Baylor alum builds community in Waco (and beyond) through cha
“Cha” is the Chinese word for tea — and for Baylor alum Devin Li (BS ’12), it is far more than a beverage.
A Chinese immigrant who moved to Texas at the age of 13 and eventually came to Baylor as a mechanical engineering major, Li could have gone anywhere to build his business and career. He chose to invest in Waco — and has been rewarded for his choice.
The fruit of his efforts is Cha Community (formerly known as Waco Cha), a downtown business serving Chinese and Taiwanese drinks and foods, including boba tea. A restaurant and community gathering place might seem like an unlikely career path for a mechanical engineering graduate, but Li felt the call after college to pursue a business that would allow him to work with people and help others achieve their goals. To that end, the mission of Cha Community became far more than serving drinks or turning a profit.
Along with his wife, Waco therapist Jaja Chen (BSW ’15, MSW ’16), Li envisioned a business that would build community as it introduced the tastes of his and his wife’s native China and Taiwan (respectively) to Waco. The idea is embedded in their mission:
“Cha’s mission and values flow from the idea that our company plays within the ecosystem of creating community,” Li says. “Our company’s mission is bridging cultures and creating community through premium boba tea and Taiwanese and Chinese food. Our values are community, diversity, and courage.”
That approach, along with their boba teas, dumplings and more, have attracted attention far beyond Waco. In 2021, Li was named to the Forbes “Next 1000” list, highlighting young entrepreneurs across the nation. He and Chen also recently opened up a second permanent location for Cha Community in Temple, Texas, 30 miles south of Waco. The couple has invested in the Waco community far beyond their business, and they are grateful for the support that’s been reciprocated.
“I tell my friends all the time that there’s no such thing as a ‘self-made man’; I really believe in ‘community made-man.’ It’s really the community that made us, the community that took us where we are, so all the credit goes to the awesome community,” Li says.
Sic ’em, Devin!