Bubble Tea Gets Fancy

There's something downright addictive about bubble tea. It's rich, thirst quenching, and the boba adds a sweet chewiness that puts the concoction somewhere between a drink and dessert.

The only downside is, given our proclivity for ethically sourced, natural ingredients, we've always felt slightly icky when it came to the breakdown of our bubble, or boba, tea. Usually mixed from a powder, with milk, tapioca, and sweeteners of unknown or murky origins, most of the bubble teas we've ordered in our lives have been delicious but troublesome.

The Boba Business Game-Changers

Enter Boba Guys, who are changing the bubble tea game with their ethically and locally sourced bubble tea. Boba Guys was created by two guys, Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, who really liked bubble tea. When one of their favorite San Francisco boba spots closed, they began to experiment with making their own. As they became passionate about the process, they decided to open a pop-up shop in San Francisco adhering to their values of high quality ingredients and in-house production. Pretty soon, they had launched another pop up in New York, which quickly turned into a stand alone shop, right next to Ivan Ramen.

We recently stopped in to try our favorite problematic drink in its new locavore form. In the Boba Guys’ Lower East Side white brick and subway tiled location, you can order an array of teas in sophisticated flavors like Horchata and Coconut Green Tea. All the teas are made with loose leaf tea (no powders!) from their sister company Tea People, and served with either Califia almond milkStraus Family Creamery whole milk, or organic soy milk. 

Customers get to choose their level of sweetness in increments of 25%, with 100% described as the standard (very intense) sweetness, created using a house-made sweetener.

Just One Little Thing

And then there’s the bubbles. Customer can choose house made almond jelly, grass jelly, or….tapioca balls. Here is where our one and only problem arose. We cannot track down any information on where the Boba Guys source their tapioca balls. We emailed them to no response, and when we asked the boba baristas for any information, they had little to offer. They told us that they think they’re sourced in Taiwan, and one barista explained to me that they can’t make the tapioca bubbles in house because they’re made “like pasta.” I wonder if she knows about homemade noodles?

Aside from that, one rather glaring issue, we’re pretty psyched on the Boba Guys. The bubble tea was creamy and flavorful, and the almond jelly was especially yummy, like a marzipan custard. And while it may be double the price of its Chinatown variations down the street, it’s still affordable, which says more about Chinatown’s worrisome wage labor issues than anything else. We’re excited to see one of our favorite drinks (it’s totally doesn’t count as dessert, right?) turned into a more responsible form while only getting tastier.

If you're in New York City or San Francisco, check out the boba goodness for yourselves and let us know your thoughts.