Only a few years ago, the idea of having anything other than liquid in your cup of tea would have seemed absurd to most Americans. Actually, the Taiwanese have been drinking their tea with tapioca pearls since the ’80s, and the trend has caught on all over the world. I’m sure most have already mastered the art of simultaneously drinking and chewing, especially in Berkeley where new boba shops are popping up on every corner. But how much do boba lovers know about the variety of add-ins?
The add-ins you can pair with your drink, referred to as “toppings” or “sinkers,” are the perfect way to explore a new dimension of flavors and textures. This summer, venture out of your comfort zone by putting a twist on your drink!
Appearance: Lots of small, translucent, white beads clumped together
What it actually is: Sago is a starch extracted from the pith of sago palm stems.
Taste: Almost tasteless with a soft, mushy texture, reminiscent of rice or tapioca pudding
Pairs well with: Thicker fruit-based drinks and smoothies
Personal Recommendation: Mango with Coconut Milk Smoothie from Sweetheart Cafe
Appearance: Translucent and dark brown/black in color, with texture similar to that of Jell-O
What it actually is: Grass jelly is not actually made from grass but from Mesona chinensis, an herb related to mint.
Taste: Mildly bitter with an herbal/medicinal aftertaste
Pairs well with: Coffee, chocolate or milk-based tea drinks; some may find it more refreshing with fruit-based drinks.
Personal Recommendation: Thai Milk Tea from Quickly
Appearance: Light yellow and soft
What it actually is: It’s a pudding made with eggs and milk, comparable to flan or Japanese purin.
Taste: Sweet and custard-like
Pairs well with: Taro or any kind of milk tea
Personal Recommendation: Matcha Green Milk Tea from Purple Kow
Appearance: Translucent white to almost clear, often cubed
What it actually is: Aloe vera is a stemless plant that has thick, fleshy leaves. The insides of the thick skin of the leaves are the succulent, juicy flesh that is consumed.
Taste: Similar to chopped-up watermelon
Pairs well with: Fruity drinks, especially citrus; also green tea
Personal Recommendation: Passion Fruit, Orange & Grapefruit Tea from Sharetea
Appearance: The thick layer of white, frothy cream that goes on top of your drink
Note: At Sharetea, they have a small plastic knife that you can use to slit open the covering to sip the creama and drink together like you would the foam on a cappuccino.
Taste: Rich and buttery, often with a sea salt taste
Pairs well with: Tea-based drinks without milk; if the drink itself is also milky, the creaminess may be overwhelming.
Personal Recommendation: Strawberry Black Tea Creama from Sharetea