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Boba tea review: critiquing popular Palo Alto boba

It’s sweet. It’s chewy. And students love it. Grabbing boba from a local store is a tried-and-true method of disconnecting from the tiresome reality of high school, and in Palo Alto, the Taiwanese drink has become a staple. But with so many choices in town, deciding where to go can be a crisis in itself. So, we set out to uncover which stores in Palo Alto offer the best boba experience, based on drink quality, price, ambiance and location.

To note, we visited (from our experience) the most popular boba shops that students go to, especially Downtown, in Town and Country and in the Stanford Shopping Center. We also tried to order specialty drinks at each location, so we could compare the best of each place.

Mr. Sun

Our first stop was Mr. Sun, one of (too) many boba stores on University Ave. Located in the heart of downtown Palo Alto, the vibrantly-lit shop is a convenient choice for those wishing to grab a sweet treat after lunch. Their Golden Brown Sugar Boba ($5.75) tasted amazing at 50% sugar with less ice, and (at the expense of a slightly longer wait time) their handmade boba, while overly chewy, left a good taste in the mouth. We also ordered the Mango Boba Milk Tea ($6), but we were unable to enjoy the beverage because Lucas slammed the drink on a table to “mix it,” rendering the drink undrinkable. We ran out of the shop down University Ave. with boba streaming out of the broken plastic cup, leaving a trail of tea behind us — and a lot of turned heads. Our final verdict: The cup didn’t pass the stress test. 4.5/5.

Kung Fu Tea

The next stop in our culinary adventure led us on a two-block stroll down the same avenue to Kung Fu Tea. At $5.70, the medium-sized KF Milk Tea classic was noticeably smaller than Mr. Sun’s drink (which only had one size). With no option to adjust the sweetness level, it was noticeably sweeter, and the final sips left a slight bitter aftertaste in the mouth. At least we could adjust the ice level. But here, too, we ran into an issue: the regular ice order was not enough for a cool drink. But for ambiance lovers, the store decor better resembles a traditional shop in Taiwan. Not to mention, it also has an arcade and two Pokemon Go gyms to battle it out while enjoying your drink. By that standard, perhaps the store does live up to its martial arts name. 3/5.

Wanpo Tea

This review would not be complete without going to a store at the Stanford Shopping Center, the wonderfully designed and shopping go-to hub located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Wanpo Tea is located in the center of Palo Alto’s largest shopping complex, and is always bustling with storegoers on the weekend, making it necessary to order beforehand or by scanning a QR code outside. This international Taiwanese chain stays true to its roots, with classic black Wanpo Milk Tea ($5.75) being its flagship drink. Lacking flavor, the Wanpo Milk tea was the least enjoyable of the lot. The boba pearls were too small and lacked flavor, while 50% sugar tasted a little too diluted, but the ice was perfect at “less ice.” The Taro Milk Tea ($6.25) was a different story. Authentic with a grainy taro texture, which admittedly is an acquired taste, it helped win back some quality points for the shop. The serving sizes weren’t particularly large, with the drinks similar in size to Kung Fu Tea. 4/5.

Boba Guys

To top it all off, we had to go full circle and head back to Town and Country to Boba Guys. The well-loved chain store supplies the necessary boba intake for many students, and while the menu is more limited than the other shops, its options still are a favorite. The Strawberry Matcha Latte ($7.45 for 16oz) is known for its tri-layered flavors and watermelon-resemblant hues. Mixed together, the strawberry flavor balances out the strength of the matcha nicely. The Korean Banana Milk Tea ($7.90 for 24oz) stayed true to its name: the sweet, milky, banana tang tasted exactly like the Korean counterpart. The boba was also quite chewy and similar to Mr. Sun’s, though the tapioca taste wasn’t as distinct as at some of the other shops. 4/5.

Closing Thoughts

If we’ve learned anything, it’s that boba tea is single-handedly fueling Paly’s caffeine addiction. The unique Asian flavor profile, ranging from sweet purple taro root to

spice-infused Thai tea, expands our palate, reflecting the Bay Area’s cultural hub.

But most importantly, boba shops seem to be constantly buzzing, and from casual meet-ups between friends to shady business deals under shared whispers, each sip can provide a well-needed refresher that might be just enough to keep the day going.

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About the Contributors
Lucas Yuan, Managing Editor
Holden Lee, Lifestyle & Science/Tech Editor
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