Super Boba CaféIn Super Boba Café, the new graphic novel by Nidhi Chanani, Aria discovers that her nainai’s boba café doesn’t just have a café cat named Bao. Super Boba Café also has a secret… and it’s connected to something that lurks deep beneath San Francisco!

Super Boba Café is available now from Amulet Books. To mark the occasion, The Beat caught up with Chanani over email. We asked all about combining cats with natural disasters and boba, about the Bay Area locations included in the book, and of course, about her favorite flavor of boba! Have you had a chance to read Super Boba Café yet? Be sure and let The Beat know in the comment section.

AVERY KAPLAN: Can you tell us about the origins of this graphic novel? At what point did you realize cats, boba and natural disasters were a winning flavor combination?

NIDHI CHANANI: I was reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman in which there’s a London Below. While reading, the question popped into my head: What’s under San Francisco? My answer was a monster who causes earthquakes. From there I continued asking myself questions – who knows about this earthquake monster? How do they keep it a secret? I was drinking boba (or dreaming about drinking boba? It was many years ago) and I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a boba cat cafe. So that became my setting and I kept writing and building from there. 

KAPLAN: What was the process of designing the characters for Super Boba Café like?

CHANANI: I love this question! I love thinking about how my characters’ features communicate aspects of their personality. I struggle drawing normal-sized bodies. The art classes and instruction I’ve absorbed taught me how to draw thin. I wanted Aria to have a normal body type. I think I did okay, I want to continue to work on it. For Nainai, I wanted warmth but a little edge too. She has this fluffy hair but there’s some sharpness to her face. I also am very cognizant of the stereotypical representations of Asian American characters and I wanted to avoid problematic features. Aria is mixed race and I wanted her to be adorable, accessible and distinct. 

KAPLAN: Were there any Bay Area locations that appear in Super Boba Café you were especially excited to include?

CHANANI: Absolutely! I love San Francisco. I love Crissy field, the Golden Gate Park, Stowe Lake, the Conservatory of Flowers and so many landmarks. But I also love the city streets, the stacked victorians and the cable car lines throughout the skyline – there’s so much to love about the city.


KAPLAN: What about any other Easter eggs for which readers might want to keep an eye out? (I loved the bulletin board signs!)

CHANANI: Many of the easter eggs in Super Boba Café (also Pashmina and Jukebox) are personal to me. I put my kid’s principal in Super Boba Cafe and a lot of my friends. I put a chef that I admire in there, Preeti Mistry. Also there’s a poster at the Muni stop in the beginning of the book that makes me laugh. 

I drew the shop based on Boba Guys. Mostly I wanted to know what the back of a boba shop looked like! I was at the Palo Alto location and asked the barista there if she could take photos behind the counter and she kindly took great reference photos at different angles. I used those photos to design Super Boba Café interiors.

KAPLAN: Do you have any firsthand experience with earthquakes?

CHANANI: As a person who’s lived in California for most of my life, yes. Often. The biggest was when I was living in southern California in 1994, the Northridge earthquake. I still remember running to stand in a doorway in case the house came crumbling down. Luckily it was minimal damage but it was definitely scary!

KAPLAN: In addition to the literal monster in play, Super Boba Café also has a subplot about the monsters of social media. Can you tell us about what informed this subplot?

CHANANI: Parenting in the age of social media is terrifying. Phones in the hands of kids who do not yet understand the expanse of the world is a lot.  Specifically, conversations about how girls are pressured to share photos and do things they aren’t comfortable with at a very young age – younger than many of us want to think about made me want to address it in the book. But in a gentle way. I was careful and reserved about this piece. I didn’t want to trigger or upset anyone. An experience of inappropriate conduct can scar, so I didn’t want to put that into the book in a way that would open a wound or sting. 

Hopefully, it can give readers and educators an opportunity to talk about what exchanges are okay and how to deal with a friend who is pressuring you into something uncomfortable. 

KAPLAN: Does your creative routine vary when working on a longer graphic novel like Super Boba Café, when compared with a shorter work, like the books in your Princess Shark series?

CHANANI: Super Boba and Shark Princess, even though they’re different lengths, are pretty similar in terms of my daily routine. Making comics is marathon-like – as someone who’s only run a 5k, I say that with mild conviction. I try to draw at a measured pace, checking my progress every so often to make sure I hit the deadline. 

When I work on a picture book it’s different because it’s less about finishing pages at a clip and more about beautiful art. Although story is key in both – with comics there are panels that exist solely to move the story along. In picture books, every page must shine because there are far fewer pages. When I work on a picture book I’m not as focused on churning pages for deadlines, I’m much more focused on painting beautiful pages, even if it takes a day or two. 

KAPLAN: Can you tell us about where the names for the kittens came from?

CHANANI: I named some and the rest came from a Twitter ask – back when Twitter was a great place for that kind of thing.

KAPLAN: What is your favorite kind of boba? Is there any specific location that is your go-to for this treat?

CHANANI: Strawberry matcha boba from Boba Guys. 

Super Boba Café is available at your local bookstore and/or public library now.


  1. I just received a review copy of Super Boba Cafe, and it looks amazing! I love the art, and I can’t wait to read the story! I enjoyed her earlier graphic novel, Jukebox. I’m definitely going to recommend Super Boba Cafe to my youth services colleagues in my public library!

  2. continued asking myself questions – who knows about this earthquake monster? How do they keep it a secret? I was drinking boba (or dreaming about drinking boba? It was many years ago) and I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a boba cat cafe. So that became my setting and I kept writing and building from there.

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