By Brandon Bosworth
Honolulu feline fanciers have a new place to relax, spend some quality time with cats and perhaps even meet a new best friend to take home.
Opened this February in Kaimuki, Popoki + Tea is the brainchild of Liberty Peralta. She grew up in Waianae surrounded by a variety of animals, though ironically no cats. As an adult living and working in Honolulu, Peralta got her first cat, Mara. From that point on, she was a verified cat-lover.
Peralta first heard about the cat café concept from someone at a startup she was working at.
“It was a totally new concept to me,” she said. “It took a while for me to realize that’s what I wanted to do. It was a way to do social good while giving people a positive experience.” Peralta started holding special kitten adoption and boba tea pop-up events at The Public Pet on Waialae Avenue to test the waters. It was a way to try out some of the concepts she had in mind for her future café. “I did this once a month for a year and a half, and found homes for about 80 kittens. The pop-ups were very popular, with people lining up to get in.”
A conversation with one of the owners of The Public Pet, Jordan Lee, helped further motivate Peralta to seriously start the process of launching what would eventually become Popoki + Tea. She secured a space right next door and started construction in January of this year. “From the very beginning it was very important for the café to have a modern look and feel,” Peralta said. “There’s a stereotype of ‘crazy cat people.’ We want to show how having a cat is a cool thing, that there’s not just one type of cat person.”