WINTER GARDEN — Lucky Straws Boba Tea Cafe started as a place to pop in for a refreshing drink, but a community has formed there whose visits can last for hours and sometimes get a little intense.
James Nguyen opened Lucky Straws earlier this year in hopes of creating a non-intimidating destination for young people to hang out. Since then, he has achieved that ideal, with the cafe becoming a hotspot for video-game tournaments.
Nguyen earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Florida and completed two combat tours overseas in the United States military, but when he returned to West Orange, he couldn’t find work.
So he decided to create his own job.
Looking back on his days at UF, he fondly remembered a boba tea cafe at which he was a regular customer.
“I realized that in Winter Garden, there’s no place like that,” Nguyen said. “There’s really no place for college-age individuals to actually go and have a meaningful conversation.”
Barnes & Noble had recently closed, Starbucks was too busy, and the library was too quiet, he said. And not everyone can or wants to drink alcohol at a bar.
With his college boba tea cafe in mind, Nguyen decided to build a fun, welcoming place for young people to socialize. The concept, Lucky Straws, became a reality in February.
The cafe can be difficult to find if you haven’t seen it before. There is no sign above the door, because Nguyen paid $1,500 to a sign designer who never followed through on the work order.
But there is one group of customers who don’t need a sign to know where they’re going. They pack the cafe every weekend for Super Smash Bros. tournaments. The couches, TVs and small stage contribute to the ideal environment for such an event.
“It’s a really good group of people, and it’s the best venue in Florida, for sure,” said Lucas Lamoureux, who has been participating in the tournaments and streaming them online. “It’s really relaxing.”
The tournament at Lucky Straws has grown to about 30 consistent competitors who play at the cafe, in addition to others who join online. Some of the top seven players in the state have gone to Lucky Straws to play.
“Truly, this is not me at all; the community has done this,” Nguyen said.
WHAT IS BOBA TEA?
Boba tea, or bubble tea, is a craze that started in Taiwan in the 1980s and has since become popular worldwide. It is a cold tea- or fruit-based drink with tapioca “pearls” or different flavors of jelly cubes. The pearls or jellies are sucked up through an extra-wide straw.
There are virtually endless options when it comes to boba tea. Lucky Straws has more than 25 flavors, from strawberry to pomegranate, lychee to mango, almond to lavender and more.
IF YOU GO
Lucky Straws Boba Tea Cafe
13750 W. Colonial Drive, Suite 260, Winter Garden (in the Publix plaza)
HOURS: 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
EMAIL: [email protected]
Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].