When RawASF opened this past February in Milpitas, its owners weren’t expecting rapid-fire growth. And they certainly never imagined that their newly-launched line of smoothies would start selling out on a daily basis.
“We really had almost no marketing. And we never announced any kind of grand opening. But the demand is more than we ever anticipated. It’s all been by word of mouth,” said co-owner Catherine Trinh.
By serving plant-based smoothies and acai bowls, RawASF is offering something truly unique and much-needed in the community. All ingredients are natural and mostly organic.
“We don’t add artificial stuff,” said co-owner Quan Nguyen. “There’s no ice or fillers in our smoothies. We use high-premium quality ingredients.”
Photo Courtesy of RawASF
Despite the almost instant popularity of their superfood cafe, the opening of RawASF was born from a tough period in its owners’ lives.
Over a year ago, Nguyen experienced a strong case of acid reflux after a meal. Later that night, he couldn’t sleep; his heart was pounding like crazy.
When he went to the doctor, he was told that he had a heart irregularity, and was at risk for heart disease. His blood pressure was also very high. Working as the Vice President of Technology for an ecommerce company, Nguyen had been subjected to ongoing stress, and knew that if he didn’t change something right away, his health and wellbeing would severely decline.
The doctor gave him only three options: get on medication to combat the high blood pressure, undergo surgery to get a pacemaker, or shock the heart into working properly again.
Not satisfied with any of those options, Nguyen decided to quit his job and set out on a spiritual, mental, and physical quest. He needed answers; he needed to find the right path. And he knew in his gut that Western medicine wasn’t it.
“The universe works in crazy ways,” said Nguyen. He spoke of how his search led him to Los Angeles, where he connected with Herman Siu, a fifth-generation Shaolin Monk. Siu’s father had been Bruce Lee’s mentor, and Siu had grown up alongside Bruce Lee, which gave him the opportunity to witness the martial arts icon’s evolution.
“Herman has a special skill where he reads energy,” said Nguyen. “He just observes you and understands everything about your health. Within the first two minutes that he sat down with me, he asked: ‘Can I be transparent with you?’ He said, ‘You have a heart condition.'”
Siu’s keen observation blew Nguyen away. He hadn’t told Siu anything about his heart, yet the man just knew.
During that session, Siu gave Nguyen advice on what foods to eat and which ones to avoid. He told him to stay away from animal products and anything too acidic; he also told him to consume tons of greens.
Nguyen followed Siu’s suggestions and adopted a plant-based diet. Within weeks, he saw improvements. He felt lighter, and he had lost some unnecessary weight that his body had been holding on to. Blood tests also showed his HDL and LDL levels normalizing, as well as his calcium and protein levels trending upward.
Photo Courtesy of RawASF
“My wife Catherine went plant-based too,” said Nguyen. “Converting to a new lifestyle, especially plant-based, is hard by yourself. And when we got on this new diet, we saw that we couldn’t find that many options nearby. That’s what inspired us to create RawASF.”
Nguyen’s wife, Catherine Trinh, is the genius behind the smoothie recipes on the menu.
“One secret, though? I’m not a good cook,” said Trinh. “I did bartend when I was in college; they called me a mixologist. I just like to make drinks, but I’m not good in the kitchen. I can barely cook rice.”
Trinh had double-majored in Sociology and Psychology. Early on, she had decided that she wanted to be a Family Therapist. However, her career path took a turn when she decided to attend law school. She worked in the legal field for seven years, before quitting her job, around the same time as her husband, to put all her hopes and dreams into building their new business.
Trinh, who feels that she has finally found her true passion, spoke of their business model, which is built upon a foundation of transparency.
“We want all of our customers to have a right to know what they put into their bodies,” said Trinh. “That’s why we put labels on our food with all the ingredients.”
Photo Courtesy of RawASF
This unique touch is one of many at RawASF. Lots of customers speak about not wanting to throw their cups away, as they’re so beautifully designed.
Co-owner Gabe Lumagui, whose background is in fitness and personal training, mentioned that before they opened, they gave a lot of thought to the design of those cups. “When we first started, we knew we wanted people to share their cups. I used to work at Starbucks for four years, and noticed that people love taking pictures of cups. So Quan designed them for us.”
Before going into business with Nguyen and Trinh, Lumagui was working as a Master Trainer at City Sports. He had just turned 30 years old. And he had always told himself that when he turned 30, he was going to start his own personal training business. However, it just so happened that the day after his 30th birthday, Nguyen, who’d been a neighbor of his in San Jose before moving to Milpitas, called him on the phone and asked if he wanted to go into business.
“He told me had a crazy idea of wanting to flip the whole culture on its head and make healthy eating the mainstream,” said Lumagui. He said “yes” to Nguyen’s proposal, and within a couple months, he quit his job.
In the future, the cafe will allow customers to take home prepackaged cups with labels. Anyone who wants to make the smoothies at home on their own will be able to do so simply and quickly. “All of our ingredients will be in there, so people can order a whole month’s worth. Anybody who’s sick and tired of coming here, or seeing me every day can order a whole month’s worth,” said Trinh, cracking a smile. “You go home and since it’s already prepackaged and pre-portioned, you can just fill it up with liquid, throw it in the blender, and put it back in the cup to enjoy. It’ll last up to five or six months because it’s frozen.”
Trinh spoke of the fact that once something is frozen, there’s essentially a pause placed on nature. This pause allows for all vitamins and nutrients to be locked in to the food, so that once you’re ready to consume them, you’ll know you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
“If you buy any produce from the market, like berries, after two to three days in your fridge, throw it in the freezer,” said Trinh. “Then blend and eat. Otherwise you’ve already lost 50 percent of the vitamins and nutrients you think you’re getting. Our distributor has to flash freeze right away after everything’s picked. Once they flash-freeze, they pack in all the nutrients. So you’re getting all the nutrients that you’re paying for when you purchase something at our store.”
Photo Courtesy of RawASF
Along with offering pre-packaged, pre-portioned cups, the RawASF team has other big plans for the future. They’re about to launch a line of Nitro Coldbrew and Nitro Tea. All of it will be plant-based. They’re also planning on serving tumeric lattes, which promote clarity and focus by day, while promoting restful sleep by night. And soon after that, they plan to serve desserts and even food items, like vegan chicken and waffles.
“People ask us why we’re here in Milpitas,” said Nguyen. “And we’re here because we felt like our purpose was to serve the underserved community. We’re here to make healthy eating the new sexy.”
To learn more about RawASF, go to: https://rawasf.com