is all the "good stuff" put together.
How is boba made?
It's a very closed industry and most shops import their boba from Taiwan. Obviously, the manufactures are not releasing their recipes, but in order to increase revenue they cut on quality. Boba that comes from Asia has preservatives and artificial food coloring in order to make the voyage. Boba is not originally black, it's kind of a translucent brown. It's black because of the food coloring that's placed into it.
Do you want to make your own boba?
Yes! We are working on that right now. It requires a lot of experimenting because in order to make the boba authentic, we have to import all the ingredients from Asia. Our goal is to make natural boba with natural flavorings and colors. Like a green matcha ball...
I already personally import a container with all the supplies I need for Rabbit Crew. However, we're not just focusing on Boba. We're keeping the coffee game strong, especially because here in the Arts District, the coffee industry is so competitive. We have to be good!
Anything special about the tea import business you'd like to share?
There are these cheaper teas that some of the companies sell. The strange thing about them is that they have a really strong flavor and aroma. For a long time I didn't understand why they would be so intense in flavor and yet cheaper than a high quality tea. Then, a supplier told me that a lot of companies use artificial flavor sprays on tea. For instance, jasmine green tea is made by smoking green tea with jasmine. However, some people use jasmine flavored spay instead.
Some can't tell the difference but the difference is clear. When you drink the artificially flavored tea it is really bright, but after you drink it the flavor is gone. Good quality tea has a strong aftertaste that stays with you.
Where are you from originally Dominic?
I'm from Hong Kong.
And how long has Rabbit Crew been open?
About 4 months.
Was it a hard process working with the city? How long did it take you to open?
It was a long process because the city is so strict and overloaded with applications. This building was built in 1960— which means that the city required us to do a lot of calculations on its structure.
Any inspiration behind your design?
A goal we had when designing the space was to make it perfect for events and collaborations. It's fun to collaborate with people and I think it's the best kind of advertising you can do. We wanted to create a space that isn't just one dimension. When people come here they don't simply get coffee or tea, they experience something else along with that. That's the main goal of the whole concept.
This space was an office that had been left trashed. In a way, that was great for us because we got to decide every detail. I'm not a designer but I'd tell the contractor what was important to me. I think natural lighting is always the best option. We opened up the skylights and cut the windows out in the front-- the front used to be just a brick wall and there was no skylight previously.
What brought you to Downtown?
I really like the culture here, especially in the Arts District. It's so different! The scene here is professional lifestyle and fashion based. I was also really excited to see how much the other side of the Arts District changed. It's crazy how everything has grown so fast. Hyperloop is already here, Warner Brothers Music Group is moving in next door and Soho house is coming next year.
Inspiration behind your food menu?
We don't want to overwhelm people with too many options; we try to keep it simple but rotate seasonally. Open faced sandwiches are featured on our menu. We've experimented with many different types but it seems like the poached egg avocado toast is a big hit in LA... so it has to be on our menu! Lol.
Are there any special items?
Personally, I love crab. I insisted that crab meat toast be on the menu. It's really good, fresh, and we don't use any imitation meat. It's like the owner's special.
Please describe the drink menu!
We're not trying to make the drink menu too fancy. We'd rather keep things simple and the quality as high as possible. We even spent a lot of time sourcing the beans! Traditionally, people were dedicated to dark roast beans; in recent years, people have been warming up to a fruity, bright flavored bean. Bar Nine in Culver City is the company that we use. Their beans are exactly what we want and originate mostly from Africa, so you can expect them to have citrus nodes.
As far as tea, we select all our tea with the same guidelines mentioned above. In most boba tea shops, they use artificial non-dairy powder creamers because it's cheap and easy to use. Here we'll mix your tea with whatever organic milk is your preference.
Your logo is cool. How did it come to be?
I wanted to create a brand that people would remember. I was born in the year of the rabbit so we asked the designer to create a bad ass rabbit that people could recognize on sight.
In what ways do you see the shop evolving?
I just want to serve the community, and for me, it's all about bonding.
Rabbit Crew • 1019 S Santa Fe Ave, LA 90021 • 213.935.8368