Upon entering Dingle Berries coffee and tea, customers are greeted with a tray of pastel-colored drink samples. t’s one of the many ways that that the eccentrically named cafe brings hospitality to their customers’ experiences, says co-owner John Mark Reyes.
These samples could include such unique flavors as Whoachata, made up of horchata milk tea, activated charcoal and cheesecake foam, or the Dirty Nurple, which mixes their signature 626 ice coffee blend with ube cheesecake foam.
“The coffee world, the boba world, it’s very automated and robotic,” Reyes said. “You get ‘welcome-to-this-let-me-take-your-order.’ There’s no connection anymore. When we do samples, it creates conversation and it’s really nice to see. It’s not so rigid, it’s more inviting and human.”
Reyes opened the shop with the help of his co-owner and mother Victoria in 2015. Their focus on social media presence and aesthetics helped them gain attention from locals online and almost 12,000 followers on Instagram. Reyes and his mother were both working in a diner in Rosemead before opening up shop, and as such Reyes felt that he had an understanding of what the community wanted.
“The [San Gabriel Valley] we feel, is the boba capital of the world now.” Reyes said, “There’s so many boba places here so you really have to stand out.”
He recounted the process of differentiating Dingle Berries, from selecting their decor, currently a Palm Springs inspired tropical look, to their eccentric name, a play on a coffee called Civet that they considered selling.
“It’s defecated by a cat that lives in southeast Asia.” Reyes said. “It’s considered a specialty novelty coffee and costs a ton of money to even be served. But the animals are treated very inhumanely so we opted not to do it.”
Reyes considers the shop a family business and employs his father and siblings. Together, they concoct and agree on creative new additions to the menu. Their boba drinks contain several uncommon ingredients, including horchata and pandan extract. Although their tea selection may seem exotic, Reyes said their food aims to be more “familiar” to their customers’ palettes.
“We wanted to do something a little bit heavy. Some LA Fair type food.” Reyes said “So we have the holy crap which is deep fried butter and jelly. We have grilled macaroni and cheese [sandwiches]. We wanted something a little more guilty pleasure.”
In contrast to their food and boba offerings, their coffee is more focused on “balance” according to Reyes.
“The 626 is the staple SGV inspired drink, it’s inspired by Vietnamese style coffee but with a twist of — I guess American — in it because it’s cold brewed.” Reyes said, “It’s strong, sweet and bitter, it’s a nice balance. Balance is really our staple as far as coffee goes.”
Besides Los Angeles culture, Dingle Berries’ menu is also inspired by current food and drink trends. Recently, they introduced a line of “after-dark” drinks, which include activated charcoal.
“It’s supplemental and it looks cool.” Reyes said “We consider it balancing as far as taste. I can’t speak for everybody else but for us it has a lot to do with the taste.”
Another recently introduced product is their rainbow-colored stainless steel boba straws, which they introduced in an effort to reduce plastic waste.
“In the future we might go eco-friendly a lot.” Reyes said “I think that has to be done to encourage other small businesses to do that. In the long run it’s more sustainable.”
While Reyes said that working with family is challenge, he feels that they’re in “a good place right now.” He expressed his appreciation for their popularity on yelp and social media as well as with their regulars in the community.