If you’re looking for a small, down-to-earth setting filled with chill music, an aesthetically pleasing interior and an assortment of popular Asian snacks, the new student-run and owned Novel Tea Cafe at 20 Hawley St. is the place to be.
With a unique menu and welcoming atmosphere, Novel Tea officially opened its doors this past April. The cafe is lined with rustic wooden tables topped with small potted plants and high bar stools for seating. It’s all overlooking a unique grass wall with the Novel Tea logo printed in bold letters, which is perfect for posting a picture to Instagram. Each menu item is handwritten on a hanging chalkboard along with small, colorful doodles of their snacks on the side.
Although the menu doesn’t feature full meals for lunch or dinner there are endless snack options originating from family homemade recipes. The owners suggest that new customers try the bubble tea, which was its first original menu item along with its dumplings. Vegans can also enjoy the bubble tea options since the cafe uses a nondairy creamer in flavors like black milk, coconut milk and mango milk. If you’re in the mood for something fruitier than a cream-based tea, Novel Tea serves different flavors of juice teas, including peach and green apple. The dessert menu includes authentic Japanese ice cream with unique flavors including red bean and green tea, plus Hong Kong egg waffles, which are round egg-based waffles.
Cody But, a senior majoring in business administration, utilized his entrepreneurial spirit and his own family’s background in the food industry to create the one-of-a-kind restaurant, which he co-owns with his brother, Alton But, who graduated from Binghamton University in 2012.
The brothers’ main vision was to create an eatery in Downtown Binghamton where students could socialize, grab a good cup of bubble tea and relax after class.
“[There aren’t many] things open at night being a student,” But said. “I moved here sophomore year … and then at night realized there’s nothing basically to eat around here, so I opened up a small cafe eatery.”
But said that Novel Tea is also a popular spot for the Asian community in the Binghamton area to hang out while having a place to eat that feels like home. They serve modern Asian snacks Downtown, while creating an urban-esque, New-York-City feel in the Binghamton area.
As a full-time student at the University, balancing academics and a flourishing cafe appears to be a daunting task for But. He said that the key to surviving the balance is a “little sleep and a lot of coffee.”
But feels that his establishment stands out from other businesses in the area.
“We don’t really cater to a full meal,” But said. “It’s people that just want to hangout. At night, we’re pretty popular in the sense that kids in the area, kids in different student housings, like to come here to relax and chill.”
Novel Tea may be just a few months old, but its popularity has been spreading around campus and the community. Although he’s graduating, But doesn’t plan to abandon his business anytime soon.
“I don’t intend to sell it because of how the school is growing,” he said. “The school wants to grow very big. There’s new student housing coming up and [U Club Binghamton] is building. I don’t expect to really stop.”