If you’re a fan of beverages that go beyond merely offering hydration, and you like the idea of sustainable practices, local business owners Amy Truong and Lani Gobaleza just may be – and have – your cup of tea.
Truong and Gobaleza are the co-founders of PARU Tea, a specialty store and tasting room that highlights loose leaf tea and modern blends.
The couple run PARU sites in Point Loma and La Jolla, offering dozens of distinctive teas that customers can learn about and try in-store.
The ultimate goal: Getting people excited about making tea at home.
Gobaleza acknowledged that there “are many fantastic cafés in San Diego” but that she and Truong “really wanted to bring a specialty tea shop that offers a thoughtful and educational retail experience” to customers.
“The more people do this, the more they’ll pay attention to the quality of the tea they’re purchasing – where it’s from, how sustainable it is and how to prepare it,” said Gobaleza, who added that loose leaf tea can be 10 times more sustainable than tea bags.
Both Truong, whose family is from Vietnam and Gobaleza, whose family is from the Philippines, were born and raised in the United States, but the two have traveled extensively around the world, including their ancestral countries. They say their travels helped shape their desire to help connect and support family-owned farms abroad.
Gobaleza, born in Guam and raised in San Diego, is a writer and teacher who studied history at the University of California at Berkeley. Truong was raised in Torrance, worked in strategic account development and operations and majored in International Business at UC Irvine.
Partners in Business and Marriage
The couple, both 32, married in 2020, a decade after they first met in Japan. They opened the original PARU location on Cañon Street in Point Loma in 2017. The La Jolla site on Girard Avenue opened in November 2021.
“Rather than opening a quick-service café, which certainly has its own appeal, we really wanted to create a space for individuals who are curious about learning more about tea or deepening their appreciation for it,” Truong said.
Truong personally crafts and blends PARU’s teas in small batches.
Among their bestsellers are Blue Chamomile, an herbal tea featuring butterfly pea flower from the town of Sa Kaeo, Thailand; Pandan Waffle, a green tea blend inspired by Truong’s favorite childhood dessert; PARU’s house-milled matcha called Ceremonial Matcha 32; and black and oolong Okinawa Sugar, with a malty character and a sweet, biscuit-like flavor.
“I personally develop all of our blends in our tea lab,” Truong said. “Our blends are mostly inspired by nostalgic memories and my desire to showcase blended cultures. I think a lot of first-generation children can relate to feeling like they’re in between cultures, and although it’s typically associated with conflict, I wanted to present it as something beautiful — like tea blends.”
Truong said the Blue Chamomile was inspired by her mother making chamomile tea for her.
“I made it blue because I wanted to make it a little bit more interesting,” she said. “To make it blue, we used butterfly pea flower, which we source directly from a specialty farm in Chiang Rai.”
She said she developed an herbal tea to pay homage to Gobaleza’s Filipino heritage, “a blend called Ingat, which means ‘take care’ in Tagalog. It’s our spin on ‘salabat,’ a traditional ginger tea.”
Although the foundation of PARU Tea was largely bootstrapped, they received support from their growing community — more than 200 backers on Kickstarter — to help open their second location.
Originally started as a pop-up, PARU now also includes an online store that ships internationally. Customers both domestic and abroad can purchase monthly subscription boxes, tea flight kits, loose leaf teas, teaware and merchandise.
And PARU still has unique pop-up events, like seasonal tea-inspired kakigōri – a Japanese shaved ice dessert flavored with syrup and a sweetener – with Kuramoto Ice, a Japanese company.
Sustainable sourcing is a primary focus at PARU. Truong and Gobaleza share the role of sourcing directly from popular tea-producing regions like Guangdong, China, and Kyoto, Japan. But they also bring in products from lesser-known tea-producing regions, including Nara in Japan, Phin Ho Village in Vietnam, and Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Truong hopes to introduce more people to the growing tea culture there, especially when it come to green and oolong teas. The two have also sourced ingredients from the Philippines, including ginger root from the province of Batangas, to use in their blends.
“As a Filipino American who grew up in Southeast San Diego, representation in these small ways is impactful and rewarding,” Gobaleza said.
FOUNDER: Amy Truong
CO-FOUNDER: Lani Gobaleza
BUSINESS: Specialty teas
LOCATIONS: Point Loma, La Jolla
CONTACT: (858) 750-3888
NOTABLE: The married couple first met in 2010 while studying abroad in Japan, when both attended a university in Yokohama.