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Will Tapioca Pearl Tea Conquer Starbucks?
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:53:48 PM)

n 30 years a single Starbucks cafe in Seattle's Pike Place Market has spawned 4,700 attitude-packed locations worldwide. Its secret? Taking the Italian espresso bar and fitting it to American values by upsizing cups and downsizing chichi. How successful has that been? Starbucks has replaced McDonalds as the bladder break of choice for discriminating panhandlers and savvy cabbies.
Bubble Tea
A more evolved brew?

     But no sooner had cultural pundits and standup comics retooled their schticks for an Italian-roast future when from the mysterious east (Taiwan, to be exact) emerged an unlikely challenger.
     Some call it tapioca pearl tea. Others call it bubble tea, or even boba (mama's breast) tea. The "pearl", "bubble" and "boba" refer to tapioca starch balls typically the size of the plumpest, most expensive salmon roe you've ever seen. They are usually the shade and translucence of beluga caviar but also come in an array of rainbow colors -- or are even colorless. They settle several layers deep at the bottom of an ice-cold cup of sweetened milk tea -- or any flavored beverage from lychee or mimosa to coconut. They are served in clear plastic cups with a fat 1/2-inch-diameter straw. The moment of truth is when the first sip rolls up the straw and you feel, along with the beverage, one or more pearls invading your mouth. It's an alien sensation -- and that's half the fun. The other half is chewing them while swallowing the drink.
     Since 1999 cafes selling pearl tea have been mushrooming in every major Asian population center in the U.S. on the heels of hundreds of bubble tea parlors that have opened in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and China. The explosion of boba shops has made the Starbucks growth seem downright sober. Boba tea was first concocted around 1988 by a Taipei street vendor for sale to a local clientele of grade-school kids. The kids loved it. So did their elders. By the early 90s the craze had swept the island and spilled over into Southeast Asia. In about the time it took for Starbucks to open its 17th location, tapioca pearl tea became the beverage of choice for tens of millions in a dozen Pacific Rim nations. And their enthusiasm is very very catching.
     The sheer fun of sipping a visually and sensually oddball beverage is an important part of it, but other factors may explain its legs. Tea is healthier than coffee, and milk tea is far healthier than the rich concoctions served up by Starbucks and similar establishments. Even the tapioca bubbles are a healthful component made from cassava roots which actually supply modest but significant amounts of iron and calcium. Some even consider tapioca a promoter of regular bowel movements.
     Is boba tea destined to wean the world of its coffee addiction? Or is it just another crazy teen fad?

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star snow ice in htown kix ass it's all about the hella tyte ambiance..i hang out there practically every weekend and the drinks are so addictive, they've got this shaved ice stuff too that's awesome too
   Friday, February 28, 2003 at 19:52:34 (PST)    []
Hey Hank, we opened Tropioca in the midtown area of Houston about 5 months ago ( We offer a wide variety of high quality real teas, Italian espressos, fruit drinks and deserts. We will customize any drink so if we have it, we will make it. Of course, all our cold drinks are served with tapioca. Our concept was to make it a place students could study and also close in proximity to the colleges. To make it a place people could hang out, our location is 2000 square feet and we open till 2:00am on Friday and Saturday. We also have live music events, art shows, free wireless internet and try to be the best hosts we can be. Hopefully, I'm not intruding on you guys, but its our baby and we really want people to enjoy it.



P.S. Ask for Philip or Micki and they will take real good care of you.
New Tapioca Bar in H-Town
   Tuesday, February 25, 2003 at 10:52:38 (PST)    []
I love the Bubble tea but I really want to know what kind of Nutritional value the Tapioca pearls serve. Some sources say 7 pearls = 100 calories. What abou fat and fiber content?
RK/H    Monday, February 24, 2003 at 13:04:14 (PST)    []
Boba rules. im am addicted!!! I know more about boba then u!! how do I know that? Cause ppl call me the Boba King, yea yea yea
   Saturday, February 22, 2003 at 15:18:56 (PST)    []
I really love this tapioca pearl tea and also interested in a business like this. Does anyone know how would I go about this or who to contact for info?
Kim    Saturday, February 22, 2003 at 12:43:24 (PST)    []
yeah f+++ star nutz. they suck and wont last another decade. those canadians...
bubble boy
   Friday, February 21, 2003 at 15:15:59 (PST)    []
I tried boba once, and it was okay...but it cost the same as an frapped iced-coffee drink from Starbucks and it lacked flavor. I'd rather spend my money on something that's really tasty, rather than getting something simply because it's "novel" or "exotic".

I happened to get the iced tea flavor, and the tea just wasn't brewed strongly enough for iced tea. (Iced tea needs to be brewed double-strength, because it gets diluted when it hits the ice.)

The same shop has other, non-tea flavors, and I'll probably go back and try one of them. In addition to the tea, coconut and fruit varieties, they have a bean paste flavor, which is something that I'd probably enjoy in a boba drink--so I guess that's what I'll try next.

The tapioca pearls ARE a nice touch.
   Wednesday, February 19, 2003 at 10:21:01 (PST)    []
"Many of the callers to the show were blasting these snacks and saying that they couldn't believe that the FDA approved them for sale when they were obviously a serious danger to public health."

LMAO - anyone who chokes to death on those deserves to die and is only cleaning up the gene pool by doing so! G-zus!
Natural Selection
   Wednesday, February 19, 2003 at 05:54:42 (PST)    []
Of course! But where is the herbal teas or decaffeinated blends for those who can not drink caffeine? It would make the pearl tapioca better with their
Cassie    Monday, February 17, 2003 at 22:42:01 (PST)    []
I think if there is more tapioca shops like Tropioca Tea & Coffee Bar it would be possible. Tropioca Tea & Coffee Bar in located in midtown Houston, Tx which serves only top quality teas and coffee. Tropioca is the only tapioca shop in Houston that has a full service coffee bar that I know of. For you coffee lovers out there, try the espresso slammer (For those who like their ice coffee strong - its four shots espresso w/condensed milk) They also offer free wireless internet and open till 2:00am on Friday and Saturdays!
Hippest Tea & Coffee Bar
   Monday, February 03, 2003 at 23:09:22 (PST)    []
Coffee is good, but does it have a chewy texture or a good taste like pearl tea? To me, I don't really think so. I never knew that tapioca pearls and a fruity drink tasted so good together. In my opinion, there is no way that coffee can take over the tempting taste of pearl tea
Julie    Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 09:00:46 (PST)    []
To Hank Lewis:

You'll be happy to know that I have found some more lychee snacks being sold at another Chinese store, but apparently they've been repackaged to be larger than the originals, I suppose to encourage people to chew them first, instead of trying to swallow them whole.

The new ones are about three times as big as the original ones, and are oddly-shaped (instead of the original, which was like a small round cup about 1 inch in diameter) I guess again to promote chewing.

BTW - who the heck swallows their food whole? Unless you're in a tremendous hurry, it is quite difficult to do with anything other than rice, and plus swallowing whole robs you of tasting the food you eat.
"B" as in "bictory"
   Thursday, January 23, 2003 at 02:24:32 (PST)    []
oo Bubbles OOo

They made mine right in front of my eyes. Maybe Pineapple isn't the best flavour. I should go for coffee cream tea next time.
   Tuesday, January 07, 2003 at 23:27:14 (PST)    []

if you want to americanize boba tea, then go ahead. just like what you did to other foreign foods. you americans want things strong and blatant. but i'm afraid that's not what taiwanese like. boba tea is simply not for you.
hoklo taiwanese
   Tuesday, January 07, 2003 at 20:43:04 (PST)    []

I wonder where you went to drink it...??? You have to go to a shop where they will make it for you, not buy it pre-made by the way. One of my fave is coffee cream tea, part perls, part coco pieces... mmmm... It's better than ANY coffee! I have tried it at 3 different places until now (and a fourth soon!) and it's always good...
ooo Bubbles ooo
   Monday, January 06, 2003 at 13:10:57 (PST)    []
Boba Tea is entirely overated. After reading the introductory text on this board i went insearch of bubble tea and was anticipating a taste sensation of orgasmic proportions but was instead left dissapointed. FYI, i had pineapple flavour and the whole thing came freshly made and sealed hermetically in a plastic cup with a large straw which you insert into the plastic seal. The pearls themselves were just tasteless spongie dough, the tea was mild in flavour much like english tea with milk, ice and a touch of pineapple essence. I think for Boba Tea to really take off, the pearls themselves have to evolve into tiny balls packed with an explosion of exotic flavours and contents that melt inside the mouth and make it a pleasure for the palate. Once the balls have been spread to all corners of the mouth, it can then be washed down with mild tea solution.
   Monday, January 06, 2003 at 06:37:07 (PST)    []
"Others call it bubble tea, or even boba (mama's breast) tea."

Boba doesn't mean mama's breast. It's slang for "big titties."
TSJ    Sunday, January 05, 2003 at 21:21:15 (PST)    []

[Maybe among your crowd. :0) --Ed]
To: Bictory

That's terrible =( It still amazes me how people try to find any reason to justify their hate of other cultures... The lychee snacks are very good... I still see them in stores but maybe thats because I don't live in the USA. It's the kid's fault all the way... he/she was probably in a hurry to go out to play or something and choked on it. So many kids choke on things because they are trying to eat too fast, regardless of what it is!

Bobas to your health:

Just to clarify... Non-Asians CAN multi-task pertaining to eating and drinking... I love bubble tea... I keep telling people about it.. it's true that many non-Asians don't know about it, but as soon as I tell them about it and they try it, they love it (and can drink it just fine lol) :P Just have to spread the word and make people try it!! hehehe :)
ooo Bubbles ooo
   Sunday, January 05, 2003 at 15:49:18 (PST)    []
The Best is Thai Ice Tea with them Bubbles or "Boba's" as an Chinese Mom would say it because Boba's sound close to Bubbles.

I'm glad this is the few place where I can post without having to log in.

The reason for the bad publicity for them is because most unasian kids never had the experience to drink and chew at the same time - it is called "Multi-tasking".

Many asian kids grew up eating everything in a fishbone and picking watermelon seeds in a early age. Because of this drinking a Boba drink is no problem. Compare to an American kid who is picking and can only eat things like milkshakes where everything is premashed for them, you wonder how they can even be interested in drink this stuff in the first place.
Bobas to your health
   Friday, January 03, 2003 at 11:35:54 (PST)    []
I love those Pearl Bubble Drinks, especially for the tapioca balls at the bottom. I live in Philly, and I go to Chinatown all the time to buy one, and that's it! My favorite flavor is Strawberry and Mango. If I had the chance, I would want to try Lychee, because I tried Lychee before. It's good!!!
Kenelle Lee    Tuesday, December 31, 2002 at 08:09:21 (PST)    []
B as in Bictory:

I was wondering how that garbage got started. My father in law has bought a gob of those lychee/longan snacks for years, but last week he gave us some saying "These are the last. They're not going to sell them in the US anymore." I saw instructions IN ENGLISH on the ones they sold in Houston at Hong Kong Food Market and other Asian food stores.

That bites, man!!!
Hank Lewis
   Monday, December 30, 2002 at 06:30:52 (PST)    []

The main ones I know outside of Westside Chinatown are the Fuji Tea House in Memorial City Mall (good fruit flavors and coffee, bad green tea poweder), Tea House in the Randall's Shopping Center at Shepherd & Westheimer, and one in First Colony Mall (The name escapes me now.) If I find any others, I'll let you know.
Hank Lewis
   Friday, December 27, 2002 at 05:28:58 (PST)    []
I haven't read all the posts on this issue, but I was wondering if anyone has seen/heard of bad press among non-Asians regarding boba tea and those lychee gelatin snacks?

I remember about six months back on a Los Angeles radio call-in show, they were talking about the lychee snacks in particular, because apparently some (evidently non-Asian) kid had choked to death on one of them.

The media was up in arms over the snacks, which apparently did not have any English "instructions" on how to properly eat these things, and had only "Asian" language printed on them. Many of the callers to the show were blasting these snacks and saying that they couldn't believe that the FDA approved them for sale when they were obviously a serious danger to public health. There was one caller who suggested (hopefully facetiously) that the snacks were a weapon of mass destruction delivered to the USA by the red Chinese to kill off our young!

Anyway, I noticed that they no longer sell these lychee-gelatin snacks at our local 99 Ranch store, and wondered if they were pulled off the shelves to prevent any more lawsuits by people who need instructions on how to "chew first, then swallow."
"B" as in "bictory"
   Thursday, December 26, 2002 at 21:38:39 (PST)    []