Angel Zhao ‘25 has a loaded schedule — she’s currently studying for the MCAT, completing a Biology major, working on an art history minor, and learning guitar and keyboard. But on top of her school workload, she’s also the owner and manager of Angel Tea, a beautiful, brightly-lit restaurant and tea shop on Moody and Taylor. 

“I’ve always been interested in business,” said Zhao in an Oct. 1 interview with the Justice. As a sophomore, she decided she wanted to find a way to make enough to pay her tuition, both at Brandeis and eventually in medical school. In 2022, an opportunity presented itself: a boba shop she’d frequently visited went up for sale. 

Zhao wasn’t a stranger to creating her own recipes. She had successfully participated in the craft market as a first-year at Brandeis, where she’d sold her homemade boba. “People loved it,” she said. “During that, I found people who were very interested in creating stuff — it’s so authentic, and was very inspiring.”

With help from her parents, whom Zhao described as “super supportive,” she went all in on buying the space in the summer of 2022. It wasn’t always an easy process. “We’re first-generation immigrants — we moved to the US from China when I was twelve,” she said. “I’ve always been in charge of reading the bills and translating, and I have to look out for every detail because if I don’t, we could miss something. It’s a hard part of it, but I really enjoy it.” 

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Rows of bubble tea line a counter at Angel Tea.

Zhao said she’s now made enough money from the shop to pay her current tuition. When she’s not studying or in classes, she’s there: going through mail, working on the taxes, handling bills and orders, and other technical issues alongside working at the front desk. “My parents designed the menu,” she said. “It’s all authentic, homemade Chinese food. The drinks I came up with -– I’m a huge boba fan.” Currently, she said, she’s working on a “Sparkling Series,” and perfects the teas by inviting her friends over to do taste tests. 

Zhao also said her friends have been instrumental in creating the business. Over the summer of 2022, they helped her paint the interior of the store. “Initially I had a completely different design, but then I realized that it was over budget,” she said. “I’d designed it to be a vibrant environment because I like to create new things, try out new things, and feel excited, and I want the space to echo that.”

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A delicious sponge cake cooked by Amy Zhao, hitting the Angel Tea menu soon.

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Zhao's friends, pictured, pose with her under the logo they helped paint.

Though she carries a sketchbook wherever she goes, Zhao said she didn’t have much time during the year to do as much art as she’d like. Still, her art is an integral part of the shop: one wall is covered with many original black-and-white drawings of the places she’s been on her travels, and she also designs the restaurant’s colorful graphics and logos. “We’re looking for student artists to sell and display their work, too,” said Zhao. 

One of Zhao’s favorite parts of running the tea restaurant is the people she’s met along the way. “I’ve been able to form a connection with other businesses, like Game Underground – the businesses here are really supportive of each other. If we get business, it's more business for everybody … so much of it is about building community.”

Despite all her accomplishments, Zhao is just getting started. “I’m working on the plan for how people can invest in the shop, and I can open new locations in Boston. By the time I start med school, I want to have someone managing it for me — it [the shops] will be my source of income … I always feel so happy when I see people holding Angel Tea cups. My vision is to see people in Boston holding the cups, too.” 

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Zhao poses with a shipment of products for the shop.