Boba first popped up in St. Louis over ten years ago on Olive at St. Louis Bubble Tea. Boba, or bubble tea, is a drink with tapioca pearls that originated in Taiwan. Boba’s popularity has since skyrocketed, with more and more boba places appearing around the city and with five different boba places in the Delmar Loop alone. Although there were several other shops around St. Louis, the Loop has many shops within a small area and is close to Clayton.
Boba traditionally consists of a tea, with or without milk, but now, most places offer many creative variations. For the sake of review, the drinks ordered were regular milk tea with boba and had no modifications. However, it is worth noting that opinions of the boba may change according to personal preference.
St. Louis Bubble Tea
St. Louis Bubble Tea, the first boba place in the Loop, has a bright, tropical-themed interior, with one wall painted with fruit and one wall displaying the menu behind the counter. Of the boba places in the Loop, St. Louis Bubble Tea has the most drink choices, including flavored milk teas, pudding teas, icy slushes, chai teas, snows (smoothies), flavored teas, and hot drinks. The menu includes some uncommon drink flavors, such as durian and peppermint, and some uncommon add-ons, like green bean. However, the exciting variety of flavors results in artificially colored and flavored drinks. St. Louis Bubble Tea also serves a variety of American-Chinese food. The milk tea was $3.75 ($3.25, plus $0.50 for boba) and was ready almost immediately after ordering, with the shortest wait of all the places. The drink came in a flimsy plastic cup with the classic boba puncture lid. The tea had an almost chocolate-like flavor and was a bit too sweet. Partially hard and partially mushy, the boba lacked the desired chewiness. Overall, St. Louis Bubble Tea is not the greatest place to get boba, but has the greatest variety and deserves credit for popularizing the drink in the area.
Corner 17 has developed a positive reputation among St. Louis residents. One side is designated for the restaurant, which is popular for its handmade noodles, and the other for drinks and desserts. The interior theme is overwhelmingly green, but the drink counter is nicely decorated with glass canisters filled with tea leaves. Queue poles create an organized line to order at two cash registers. The menu includes a decent variety of drinks: boba milk tea, Corner 17 specialty teas, caramel milks, flavored teas, fresh juice, slushes, fruit smoothies and sago. The medium-sized regular milk tea with boba cost $3.99. At 2 pm on a Friday, the restaurant side had a fair amount of customers, but there was no line for drinks, so the wait for the drink was short. The cup itself was sturdy and closed with a snap-on lid. The tea was not too sweet and tasted brewed, not powdered. The boba had one of the best textures, as it was not too chewy, but also not too firm. The only downfalls were the price and that there seemed to be too little boba relative to the amount of the drink. Overall, Corner 17 has dependable drinks that defend the restaurant’s popularity.
Slightly off the main street of Delmar, customers outdoors sit around Tasti-tea. Inside, string lights stretch across the ceiling, and the blue-painted walls are decorated with wood panels and a wooden lattice, license plates and a bicycle-themed clock. The restaurant was surprisingly crowded for early afternoon, but despite its name, Tasti-tea’s many customers were enjoying the food options, and several customers had boba from other places. The drink menu, despite its limited number of choices, offers several uncommon drinks and flavors, including milk teas, dirty teas, cheese teas, cloud smoothies, fruit teas and yakults. There was no order line, and the drink was prepared fairly quickly. The large milk tea was $4.55 and came in a sturdy plastic cup with a snap-on lid, the same as Corner 17. The boba was warm despite the ice on the top of the drink. The liquid tasted rich but didn’t have a strong tea flavor. The boba was soft, sticky and had a watery taste. Although the drinks were disappointing, considering the delicious scent of the food, Tasti-tea might be worth a visit.
Above Vapor Exchange, hides Fun Café, a new boba shop. Although not easily accessible due to its second-floor location, the café is inviting with its friendly owner and millennial aesthetic. Green plants, wooden crates and marble, gold and grey velvet furniture decorate the interior. The menu, displayed on clipboards at the register, includes milk teas, milk cap teas, which are milk teas with salty cheese “caps,” cold brew teas, fruit teas and specials. Fun Café is the most expensive, with all the drink options priced at $5.49, but the cost includes boba, and the single size option was larger than any of the large-sized drinks at other boba places. Drinks are made with organic milk, real fruit and natural tea. They also offer a 10% student discount. The tea was very thin, the boba was decently chewy and the drink had a sweet aftertaste. The café had various board games available by the wall for customers to play while waiting for or enjoying their drinks. Despite being slightly more expensive, Fun Café is worth visiting to try their natural drinks and spend time with friends and family.
Kung Fu Tea
On the corner of an intersection stands a boba place, Kung Fu Tea, which, despite being newly-opened, was the busiest of the five boba places. With locations all over America, this cafe is the only franchise in St. Louis. Catering towards students, Kung Fu Tea has a casual red, black and white theme, complete with Wi-Fi and a comfortable sitting area. Kung Fu Tea offers a variety of drinks, but not any food. Drinks are available in two sizes. A medium milk tea costs $3.25, and boba is $0.50 extra. The line extended to the door, but the interior of the shop seemed poorly planned, as the empty middle space seemed wasted and the line blocked patrons from moving around. Despite the line, the cashier was efficient, and the drink was also prepared fairly quickly. The drink came in the classic boba puncture lid and included ice, making the tea refreshing. The tea, which tasted real and not powdered, was pleasantly sweet, but the honey boba was overwhelmingly so. The boba had a nice chewy texture, but the honey made it slightly sticky. Overall, the tea and boba were decent, and drinks can be improved by requesting a lower sweetness.
In the end, Corner 17 is a solid option, with quality boba and tea, but is overpriced. Other places around the Loop are definitely still worth a visit, especially depending on personal preference.