By Jane Snyder
Even at three o’clock in the afternoon, which is usually slow time for restaurants, at 180°F Café groups of friends sit around mismatched tables laughing and chitchatting while sipping on their bubble teas. Scott Guo, the owner of 180°F Café, along with John Tang, the manager and head of public relations, strive to create an authentic and welcoming experience for college students and Athens locals in this “hole-in-the-wall” Taiwanese café.
Located on the intersection of West Broad Street and Finley Street, 180°F Café has become increasingly well known for their bubble teas, a sweet drink made with iced tea, sweetened milk or other flavorings, and tapioca pearls. But the café differs from other bubble tea cafés because of its kitchen aspect. Not only can customers come in for a refreshing drink, but they can also eat authentic Taiwanese dishes. 180°F Café opened last October to not only serve bubble tea, but also to expose Athens locals to foods they have never tried before such as Taiwanese chicken nuggets and fried Thai fish cake.
Colin Wahl, a sophomore from Alpharetta says, “I was not familiar with this type of food before I went to 180°F Café, and, being a picky eater, I was skeptical if I would like the food. However, the owner was very helpful in helping me pick something I would like, and the food and bubble tea ended up being great.”
Scott Guo brings more than 30 years of experience as a chef to 180°F Café. He previously owned several large restaurants throughout the southeast, but the size of the restaurants made them difficult for him to manage, especially in the bad economy. “Because of the economy, I could not do any good. Also the restaurant was huge, more than 5,000 square feet, which caused a lot of problems,” Guo says.
After taking a break from the restaurant business, Guo visited Athens and was inspired to fuse the idea of a bubble tea café and Taiwanese cuisine. With a smaller location and a simpler menu, Guo is able to prepare and cook all of the food himself while still overseeing his employees.
Unlike other bubble tea cafés, 180°F Café does not use machinery to make the bubble teas, and instead makes every drink by hand.
“We started as a bubble tea restaurant from nothing. We just bought cups, bought materials, and then just started making bubble tea,” Tang says.
In less than a year, 180°F Café has acquired a steady flow of loyal customers, who are attracted to the helpful customer service, flavorful bubble teas and small-scale management. Guo estimates that around sixty percent of his customers are consistent.
While small in location, 180°F Café has become a huge hang out spot for students and locals. “There are a lot of people who like to come here to hang out with their friends and a lot of times during the weekend they sit from opening to closing,” Tang says.
From the chalkboard menu to Guo working the kitchen and the cash register, the small-scale of the café is really what makes it so special.
“I think the small-scale atmosphere is the best part about the restaurant. Every drink is made specifically for you,” Tang says. “We go from start to finish. Pouring the tea all the way to when we shake it and pour it out. Everything is made just for the customer.”
What 180°F Café lacks in space, it makes up for in authentic food and great service. The café has become a favorite for many in the Athens community. Guo and Tang aim to continue to improve and expand 180°F Café while still maintaining the cozy atmosphere their customers love.