Thrillist, May 2022
Whether you’re looking for home decor, snack foods, or beauty products, these companies have all the fun and affordable gifts you need.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US, a time to celebrate the contributions and influence of Asians and Pacific Islanders throughout our country’s history. It’s also an opportunity to support AAPI-owned businesses—and one of the best (and simplest) ways to show your support is to put your money where your mouth is. Like it or not, your shopping choices can directly affect long-term change when it comes to wealth distribution in our country. And while any month is the right month to elevate AAPI-owned businesses, May is the perfect time to trade your usual big-box retailers for some exciting new shopping hubs.
Since we’re in one of the biggest gift-giving seasons of the year (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, etc.), we decided to round up some excellent gifts under $50 from AAPI-owned brands. Whether you’re shopping for aspiring chefs, coffee fanatics, beauty and wellness lovers, or plant parents, this list should have you covered. And let’s face it: These companies more than deserve your attention—and money—this month and every month.
Keep scrolling to scope out some of the best gifts under $50 from these can’t-miss makers and business owners.
Food & Drinks
Brightland is an AAPI-owned premium olive oil and vinegar brand based in California. The company has earned a sort of cult following thanks to its fresh, high-quality ingredients and gorgeous packaging. For something a bit more unique, try The Pair Vinegar Set, which comes with a bottle each of balsamic vinegar and champagne vinegar—perfect for adding some zing to salads, cheese plates, and even cocktails.
Coffee Project New York is an award-winning coffee roastery co-founded by Chi Sum Ngai and her partner, Kaleena Teoh. The brand has cafes in several New York locations that sell delicious coffee and offer classes for aspiring entrepreneurs and baristas. But if you can’t make it to NYC anytime soon, you can still shop some of their products online—including this Snapchilled Coffee variety pack, which includes cans of refreshing “Woke Up in New York” and dark “Colombia Eduviges” flavors.
Jake Deleon is a first-generation Filipino-American immigrant who wanted to share the comfort foods from his childhood with the world. Thus, he founded Fila Manila, a line of authentic simmer sauces based on his parents’ recipes. The brand has a variety of flavors (all gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan), but the Adobo sauce—made with tamari soy, garlic, and spices—is the best-selling one of the bunch.
Bean & Bean Coffee was founded by the Korean American mother-daughter team of Rachel and Jiyoon, who are dedicated to ethically sourced (and, when possible, female-produced) coffee. This Costa Rica Tarrazu Ditsö Honey is their best-selling blend, providing a sweet and citrusy flavor and enough beans for 20-24 cups. Even better? A portion of all proceeds are donated to the Costa Rica-based Sloth Institute to help injured baby sloths reintegrate into healthy ecosystems.
High Street Philadelphia is owned by James Beard-nominated restaurateur Ellen Yin, and is known as a trailblazer in the artisanal bread movement in Philly. The restaurant sells some of its most popular items on Goldbelly, from babka to cinnamon buns. We recommend the “Choose Your Own” 2-pack of breads, which lets you pick from 9th Street 9 Grain (whole-grain sandwich bread), Sesame Sourdough, Caraway Rye, Classic Challah, and Cinnamon Raisin Challah.
Created by Sandro Roco, a Queens-born Filipino American, Sanzo selzer is infused with beloved flavors that represent Asian culture—think lychee, mango, and yuzu ginger. Each can is made with real fruit and zero added sugar, filled with water that is bold, bright, and about a million times more flavorful than most sparkling waters found in American grocery stores. This 12-pack sampler should arrive just in time for your first late spring/early summer outdoor gathering.
Named after the Filipino word for "together," Kasama pays homage to founder Alexandra Dorda's Filipino-Polish heritage (the rum is distilled in the Philippines and bottled in Poland). The golden rum has dominant notes of sweet pineapple, a hint of vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt—and now, you can have it packaged in a limited-edition bottle designed by Filipino-owned fashion brand Natori. Aside from looking great on your bar cart, a quarter of all proceeds will go straight to Voice of the Free, an organization that works to end human trafficking in the Philippines.
Established in 2013, Yami is a one-stop shopping destination for Asian-American products founded by Alex Zhou, selling snacks, home appliances, books, makeup, and more. You could spend hours browsing the website, but if you want a quick gift idea, opt for this Japanese chocolate gift box. The package is curated by Michelin-starred chef Ivan Orkin (of Ivan Ramen fame), and includes everything from Japanese Kit-Kats to Pocky Sticks.
Bachan’s sauces come from a heritage family recipe of founder Justin Gill, a third-generation Japanese-American. The barbecue sauces are made with ten simple ingredients and come in a variety of flavors—sample them all in this gift pack, which comes with bottles of The Original, Hot and Spicy, Yuzu (a sort of citrus fruit), and Gluten-Free.
Copper Cow Coffee is an AAPI, women-owned brand selling Vietnamese-inspired latte kits to make delicious cups of coffee at home. They are devoted to sustainability as much as taste, too, sourcing high-quality coffee directly from organic farms in Vietnam and paying farmers twice the market rate. Try the Bouquet Bundle to sample the Rose, Lavender, and Classic Latte kits, complete with individual coffee filters and sweetened condensed milk creamers. Just pour some hot water over the filters, and enjoy.
Ashley Xie and Hedy Yu are the co-founders of Rooted Fare, a company that sells fun and modern Chinese-American pantry staples that both women grew up with. Their first (and most popular) product is Black Sesame Crunchy Butter—a spread inspired by sweet tang yuan, a Chinese dessert consisting of a rice ball filled with ground black sesame seeds, lard, and brown sugar. The butter can be spread on toast, added to oatmeal, or even drizzled on top of vanilla ice cream.
Born and raised in Malaysia, Auria Abraham grew up surrounded by sumptuous curries, delectable noodles, and meat and seafood dishes. After attending college in Boston, she created an underground supper club series and, eventually, Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen. Her company originally only made sambal (a traditional chili paste) but now sells coconut jams, spice blends, and other products to help incorporate Malaysian flavors into home cooking. Still, the OG sambal can’t be beat.
Lady M is a luxury confectionery brand created by Ken Romaniszyn, who learned all about Japanese desserts while spending summers in Tokyo with his grandfather. With more than 50 boutiques worldwide, Lady M’s products combine French pastry techniques with Japanese flavors, as seen in treats like the Green Tea Mille Crêpes and Coconut Cheesecake. If you’re looking for a gift, you can’t do better than the Bon Bon Gift Set, which lets you choose from candies like Matcha Crunch, Strawberry Shortcake Gummies, and Crème Brûlée Almonds.
Every spring, Shunan Teng travels to China to work alongside heritage farmers to produce the world's finest teas. She then brings the leaves back to her New York-based company, Tea Drunk, to sell to bonafide tea lovers. The Classic Tea Sampler is a great introduction to the brand, featuring four different loose leaf teas: Gua Pian (Green Tea), Bai Mu Dan (White Tea), Qi Lan (Yan Cha), and Xiao Chi Gan (Red Tea).
Virginia Sin’s eponymous home goods brand sells products that are both practical and aesthetically pleasing, ranging from coat racks to fruit bowls. Her candlesticks (like this dramatic black Whit candlestick) make great hostess or housewarming gifts, doubling as beautiful sculptures even when they aren’t lighting up a table or mantle.
Yui Brooklyn, helmed by Japanese designer Yui Kobayashi, is an experimental candle workshop churning out cute products made with natural soy and beeswax with lead-free cotton wicks. One of the most popular sellers is this lemon-shaped candle, which looks (and smells) like the real thing.
At 26 years old, Asian-American entrepreneur Eliza Blank founded The Sill from a desk in Chinatown in 2012. A decade later, the plant company has grown into a plant lover’s community, spanning the country with ten brick-and-mortar shops plus a huge online presence. The Sill’s plants (like the pet-friendly Calathea Orbifolia) are still sourced domestically, and the planters are predominantly made in Southeast Asia by a female-owned company.
Wing On Wo & Co. is the oldest store in New York’s Chinatown (founded in 1890), known for its beautiful porcelain wares. The company sells tons of its products online, nearly all of which make great gifts for fans of Asian food or kitschy decor. These playful food-themed chopstick rests will brighten up any dinner table; and at only $3 a pop, you can put a whole slew of them in a gift bag.
Indian American-founded company Quince provides luxurious bedding at a fraction of the price of other big-name brands. You can find everything from down pillows and silk pillowcases to Turkish cotton robes and bath towels for under $50, but this set of two organic cotton percale pillowcases will keep you particularly cool and comfy as we approach the summer months.
Sijo is a sustainable bedding brand founded by Anni Stromfeld and Jacob Xi. Its eucalyptus sheets are a best-seller, but you can find tons of great (and affordable) items that make excellent gifts. The coconut wax candle is a fan favorite, available in five soothing scents: eucalyptus mint, aloe green clover, ginger white tea, sandalwood rose, and lavender chamomile.
Appointed is a woman-owned brand of paper products and desktop accessories that are as stylish as they are functional. There is an assortment of notebooks, planners, and stationary to choose from (and personalize with a monogram)—get a taste of everything with the Starter Set, which includes a classic lined notebook, mini linen jotter, adhesive notes, and a gum eraser.
Founded by Eunice Byun and David Nguyen in 2018, Material sells sustainable kitchenware ranging from serving bowls to Japanese knives. (Bonus: All the products are gorgeous on top of being eco-friendly.) Try the best-selling reBoard (or mini reBoard), a BPA-free cutting board made entirely of kitchen plastic scraps and renewable sugarcane, and available in five striking colors.
Roxy Te grew up in her family's furniture factory in the Philippines until she was two, when her parents immigrated to North Carolina. She launched her own furniture line, Society Social, in 2011, which continues to sell fun, custom home goods at accessible price points. Te definitely understands the value of a well-curated bar cart, selling tons of chic accessories (like these tortoise tumblers) to impress your guests at your next cocktail party.
Welcome to Chinatown is a nonprofit organization that addresses the needs of New York’s Chinatown and its entrepreneurs. The organization has a line of merchandise called Made in Chinatown, which helps small businesses bring in extra income. The products range from clothing and accessories to home goods and artwork; this cute tea towel features illustrated ingredients of Tom Yum Soup, and all proceeds go directly to Bangkok Center Grocery, a Thai grocery store in Chinatown.
The brand behind the Instagram-famous Always Pan was founded by Shiza Shahid, who also co-founded the nonprofit Malala Fund. Our Place’s mission is to form connections across the kitchen table through simple and accessible products, which you can find on their website's carefully curated selection of pots, pans, utensils, and tableware. Try these hand-painted, ulta-affordable porcelain plates (a set of 4 is currently on sale for just $40) to kickstart your own tidy kitchen aesthetic.
FinaMill, invented by Portland-based Alex Liu, is a handheld cordless grinder featuring interchangeable, refillable spice pods. Simply fill the pods with the spice of your choice (peppercorn, nutmeg, etc.), attach the pod to the grinder, then press the button and watch the machine whip up freshly ground seasonings. Each mill comes with two pods and is available in six different colors.
Franca is a ceramics studio co-founded by Jazmin de la Guardia and Sierra Yip-Bannicq, both of whom studied at Pratt. Their gorgeous products are molded and painted by hand in their Bushwick studio, using a variety of signature patterns and designs. These ramen bowls are made to order with the pattern of your choice, and usually ship out within two weeks.
Pallavi Pande created her line of disposable and compostable plates based on her experience of eating on banana leaves while growing up in India. DTOCS products are made from naturally fallen palm leaves, are microwave-safe, and prevent extra plastic and styrofoam from ending up in landfills. (They’re also very aesthetically pleasing.) Try this square-plate pack for your next party or event, complete with 25 dinner plates and 25 dessert plates.
Founded by Jenn Tsang in 2018, Sqwishful is a line of plastic-free sponges and cleaning products made with compostable wood pulp, bamboo, and hemp. The company's new Sqwish Set is a great starter back for a zero-waste kitchen, complete with a dish brush (and extra brush head), scrub sponge, and 3-pack of their flagship Pop Up Sponge.
Beauty & Wellness
Sejal Patel combined her pharmacy training and Ayurvedic principles from her Indian heritage to launch this skincare line, which is specifically designed for melanated skin. All of Plantkos’s products are made with ethically and sustainably-sourced ingredients (no artificial fragrances or fillers here), and all bottles and boxes are recyclable. Try the gentle exfoliating cleanser to reduce inflammation, control blemishes, and help your skin retain moisture.
Mount Lai was inspired by founder Stephanie Zheng’s grandmother, who has been jade rolling and practicing gua sha for over 50 years. These de-puffing facial rollers are perfect for anyone wanting to try the skincare routine for themselves, available in four different materials with their own special benefits: Jade (balancing), Rose Quartz (soothing), Amethyst (Calming), and Black Obsidian (warming).
NOOCI was born from founder Stephanie Tan's desire to make Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) available to women around the world. The company’s line of plant-based supplements are steeped in centuries-old herbal wisdom and made from sustainable, high-quality ingredients. There are currently three products available, each for $45: ReNoo, for overall health and wellbeing; Noo Air, to ease nasal allergies and congestion; and Noo Moon, to relieve menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms.
Jooyeon Song created ManiMe after tiring of the same salon experience again and again. Her company makes stick-on gel manicures that are custom-made for your fingers—customers simply send a photo of their nails to ManiMe, and the company uses 3D modeling and a laser cutter to create a perfect fit. And there are hundreds of colors and patterns to choose from, so you’ll definitely find something that meshes with your personal style.
CLE Cosmetics makes minimalist K-beauty products with non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free ingredients. This Skincare Set makes a great gift for any beauty enthusiast in your life, with mini samplers of CLE’s Lifting Mist, Vitamin C Elixir, Multi Cream, and Serumide, all packed in a stylish pouch.
Founded by Tami Blake, Free + True is a line of clean skincare products that are designed and formulated by an esthetician to feed the skin. All products are non-toxic and cruelty-free, including masks made with raw honey and fruit enzymes, cleansers featuring camellia oil and mango butter, and this powerhouse exfoliant packed with ingredients like coconut, banana, and oatmeal.
If Batman smoked weed, he’d probably shop at Cloudious9. Founded by Richard Huang, the brand is all about high-tech cannabis hardware that would make any gadget lover swoon. The Tectonic9 Auto Dispensing Grinder (currently on sale) takes the reliability of a traditional grinder and adds automatic dispensing, a built-in vibration motor, and a viewing window with LED light to check herb storage quantity.
Fashion & Accessories
Founded by Luanne Guo in 2018, KOKOLU first made waves with its eco-friendly sneakers made from recycled plastic bottles. The brand has since expanded its product line to include more velvet sneakers and tote bags, all made with 100% recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. We must admit: Green has never looked this good.
After studying engineering at Stanford, Trisha Okubo decided to launch this unisex jewelry brand based in New York. Maison Miru is best known for their piercing earrings, but they also have a wide range of traditional earrings, earcuffs, nose rings, necklaces, bracelets, and stackable rings. This celestial crystal ring is the perfect starter piece for your everyday jewelry wardrobe.
Silknlove Co. is a women-owned luxury silk accessory brand based in New York. Their scrunchies and headbands are made with 100% Mulberry silk, preventing hair annoyances like breakage, frizz, and tangles. This silk scrunchie set comes with three pink hair ties (large, midi, and skinny) and makes a great gift for your loved one...or just to keep for yourself.
Founded by Carmen Chen Wu and Aaron Luo (both Chinese-born and raised in Spain), Caraa is known for its hyper-functional and stylish handbags and wallets. The Cloud Coin Wallet is a great, affordable introduction to the brand—available in four beautiful colors, made with vegan leather, and encased in water-resistant nylon.
Baggu has become a household name in bags and accessories, and for good reason. The woman-owned brand began making reusable shopping bags in 2007 as part of its mission to eliminate single-use plastic, and has since expanded to sell accessories, home goods, and masks—but we’ll always be suckers for the original Standard Baggu.
Sonia Hou, a Chinese-American jewelry designer based in Los Angeles, launched her eponymous line of demi-fine jewelry in 2012. Her products fall somewhere between fine jewelry and costume jewelry—equal parts elegant and fun and trendy. You can find earrings, bracelets, rings, and necklaces to fit any style, but these 2-way rose gold vermeil ear jackets are a particular fan favorite—they were even worn by several American figure skaters during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Chifa is a buzzy new restaurant in Los Angeles that serves up Peruvian-Chinese dishes—and merchandise you'll actually want to buy. The eatery was co-founded by Humberto Leon (of Opening Ceremony fame), and he brings his fashion background to Chifa’s line of shirts, bucket hats, and accessories ranging from chopsticks to bandanas. We’re particular fans of the Chifa by Vista Insulated Lunch Bag, with its cute brown-paper-bag look and very low price tag.
TAI Jewelry is a small, woman-owned business designed by Tai Rittichai, who grew up in Bangkok and moved to California as a young adult. The brand employs some of the finest artisans in Thailand to sell its extensive line of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. This Zodiac Celestial Stud Pack is perfect for the astrology lover in your life (or anyone who just really loves cute earrings), with four mismatched pieces available for all 12 signs.