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New York has a surplus of new fast casual restaurants opening with Chinese influences: Junzi Kitchen, The Tang and Bào Tea House, to name a few. When the latter opened it's first location in April 2018, the to-go spot serving sweet and savory bao (two and a tea for $9.50) became a favorite amongst NYU students, for its good deals. At their Times Square, which did a soft-launch earlier month, owners, Alyas and Alven Scofield, alongside partners Chen Huang, and Renk Dong, hope to make Hong Kong-inspired baked Char Siu buns as ubiqitious to New Yorkers as the bagel. At their second iteration, new flavors include fried fish bao and rose pudding versions, alongside reprises of crowd favorites like the "Lava Bào" made black with sesame and their pork bun.
In addition to tasty bites, Bào Tea House's packaging is stylish; breathing holes that bring to mind athleisure, allow the steam to release, ensuring more freshness. Small design details like these reflect owner, Alyas Scofield's other passion: running a fashion line he calls Tap to Edit.
Here, we speak with the restaurateur about food, fashion and loneliness in New York.
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1. What made you want to start Bào Tea House?
I started Bào Tea House after my clothing line [which is called Tap to Edit]. I lived in Beijing for 15 years as a foreigner and I personally love Chinese food. I want to internationalize the varieties of Chinese flavors and textures I love, so more people like me can enjoy it. Bao, or bun, is a traditional Chinese staple, but my team and I decided to adopt some western baking techniques to create a crunchy texture that appeals to a broader audience group. Another major part of our brand is tea. Chinese tea is well-regarded. High-quality tea not only wakes one up, but is a healthy substitute for coffee. Bào Tea House wants to make the combo of our bao and tea as memorable as a combo of burger and soda, but tastier and healthier.
2. What do you think is the biggest difference of running a clothing line and running a food business?
Running a clothing line is on many levels similar to running a food business. But I see the biggest difference in accommodation. When developing the menu, we need to develop food that satisfies different groups' needs, such as vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, etc. Whereas in the fashion industry, I simply show my aesthetic through clothing, and people who share the same aesthetic can appreciate the pieces.
I've always been into fashion. I believe a good garment not only gives you a good appearance, but also has its own attitude.
3. Do you see a relationship between trends in the fashion and food worlds?
Fashion and food are both necessities for everyday life. To me, having a good taste in fashion is like having a good taste in food. A good piece of garment brings confidence, a positive first impression and sometimes luck. Good food, on the other hand, brings nutrients, energy and happiness. They are both choices that most New Yorkers make on a daily basis and these choices complement each other.
4. How did Tap to Edit come into fruition?
I started this brand when I just came to New York. New York City is a place that gathers all cultures in the world and everyone wants to be a part of it to seize new opportunities to grow. That is why I named my brand Tap to Edit, signifying looking for chances to change.
But as I got to know more people, I realized that they are not all happy. In fact, most of them come to New York alone looking for new opportunities, but sadly not all of them are on their way to succeed. That is why I designed my logo as a broken heart. Everyone here has a different story to tell, and that gives me the inspiration of putting these stories into the garments.
5. Each tag on individual garments is different, is that correct?
Stories include “I have returned the ring that I bought for her,” “I spent my whole life for what other people thought was right,” and “people still judge me because of my skin color” among 120 untold secrets sent to the brand anonymously.
Tap to Edit is a New York City-based brand founded in 2017. So far it is only available online.
Bào Tea House is located at 140 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012 and 578 9th Ave., New York, NY 10036.