Three Boba Places to Try Around UT
For the uninitiated, boba tea, also known as pearl milk tea or bubble tea, is a tea-based drink containing chewy balls of tapioca. Boba comes from Taiwan and has been popular in East Asia since the nineties, and is now seeing a new wave of popularity in the States as more Americans become hooked on the unusual looking drink, as well as the ever-satisfying act of stabbing through the thin plastic lid with your special boba straw, perfect for Snapchat stories. There are tons of Asian drink places around campus, so I recently took two of friends out to compare three within walking distance of UT.
Stop 1: UTea Town
Up on east Dean Keeton, our first boba stop took me to a side of campus I had never been to, across from Butler and the LBJ Library. East Campus definitely has a more relaxed vibe than West Campus, and UTea Town reflected that. Inside were pastel decorations by a comfy looking couch, and a bookcase filled with board games. The menu was lengthy, with plenty of tea options. They also sold fruit bowls and other food items. With the app Hooked, coupons are available sometimes for money off any drink. I got the Jasmine Honey Green tea with tapioca. They only offer one size, but my tea was really good, as was the tapioca. The guy spelled my name wrong but it’s whatever.
Stop 2: Gong Cha
Above Target and below the Dobie apartments, Gong Cha is definitely the closest Boba place to campus. They offer other add-in options like jelly to go into their drinks, as well as more dessert-like drinks that more similar to milkshakes. What’s missing at Gong Cha, however, is that straw-stabbing satisfaction: some drinks come with normal drink lid, others with thicker plastic that’s difficult to get your straw through. On the plus side, however, Gong Cha does offer a free drink on a customer’s birthday. My friend Mackenzie ordered a chocolate caramel slush with pearls, and observed that “The tapioca is good. This is different from the fruity stuff; I’d recommend.” Gong Cha was one of the most customizable boba places, with a scale of ice and sugar amounts for customers to choose from. And it’s definitely the most convenient for in between classes.
Stop 3: Tapioca House
Farther down the Drag, we walked by two other boba places in the two hundred feet between Gong Cha and Tapioca House. The sign outside claims “the best Boba drink in town,” which is pretty bold. Of all the places, Tapioca House had by far the fastest service. They offer a variety of teas, frappes and smoothies to add different flavors of pearls to. Unlike the other two places, they also had a full menu of Chinese food. My friend Asha got a rose milk tea with pearls, which she said was “good, with an interesting flavor.” The largest size drink at Tapioca House comes in a cup in the shape of a lightbulb, for reasons unknown.
An honorary mention goes to Mango Mango, on Rio Grande and closer to the heart of West Campus. Drinks are all served on cute wooden trays, and each table is decorated with bonsai trees. A general rule for any Asian drink place, though- stick to drinks with pearls or jelly. I got a green tea with rice and red beans. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was like drinking dessert soup, and not in a great way.
Understandably, boba tea is not for everyone. But with so many places surrounding campus, it’s definitely something for everyone to try at least once.