Cup49 makes DIY bubble tea a reality

By TILEAH DOBSON With Australia being a multicultural country, it was only a matter of time for Taiwan’s boba tea to make its way Down Under. With t...


With Australia being a multicultural country, it was only a matter of time for Taiwan’s boba tea to make its way Down Under. With the rise of franchise chains like Chatime, Gong Cha and Sharetea, bubble tea has become a popular beverage.

Prompting some health benefits through their various black and green teas, the customization and overall taste are why this beverage is immensely popular with residents, particularly university students.

Despite its immense popularity, the constant cost of buying one individual serving can add up over time. Thankfully, a rise of small businesses that can cater to the bubble tea need has emerged. One such local small business is Cup49.

Based in Melbourne, this small business is run by Serene Lim and was established in 2019 by Lim and her friend. Loving bubble tea but hating the plastic waste from the cups, Lim and her friend began their business by selling reusable cups.

“It all started when I saw the photo attached on Facebook of a large construction bin overfilled with plastic cups from various bubble tea brands. I love bubble tea and treat myself weekly but have never thought much about the consequences of my bubble tea addiction, until this photo,” Lim said.

“From our research, on average, a bubble tea store in Melbourne sells about 48 cups of bubble tea per hour. That’s 48 plastic cups, 48 plastic straws, 48 plastic lids and 48 plastic bags that will end up in our oceans or landfill. We decided on the name Cup 49 in hopes that our cup will be the 49th and forever reusable bubble teacup.”

What started out as a way to sell reusable cups, Cup49 has grown significantly. Photo: Supplied.

“We then expanded our range to DIY bubble tea kits because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were in lockdown and couldn’t get our bubble tea fix without breaking the bank. I remember uber-ing a single bubble tea and paying $15.49 for it! So I thought there must be a way for all of us to make bubble tea in the comfort of home, customised to our preference without going broke.”


What started as a small business had quickly grown into a bubble tea enterprise, largely thanks to loyal customers. A small team of nine, Cup49 aims to ensure people can get their delicious tea whilst keeping the planet cleaner.


Lim sympathised with university students who often spent money on bubble tea and encourages Western Sydney University (WSU) students to check out her website.

“I remember not having much money back in university and would have really loved a cost-effective DIY bubble tea solution. All those late nights studying for exams in the law library with massive uncurbed bubble tea cravings because there were no bubble tea shops near me,” Lim said.


Ideas for new products is a combined effort from Lin’s team and her community of loyal customers, affectionately nicknamed Boba Baes. While still working on getting halal certification for customers, Cup49 products are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. There are plenty of fruit teas available for those who cannot handle dairy as well.


Lim is continuously grateful for the support from not only her customers, but her team, family, and friends.

“We get heaps of support from family and customers. My dad folds our blue tissue paper, my mum helps with accounts, my in-laws and siblings help pack orders when we need the extra hand. My husband pretty much supports me in every aspect, mentally, physically, emotionally,” Lim said.

Cup49 offers two base teas for customers to pick and enjoy, Jasmine and Black tea. Photo: Supplied.

“We have the best customers ever; they’re always telling their friends and family about us and raving about our products on social media. You can see heaps of customer stories that we re-share on our Instagram cup.49. That’s not it, we’ve got customers who choose not to use a discount code just to support our small business. Like who does that!”

“It can get lonely and stressful running a small business yourself so I am so grateful to have the best support system.”

Lim’s large following on social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok has helped her business immensely. On her TikTok, she shows complete transparency with her followers on how orders are packed, what the warehouse looks like and even shows how to make various kinds of teas.

With bestsellers such as are Brown Sugar Milk Tea Kit, Ultimate Fruit Tea Combo Kit, Trio Popping Pearls and the one that started it all, Reusable Bubble Tea Cup Set, Lim and her team have a bright future ahead.

“I just find it interesting that we’ve been making tea, coffee, smoothies at home but making bubble tea at home only became a thing in the last 1-2 years. Now we have access to premium bubble tea ingredients with easy, quick recipes to make our perfect cup of bubble tea, wherever, whenever,” Lim said.

For more information about Cup49 or to place an order and support a small business, go to cup49.com.

Tileah Dobson is an editor for W’SUP and the news editor for the Sydney Sentinel.

P.S. If Cup49 wants to sponsor me, I won’t say no 😉


Jasmine Derbas: “It’s work away from work”

WSU student shares her experience of starting up a business during the pandemic....

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jasmine Derbas established a small art business. Jasmine is a fifth-year law and journalism student and works as a student curriculum partner for the Western Sydney University’s 21C Project. For Jasmine, her business is more than a source of income. It’s an outlet that inspires her creativity and develops her entrepreneur skills. Jasmine shares her experience of starting up a business during the pandemic. Interviewed by W’SUP Editor Shayma Abdellatif. 


Self-taught artist, Jasmine, established her art business in 2020. Photo by Jasmine Derbas.


  1. What type of business do you own and when did you start?

“I have an art business. I focus more on alcohol inks and resin works. I started playing with inks around last year, but I didn’t start the business side until this year. Resin and alcohol ink is really good because I can make a lot of homewares out of them …


“I do everything at home, and I usually post everything out myself. I don’t really have a particular space to work on art at the moment. We’re going to build a studio in my backyard because it’s getting quite overwhelming with all the stuff that I’m bringing in right now. My parents go like, ‘your art is everywhere’.”



  1. What motivated you to start your business? Did you receive any support to establish it?

“I always loved art ever since I was in primary school. My two aunties are high school art teachers and they’re very artistic and I adopted that when I was really young. I never did anything with it until I started a face painting business a few years ago. I really loved the interactions but my studies got in the way, and work got in the way, because I always had to travel out to go do the face painting jobs …


“Now, doing the resin art and alcohol ink art, I can do it all from home and everything is sent here, all my supplies, it’s a lot easier. It’s still time consuming but in a different way. I can work around the clock. My family is very supportive, they always help when I need. It’s more of moral support, I don’t really have them do hands-on stuff, or I’ll go to them for second opinions, friends as well.”

Resin bookmarks from Arts By Jazzd. Photo by Jasmine Derbas.


  1. How did COVID-19 and the lockdown affect your business?

“I think a lot of people are more on social media now, I feel like people are shopping more and looking at pretty things to add to their homes. I don’t think COVID has affected my business in a bad way necessarily. Maybe in getting supplies, it takes a bit longer to get things posted to my house. Because I’m studying and working from home, I get to work on business more. Sometimes I’m in class and doing some art while listening to my lectures. I’ll be able to compare it when COVID is over and the lockdown is over, because I started this during COVID.”


  1. What is it like running a business while studying at university?

“Overwhelming because I don’t have time to really do much, but I also look at my business as an outlet. I’m working setting in my room, and studying setting in my room. Being able to do something practical that I’m passionate about but it’s not as mind-boggling and I get to do it with my hands is good. I think of my business as an outlet more than a stress. My work with the Uni as student partner is flexible, so I don’t know how it’ll be when I get a 9-5 job as a lawyer or whatever I end up doing.”


  1. What are the main benefits and challenges of owning a small business?

“Benefits are that I’m doing what I love, I’m doing it when I want, how I want. I can run on my own timelines. That also runs into a challenge of when do you actually stop working. I am doing something I‘m passionate about, I love making art, I love being creative and I like that it’s something I can do when I feel like doing it instead of something that’s on full-time basis …


“The challenges are more about establishing a name, there’s a lot of competition. I ask myself, do I want to go viral or do I want to stay local. Another challenge is learning to do everything. You are the whole team as one person, you’re dealing with everything. The social media, the business, the packaging, you have to deal with posting, you have to deal with creating the actual product, making sure the quality is fine. You are the whole team and that can be a challenge, because you need to be able to know all these different skills and disciplines to allow your business to function. It’s not just selling a product, you need to establish a relationship online with your customers, build a website, and that takes a lot of time, effort and research…

“But I think it’s still rewarding in the end. It’s work away from work. There are challenges but I feel that overtime you get used to approaching a problem and then learning how to solve it.”


  1. What are new skills that you gained from your business?

“I learned alcohol ink last year. I learned to keep an eye on what customers like, I learned how order products, I learned that you really need a good communication platform and to show people what you’re doing. Moving with trends is also very important and I learned how to build a website.”


  1. Where do you hope to see your business in the future?

“I would like to see it the see it pretty much the same thing. Still working how I want, when I want, creating what I love. I don’t see myself growing into a mass company, that does mass production of artwork. I like to keep it small and local for myself and the people who appreciate my art. I would like to keep it on the side, I don’t want it to take over my studies and other work. I feel like if I do grow it to a point where it’s huge, then I will lose my passion.”

Resin plates from Arts By Jazzd. Photo by Jasmine Derbas.
  1. What advice would you give to other student business owners?

 “Expect to make mistakes. Nothing is perfect and you learn along the way. Believe in yourself, don’t doubt yourself and just start. If you have something in your mind, start it, what are you going to lose?”


Follow Jasmine on @artbtjazzd to view or purchase her products.


Non-essential essentials: COVID-19 sparking new conversations about mental health in hospitality

These unprecedented times have ushered in a renewed (and much-needed) conversation about mental health in hospitality. ...


Source: Happy Mag

Key topics: hospitality, customer, abuse, mental health.

The shutter doors were mostly closed, and the lights were just about to be switched off. A group of three suddenly appeared by the gap in the door.

“Sorry we’re closed for the day,” I said. Ignored as if I hadn’t said a word, they continue to step inside. After one more seemingly futile attempt, I repeat, “Sorry, we … are … closed …” speaking louder and clearer this time. Before finally walking out, I was met with a look of confusion at the fact that a café with most of the lights turned off, and the roller doors nearly shut could ever be … closed.

Imagine for a moment, that you could stare a person in the face, and mouth a phrase three times with their attention entirely on you – and yet continue to be ignored by them.

This is the reality of many hospitality workers in Australia. From those more invested in their phone conversation rather than ordering, to the occasional customer who threatens to stab you for failing to refund them 70 cents for the extra coffee shot that “you didn’t give them.” All in all, the experience of hospitality workers across this great land is filled with examples of encounters with morally repugnant human beings.

As humans, we tend to internalise and remember threatening or personally negative events and occurrences. This is an evolutionary adaptation designed to help us remember and learn from and respond to these experiences should they come again. In saying this, the good and honest folk who make up the bulk of café clientele are overlooked all too often.

Often in hospitality, young and inexperienced individuals are thrown into the deep end and expected to absorb bad customer behaviour naturally and without complaint. This often does not end well – mostly for the worker.

 Supportive cafés and management are needed

My experience, in a supportive, stable café environment, has helped me personally stave off the worst side-effects of continued customer abuse. Part of this has come from recurrently good experiences with my regular clientele – who are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. Another source of strength comes from family.

The mental health ramifications of customer abuse and the mental wellbeing of hospitality workers is a conversation that is desperately needed right now. It’s a dialogue that has remained suppressed for too long.

Anyone who has ever worked in a customer-facing role knows all too well that the customer is often wrong. That does not mean to say workers should provide poor service, indeed it amplifies the need for more effective communication and tailored service provision.

But what most customers fail to appreciate is that workers in hospitality (often poorly paid, over-worked, stressed and physically exhausted) experience abuse frequently. Sydney is notorious for its fast-paced lifestyle, this same lifestyle has fuelled a “rush-economy” that prioritises speed above all else. This includes our daily interactions with baristas, waiters and other hospitality professionals. We expect fast service, low prices and good food and drinks.

Only, quality takes time. The only options available to you, from our point of view, are:

  1. Good food, service and quality = expensive and time-consuming, expect to wait a little while, and you will get service with a smile.
  2. Bad food, service and shite quality = cheap, and quick, expect at least three hairs and a used Band-Aid as an added extra, absolutely free!
  3. Atrocious food, non-existent service, infinitesimally bad quality = very, very cheap, lots of abuse hurled AT you by staff, long wait times, a couple of pubes in your soup and coffee that literally tastes like ground dirt.

Realistically, of course, cafés will do their absolute best to provide you with a memorable experience.

A discussion that is sorely needed

COVID-19 has refreshed our national conversation about mental health. The state of mental health will likely deteriorate further for hospitality workers given the uncertainties regarding their employment. Our customers also face uncertain times as jobs are shed by the cart-load, and hundreds of thousands of Australians face the very real threat of unemployment.

During these times, I have noticed an upsurge in positive customer behaviour over the past two months. On a positive note, people have gone above and beyond to help their local. Small, yet meaningful changes, that extra smile, that little tip, the “how have you guys been” all make a change in our lives as workers in this field. Perhaps naively, I hope these dramatic circumstances will influence changes sustainable enough to affect permanent relational adjustment between workers and customers.

Maybe then some bad eggs will learn to listen to the narratives of the people they consider “beneath them”. You know, the very same people sustaining the economy right now. The non-important, under-appreciated non-essential, essential hospitality workers.


COVID-19 through the eyes of a pharmacy assistant

Pharmacy assistants are used to seeing it all, but nothing could've prepared anyone for COVID-19....
Pharmacy assistant with gloves at register, EFTPOS machine in cling wrap. Image: Stephanie Clarke

Pharmacy assistants are used to seeing it all. Ingrown toenails, fungal infections, burns, open wounds … you name it. Although no two days in pharmacy are the same, nothing could have prepared us for the Coronavirus.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a major impact on pharmacies and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Panic-buying of items such as products containing paracetamol, hand sanitiser, face masks and sanitary pads have caused extensive shortages.

The initial panic began towards the end of February, with customers rushing into the shop looking for two things, face masks and hand sanitiser. Due to the amount of people asking for them, we created a waiting list, which has now grown to around 300 names.

In mid-March, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced that pharmacists would only be able to supply one month’s worth of certain prescription medication. They also announced that certain non-prescription medication such as paracetamol, would be limited to one per person.

As the weeks went on, people were forced to become more resourceful, as most of what they wanted was out of stock. They began to stock up on isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel. Which, you guessed it, they were using to create their own hand sanitiser!

Sign explaining the one per person limit. Image: Stephanie Clarke

Tensions began to rise as we enforced the TGA’s limits. People became furious about the fact that they could no longer get multiple months’ supply of their prescription medication and that they couldn’t buy two boxes of children’s paracetamol.

The children’s paracetamol section. Image: Stephanie Clarke

Our pharmacy is located in a shopping centre and is next door to Woolworths. It became apparent that people were coming into our store to get items that they could no longer find in Woolworths.

We were unable to cope with this massive influx of customers, even though we began to limit in-demand items to one per person. Before we knew it, there were hardly any sanitary pads or toothpaste and no tissues, baby wipes or soap.

The sanitary pads section. Image: Stephanie Clarke

These uncertain times have called for safety measures to be put in place to ensure that staff members and customers feel safe in our store, they include:

  • No longer offering beauty services (makeup application, consultations)
  • No longer doing ear piercing
  • Removing all testers (makeup included)
  • Placing cling wrap on the EFTPOS machines and changing it hourly
  • Wearing gloves when on the register
  • More frequent cleaning of surfaces and baskets
  • Social distancing is being enforced (crosses marked on floor for customers to safely stand on)


Social distancing being enforced at the dispensary. Image: Stephanie Clarke

One of my colleagues, Sue Lewis, has worked in the pharmacy sector for 29 years. “I’ve never experienced anything like what is currently going on,” she told me.

“I’m not really very stressed about the virus, I’ve been trying to reassure myself that we’re going to be okay.

“We’ve got intelligent people in the area who are going to do the right thing and stay home and self-isolate,” she said.

As pharmacies have been classified as an essential service and are therefore excluded from being shut down, staff are confident that things will remain the same for a while.