Uji Time Dessert, located on Telegraph and Parker, was founded in 2016 as a pop up store by three first generation immigrants from Hong Kong. Since then, it has expanded to multiple locations and has products in 27 different markets, all throughout the Bay Area.
Uji Time incorporates traditional dessert flavors from various Asian countries. The menu consists of various dessert items including mochi ice cream, soft serve ice cream, and croissants.
It specializes in ice cream and has over 19 flavors with the most popular being ube, black sesame, matcha, and many more. To top it all off, they serve their ice cream in fish-shaped cones called taiyaki with toppings such as nutella, pocky sticks, or marshmallow pieces. Uji Time also offers seasonal ice cream flavors in addition to their already expansive menu.
The store is situated in the heart of downtown Berkeley, just a little bit south of the University of California, Berkeley campus and about a 20 minute walk from Berkeley High School. The inside of the store is a spacious and cozy space.
Customers at Uji Time remarked that they were drawn to the dessert cafe for its iconic flavors like the matcha soft serve ice cream. Others noted that the fish cones were an appealing and unique feature of Uji Time.
One customer, who chose to remain anonymous, said they “really enjoyed the ice cream,” and that they liked that “it is open late.”
Leung stated that a goal of the company is to “provide customers with high-quality hand-crafted ice cream with different flavors that are shared by multiple Asian cultures.”
According to Ambrose Leung, a business development manager at Uji Time, “We are the first dessert company to bring taiyaki to the Bay Area community.”
When Uji Time first opened, it received a lot of attention from the intriguing desserts it sold; the company was almost instantly a hit in Berkeley and eventually more broadly across the Bay Area.
On top of the line of products it sells at their numerous locations, Uji Time also caters with soft serve ice cream machines and they participate in events and festivals like the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival by selling their dessert.
Uji Time has faced many struggles during its lifespan. Like many other businesses, the pandemic caused a large decline in sales and therefore some locations closed down. However, this difficulty was furthered for Uji Time because it was near impossible to deliver ice cream before it melted.
But the pandemic wasn’t entirely harmful to Uji Time. Leung stated that they “used the pandemic as an opportunity to pivot to another business line,” with the expansion of locations and products. This was mainly accredited to the government aid that many businesses received during the pandemic.
UC Berkeley and Uji Time have a close connection, as one of the founders was an alumni of the college. Leung said that one of her goals as an immigrant from Hong Kong was to “provide Asian inspired fusion flavors… to accompany many international and Asian American students,” who attend UC Berkeley.
Uji Time also supports UC Berkeley student groups by allowing them to rent out retail spaces for events or other activities.
According to the Uji Time website, “(They) want to use various Asian inspired fusion flavors, to talk about various Asian cultures, and be a place for many Asian students in Berkeley when they miss their home cuisine.”
The company also wishes to expand the tastes of people from different cultures and give them a deeper appreciation for Asian cuisine. “Non-Asian (people)… (can) learn about the vast culture of ‘Asian’ … (in order to) increase cultural understanding,” Leung said.
Most importantly, Uji Time wishes to be a good neighbor to the community around it. According to Leung, “(Their) CEO was engaging with various business owners and she got a lot of help (from them) during Covid. During Covid a lot of small businesses became closer together. But this only happens when you or the business owner is a good citizen in whatever community you are involved in.”