Tiger Den Tea House in Highlands Ranch focuses on love of boba

Rachel Lorenz
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 5/9/23

A buy-one-get-one-free deal posted on Instagram resulted in a line out the door for most of the day for one local tea parlor.

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Tiger Den Tea House in Highlands Ranch focuses on love of boba


Vanessa Bui traces the genesis of Tiger Den Tea House back to her sister’s love of boba. Well, that and the entrepreneurial streak that runs in her family. 

“It started with Michelle’s obsession with boba,” Bui told Colorado Community Media. 

Her sister, Michelle Jankowski, is a fan of the chewy tapioca balls and the tea-based drinks they come in. Before the sisters decided to open their own shop, Jankowski regularly picked up a round of the colorful, cold beverages for herself and family members.

Now, eight months after pulling permits and bringing in an architect to redesign the former PDQ Print & Copy shop in Highlands Ranch, Bui and Jankowski have opened Tiger Den. The 1,500-square-foot beverage shop serves milk teas, fruit teas, smoothies, and alcohol-free mojitos with toppings like brown sugar boba and mango jelly. 

The tea parlor’s March 19 grand opening was “a lot crazier” than its founders expected. A buy-one-get-one-free deal they posted on Instagram to promote the special event was widely shared and resulted in a line out the door for most of the day. It was fun, if a bit overwhelming, Bui said. 

“Now we feel like, ‘Oh, we can handle anything,’ basically, if we could handle that night,” Bui said of the experience. 

Typical of new business owners, Bui and Jankowski are practically living at their tea house, coming in seven days a week to greet customers, manage inventory, smooth out their processes and train their 12 part-time employees. 

But long lines and even longer hours are not new for Bui. Before becoming a business owner, she worked for 28 years with the U.S. Postal Service. Jankowski was formerly a cosmetologist doing hair, facials and permanent make-up. However, the pair grew up in the restaurant industry where their mother, uncle and other relatives had worked for over 40 years, Bui said. 

Already the sisters are putting that familiarity with food to good use. They started out serving small bites like spring rolls, wontons and sweet pastries at Tiger Den but have already expanded the menu to include noodle bowls and fried rice plates.

“Our whole mindset was ‘Hey, we are going to concentrate on making our drinks — perfect that, but also complement it with a food side, too. … It’s a one-stop where you can actually get quality on both sides,” Bui said.

The sisters are originally from Vietnam but have lived in the Denver metro region since leaving a Malaysian refugee camp with their family in 1979. Jankowski currently lives in Littleton, and Bui is a Highlands Ranch homeowner. The pair noticed that Highlands Ranch — particularly the 80129 zone, Bui said — had few boba tea places. 

“We figured we can bring something new to Highlands Ranch,” Jankowski said.

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