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Sensational Sips — Filipino Flavors at SEA and Beyond

February 21, 2024

When Max Heigh opened Neighborhood Bubble Tea & Coffee at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in March 2023, it was an opportunity to share his Filipino American heritage with an international audience. Heigh and his family have managed various airport restaurants over the years and own Seattle restaurant Stone House Café. He grew up running through the airport terminal when he would accompany his mother to work.

“Growing up around food and beverage, I knew at some point I wanted to open something with Filipino influence,” he said. “The majority of my team is Filipino as well so it just felt right.”


Tropical tastes

“The thinking behind Neighborhood is we wanted people to walk in here and experience the ethnic-style flavors we serve; something that is more exciting for people than a caramel latte or a vanilla latte. We’re excited that we get to offer this at SEA,” Heigh said.

The café specializes in coffee, milk teas, and snacks with Filipino and Asian influences and offers heritage flavors that will take your tastebuds on a tropical vacation. Can’t decide what to order? Learn more about the signature drinks and Asian-inspired flavors that are sure to mdecorativeake your time at SEA a little sweeter.

  • Milo tea — This crowd favorite is made with a black tea base and topped with Filipino chocolate powder and marshmallow cream. Designed to be an eye-catching experience, it’s also called “the potted plant” because it is served with a little shovel and mint leaf on top
  • Ube latte/milk tea — Made from a sweet potato grown in the Philippines, these popular drinks feature a house-made ube syrup and rich purple color. Ube tastes rich and nutty and like vanilla
  • Black sesame latte/milk tea — Black sesame originated in Japan and is popular throughout Asia. It offers a creamy, nutty, and rich taste
  • Matcha latte — finely ground green tea with sugar makes a delicious green latte with a slightly grassy and bitter flavor and has documented health benefits
  • Pandan latte/milk tea —  Pandanus amaryllifolius is a spiky tropical plant that is grown specifically for its aromatic, deep green, lance-shaped leaves, which add a milky, toasty taste with hints of vanilla and hazelnut flavor
  • Vietnamese iced coffee — strong and flavorful drip coffee sweetened with condensed milk 

Want to make your drink next level?

  • Top it off with flavored cream like ube, pandan, or marshmallow
  • Bring on the boba: Add chewy bubbles made from tapioca starch, simmered in brown sugar syrup for a sweet taste and dark color

Beyond the in-house offerings, Heigh highlights beloved smaller local brands in his cafe. Here are a few favorites:

  • Umani Kushi —  Savory baked Japanese goods from Rainier Beach
  • Black Pinay — Local Black and Filipino-owned small-batch soy coconut wax candles
  • Fulcrum Coffee — Espresso drinks feature Seattle-based coffee roaster

Pop up power

Heigh, founder of restaurant group Heigh Connects, operates Neighborhood café as an Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, which is a small for-profit business that:

  • Is at least 51% owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged or, in the case of a corporation, in which 51%of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals; and
  • Is managed and operated daily by one or more of the socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own it

Neighborhood launched as a pop-up at festivals and events during the pandemic and was an instant hit. When Heigh later had the opportunity to open Neighborhood as a permanent kiosk at SEA, he jumped at the chance.

“We knew we wanted to grow this, but we didn’t know our first location would be at SEA; we’re lucky that worked out,” Heigh said. “I love this airport community. It’s a great place to showcase a brand to an international audience.”

  • Visit Neighborhood on the mezzanine of the D Annex at SEA Airport, near Gate D21, across the hall from Gate D5.


Thriving and expanding

The D Concourse Annex location is a little off the beaten path, but Heigh has found success catering to flight attendants, pilots, and airport employees who spend time in the light-filled quiet space on a break or waiting for their next flight.

“We knew it was a landing area for employees for the past few years, so we have made an effort to cater to staff. Prices are a bit lower than what you see in the terminal. But since we’ve been open and built popularity, more people will come an hour early before their flight to stop by and grab a bubble tea or ube latte.”

Now you don’t need to travel through SEA to experience Neighborhood’s tantalizing flavors. The cafe has expanded outside of the airport with the addition of a brick-and-mortar location in Tukwila in the Southcenter area that opened over the holidays. “We always hoped it would catch on, and that we could expand, but we didn’t know it would happen so quickly,” Heigh said.

The expanded space has allowed Heigh to grow offerings to include drink flights, food offerings, and cocktails. The latest addition — espresso martinis. You can also order Filipino-inspired entrees in the new space, including made-in-house longganisa (sausage) and lechon (crispy pork belly).

Because the new café is still located near the airport, he hopes to draw from its existing fan base – airport workers – to grab coffee, bubble tea, or snacks on their days off.

“It’s going really well,” he said. “We opened in one of the toughest times of year during the winter holiday season, but we've had great success so far. I got lucky hiring a great team and we’ve had awesome influencers come in and push the brand for us.”

He said he loves creating more opportunities for his team, many whom have been with the company for close to 20 years. “I take pride in the team that stands behind us; a lot of these folks started at intermediate positions, and later become managers of locations.”

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