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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Boba in Berkeley!

Helloooo everyone!!

I hope all of you are well and are enjoying summer as much as I am! Speaking of summer, one of my favorite beverages to drink during this hot season is bubble tea or boba. For those of you who are unfamiliar with bubble tea, let me give you a quick introduction!

Boba was first invented in one of Taiwan's tea shops around the 1980s and has skyrocketed in popularity since then. Bubble milk tea is a sweet tea base mixture typically accompanied by milk or fruit. Tea flavors can range from the classic black to green/jasmine to Thai etc. Milk tea can be served hot or cold and can have different consistencies depending on what toppings you put into your drink and if you have a fruit flavored tea vs a milk tea. Most of these teas are also accompanied by small, chewy and sweet tapioca balls otherwise known as "pearls" or the name we mentioned earlier, "boba." The best part of all? Most bubble teas and tapioca are gluten free! I must confess that these drinks are a guilty pleasure of mine- chalk full of sugar and calories but oh so delish... :)

This post will be your guide to discovering the world of boba and all the selection we have in Berkeley I have personally tried or want to try! Enjoy!

The Classic Pearl Milk Tea

Bubble Tea Sample Menu      
1) TEAS*
Fruit flavored tea (pomegranate, passion fruit, peach, mango, strawberry etc)
*Powder or brewed tea. Most fruit flavored ones contain syrup.

Tapioca balls
Pearls (tapioca balls)
Small pearls
Fruit flavored jellies (apple, mango, rainbow etc)
Coffee flavored jellies
Sweet red beans

Rainbow jellies!!

1) Moccaccino Cafe
A great place if you're first starting out drinking boba. The drinks are cheap especially if you get the drink special of $3.15 for 2 drinks. With this place, you get what you pay for- cheap drinks have a more watery consistency, less tea flavor and a lots of sugar. But considering the price, if you love it you will think its a steal, if you hate it, then you wouldn't have wasted much money. It's a win-win.
Rating: 2.5/5

2) Honeyberry
Famous for its boba bar and freshly baked roti buns (a type of sweet Asian pastry-not gfree though..), Honeyberry can stand as a competitor against Moccaccino. The featured boba bar allows you to load up on toppings while paying a standard price. The drinks are a decent price but definitely more than Moccaccino's. I like the concept of the boba bar, but since the toppings are left out they get somewhat dry and hard. Not my idea of a good boba. Also, the teas are a bit artificial tasting although not watery. I would only come here if you like toppings more than tea. If that's you, look no further!
Rating: 2.75/5

3) Quickly's
Quickly's is a chain store so their tastes are very chain store like. Their milk teas sell at a decent price (around $3), but Moccaccino stands on top with the lowest prices in Berk for milk teas. Quickly's uses a soy based powder that makes their drinks taste a bit funky if you're not into soy flavors, but the creamy taste is not objectionable. Quickly's is another Berk student favorite for those late night boba cravings.
Rating: 2.75/5

4) Sweethearts
Let me just say, I can't give a non-bias review for this place because my experiences here were just dreadful. On two separate occasions, my friend and I somehow got dead insects in our drinks (flies and ants) and the lady who worked the front register tried to convince us it was tapioca or a tea leaf. Since then, I have never gone back and I have told everyone not to give them your business. Unless you're in dire need for some protein in bug form, then by all means, I won't hold you back. But, just so you know, there are cleaner ways to fulfill your protein needs.
Rating: 1/5 (I want to give it a zero, but I guess the tea was bearable).

5) Lotus House
This is a Chinese restaurant that sells boba as a part of a drink special for ordering one of their meals. The drinks are as terrible as their food. I can't believe this place is still running (no offense to those of you who dig this place). The tapioca is hard as hell when you let it sit even for 30 minutes. The tea is unspectacular and clearly, not memorable.
Rating: 1/5

6) Sheng Kee Bakery
Ahh, Berkeley finally came to their senses and built a Sheng Kee right in the heart of student activity. I mean with the school housing more than 50% Asian, you know that this was a right move when you see hordes of Asians lining out the door enticed by the familiar scents of sweet Asian pastries. Unfortunately, Sheng Kee does not offer any gluten free products (save for naturally gluten free foods), BUT they do serve boba that is not half bad. The tea is pre-made, dispensed out of containers and you have an unlimited choice of toppings but the amount of the toppings is left up to their discretion. SK boba is a bit too sweet for me and the ratio between tea and boba is 3:1 so I always end up drinking all the tea and have a mountain of boba left on the bottom of my cup. For the price of $2.99, and some interesting tea blends, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and leave by saying their boba is not too shabby.
Rating: 3.5/5

7) Tea Fever
If anyone who comes to Berkeley asks me to recommend good boba places, I'll tell them to go to Tea Fever. Tea Fever ranks among one of the top boba places in my book to have a pleasant tasting boba for a relatively pleasant price. Their boba sells for around $3.15 and they offer some fun flavors like almond and lavender for example. They don't have different jellies but their tea is the highlight, not the add ins.
Rank: 4/5

8) Ucafe
You know, I'm starting to see a trend of pretty average teas for high prices. Ucafe does not escape this description. Their teas are pretty watered down and unspectacular as far as I can tell. They sell Asian pastries too, but at this rate, I'm almost positive that Sheng Kee will take them down unless they can step up their game.
Rank: 2.5/5

9) Asha Tea House
The one place everyone tells me to go to, but I haven't gone yet. I've been dying to try this place out because I'm a huge fan of authentic and strong teas and I heard that they really deliver in this department. If the tapioca is good, then that's another plus in my book. Let me know if any of you have tried this place and what you recommend!
Rating: TBD

And that's it! I hope this guide to Berkeley boba was helpful and I really encourage everyone gives this list a try except for the ones that got a 1 star rating. Those I would religiously avoid.

Treat yourself to this delicious Asian drink during this summer and keep one piece of advice in mind: when you're drinking boba, calories don't exist! =) Have fun boba drinking!