Open Letters

An Open Letter to Boba Tea

Dear Boba Tea,

I am going to make up what I think would be an accurate background story for your prevalence and popularity in the United States:

You come from somewhere foreign and interesting but also adorable like Japan or Audrey Tatou. A few years ago, some sorority girl from a state school discovered you while she was spending half of her study abroad on a giant cruise ship. She went back to LA and told her boyfriend all about how crazy this like, “bubble tea thingy” was, and so he told his older brother and his older brother told his best friend and I know what you’re thinking, and yes, this girl’s boyfriend’s older brother’s best friend happened to own a franchise of In ‘N Outs and decided then and there — why not give this Boba Tea business a try?

And? How does that sound? Is that how you ended up being this fad adopted by 20-something hipsters and 30-something older hipsters and 40-something old hipsters? Everyone loves Audrey Tatou, you know.

The reason I’m so curious, you see, is that for the life of me I cannot understand what it is that’s just so great about you. My first Boba Tea experience was just this week and I had high expectations. I envisioned a refreshing beverage with flavor blasters made from ice cubes. Like if you could drink a packet of Gushers. This was nothing like what I would imagine drinking a packet of Gushers tastes like. The tea part of the Boba Tea is delightful, I’ll give you that. I mean, I’ll indulge in a green tea blended soy iced latte no sugar added frappucino just as much as the next girl.

But I don’t want balls in my tea.

That’s what she said.

Sorry. Seriously. What are those things? The lady at Urth Caffe (look, if I’m having my first ever Boba Tea in LA then I’m obviously going to Urth Caffe so I can be annoying about the whole thing) told me they were tapioca balls. I’ve had tapioca pudding and there were no balls and it was good. These balls were not good (that’s what she said). They were slimy and gelatinous and would come up through the straw without any warning and they were weirdly chewy but lacking in flavor and I just wanted to drink some tea. I didn’t want to swallow any balls. And yes, that’s what she said, again.

I don’t know, Boba Tea, I don’t know if you and I are meant to be. But for the sake of making the end part of this next sentence rhyme, I’ll try you again and then we’ll see.

Fond Regards,



Boba tea image via ShutterStock

  • Sarah Lawrence

    ugh i wanted to like that crap so bad because it’s all asian and cute and it comes in fun colors but i couldnt get past having to slurp-up an unhatched rotten dragon egg (at least that’s what i picture as i snurl those brown booger balls up my oversized straw). Those sodas with the marbles in them seemed like a fun idea too. i saw a feature with them in a package design magazine but was disappointed by the syrupy kiddie flavors like pink or blue raspberry or early onset diabetes. I’m sticking to botan rice candy and fortune cookies.

  • Sarah Lawrence

    p.s. there is an ad for diva cups accompanying this post. if i continue to associate the two there is absolutely NO chance i will ever try it again. not now.

  • Margaret Shum

    Wth, obviously you’ve never stepped into a terrible Quicky which has locations all ov the world and makes a point to show this.

    Also: Asians. That’s why boba is here. Derp.

  • Akane Minagawa

    I love boba! I love the chewyness of the balls, like mochi plus gummy.

  • Elletra Parnell

    I worked at a boba tea place for about a year in college… it’s Taiwanese, and made from potato and rice starch, and I never liked tapioca pearls while I worked there, but will get it every once in a while now, it grows on you, like an aquired taste, but without the taste part. Most places serve “jellies” as well, which are kind of like micro jello cubes, that you can get instead of tapioca. They’re definitely tasty, and come in flavors ranging from lychee to coffee, with normal flavors likes strawberry too. When we would serve drinks to people who had never tried boba, we’d give them a sample in their drink, like 5 pearls instead of the whole scoop, that way they could try it without ruining their drink if they didn’t like it. I would recomend that method next time, so you aren’t bombarded by balls πŸ˜‰

  • Jennifer Knox

    I love bubble tea. I love my tea sweet and milky, the few flavour choices are also a nice touch.
    (I personally love peppermint, coconut and honeydew.) T
    he balls, or as the should be called- “Pearl” can be all right, after you get past the texture and taste.
    You can ask to not have them however …. or shoot them out of your huge-ass straw.

  • Emma Jones

    I so want to try bubble tea!!! I doubt you can buy it here (UK) but could probably make it by going to a Japanese supermarket. When I went to Australia there were plenty of places with pictures of it on the menu but I didn’t understand what to ask for and flavour combinations and it was all so overwhelming I never got to try any! I’m going to the states this year though so hopfully someone nice will explain it all to me!

  • Ashley Lynn Cook

    I adore boba tea! My hubby introduced it to me and it really is one of my favorite chocolate desserts now! I get (obviously) the chocolate flavored milk tea and my hubby get’s a chocolate/almond milk tea mix…..DELICIOUS! And my hubster normally has issues with textures of certain foods that he won’t eat just for that reason, but he loves the tapioca. :-) mmmmm, now I want some!

  • Eileen Hogan

    Mmmmmmm! I love boba–especially taro/coconut slush with pearls :)

  • Erin Elizabeth Davis

    mMMmm I love bubble tea! Gotta have the large blueberry jasmine green tea with bubbles. I actually think the bubbles from where I get it has a bit of sweetness to it. Don’t give up on the bubble tea, it really is better than you think!

  • Ana Anais Ramirez

    Boba tea is delicious! I’ve been told by boba tea connosseuirs that the fresh pearls shouldn’t be so chewy; fresh pearls should be soft, warm and slightly gummy. Maybe that affected your experience with boba tea?

  • Joy Hoffmann

    I put “try bubble tea” on my to do list last year and had quite the same experience/reaction. I just wanted to like it so bad… i opted for the smoothie instead of the tea and it was amazing.. it kept thinking “I wish these GD balls would stop getting sucked up my straw and ruining this smoothie!!” Why don’t they have and flavor.. ew! Alas there were like a million boba balls in there and I had to pitch it half way through… About a week later I thought, “I want to give it another go.. its so cute!” but I haven’t been back and its been over a year now…

  • Pamela Plaisance Stein

    I am a fan of coconut or lychee jelly instead of pearls. If I do pearls I ask to only have a few otherwise I start shooting them out the straw when my jaw gets tired from chewing.

  • Syikien Oyob

    I love Boba Tea, or from wher I’m from, it is widely known as Bubble Tea. Strawberry Ice Blended with extra PEARL, please. Those tapioca balls are known as PEARL. Love those lil tapioca balls…hahahaha

  • Paige Lowe

    Boba tea is only good if the place knows how to make it right. If not, it could be a bad experience.
    I would suggest any first timer Boba Tea to get it from authentic Boba/Tea Places like- Ten Ren Tea/727 N Broadway, Ste 136, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Stick to the original milk tea or jasmine milk tea one. Quickly is good too…but because it’s franchised, quality depends on owners. The other option is to venture out to the Alhambra area and spot the crazy line at the busy Boba Tea shops and you’ll know that’s a good one.

  • Val Ieum

    Hey now, I am such a huge fan of Boba tea. There is a little thai/taiwanese place (random I know.) right near me that makes an out of this world Thai Iced Tea Boba, it’s akin to crack (then again I’ve never done it, but I suppose it’s as good a reference as any) So delicious. As it was said before, if nothing else you can always shoot the pearls out of the straw for target practice and just enjoy the deliciousness that is milk tea ^__^\

  • Jamie Dunlap

    I live in Indiana..and I have never heard of such a thing..we usualy get “all the rave” stuff way past it’s coolness date…just sayin. Although I haven’t checked out my fav spot in Indiana..BROAD RIPPLE..I will go a hunting and report back :)

  • Chelsie Jordan

    I didn’t realize it was a fad/hipster thing. My Asian friend took me to a big Asian market and I tried some boba tea, at first I thought it was pretty weird and thought it would be better without the tapioca balls. But just recently a sweet little Asian lady opened up a boba tea shop close where I live, and I tried it again and actually liked it. I think it’s just one of those things that grows on you, like coffee. I don’t believe the tapioca balls are for flavor, but more for texture, gives you something to chew on lol.

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