This week, FreeP vs. Food tackled the boba industry. Here’s our guide to four popular boba spots in Brookline, Allston and along Commonwealth Avenue, rating each place based on tea flavor, boba texture and the store’s ambiance. These are our opinions, but we hope you try each on your own, either with a significant other, roommates or your seven closest codependent friends (like we did).
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Basho Express is easily the most convenient boba spot for Boston University students, as it’s located at the base of Warren Towers, but convenience is one of its only positive qualities.
We ordered a black milk tea and a green milk tea, the first with jelly and the second with boba. From past boba experiences, we’ve come to know and love black milk tea as a drink with a strong, slightly acidic flavor. Basho’s black milk tea was almost the complete opposite: sweet, sugary and artificial. It was like we were drinking a dessert, not tea.
The green milk tea, on the other hand, is generally a lighter flavor at most tea shops. But Basho instead served something bitter and much stronger than it should have.
The boba itself was a saving grace. They tasted fresh, and had just the right amount of give to add the familiar chewy texture to a boba drink. But it wasn’t enough to redeem the entire thing.
So, if you’re looking for a drink to grab between classes when the Starbucks line is too long, give it a try. But if that’s not the case, we suggest you only rely on Basho for sushi.
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TBaar is a small tea shop in Brookline located across from the St. Mary’s T stop, filled with succulents, board games and Polaroid photos. But aside from the cozy ambiance, we still weren’t quite satisfied with this boba experience.
Between the black milk tea and the green milk tea, we enjoyed the former the best. The black milk tea blended its milk and flavor well, creating a subtle yet authentic taste. The green milk tea, however, came across quite differently — fragrant, slightly artificial and heavily jasmine-flavored. The boba had a fairly satisfying texture, though perhaps too soft and sticky for some.
One appeal of TBaar is the extensive drink menu, which offered a huge assortment of flavors including matcha, taro, coffee, coconut and more. In addition to boba toppings, they also give you the option to add pudding, aloe, red bean or jelly, which may all sound strange, but it’s yours if you want it.
All in all, the natural lighting and bright walls tied the whole shop together in an appealing way, and even if the sweetness in the drinks wasn’t always consistent, TBaar is a comfortable place to relax, do homework or play Jenga. But be aware that the quality of each order may differ.
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If you’re craving both boba and a meal, Lollicup is the best option. The store is part of Super 88, a larger grocery store located right off of campus in Allston. This food court setup is inviting to big groups that don’t want to be rushed, with the plus of getting to choose from Asian cuisine options, including pho, ramen and bibimbap.
The boba drinks, however, were pretty standard. We ordered a Thai iced tea and a black milk tea, one with boba and the other with mini boba (a special feature at Lollicup). Both drinks were completely satisfactory — not too bitter, not too sweet. There weren’t any automatic red flags, but there also wasn’t anything extraordinary. It was exactly what you’d expect from milk tea, though some complained that there wasn’t any hint of tea.
So here’s where you can decide for yourself — if you prefer milk tea that tastes more milky, Lollicup is a solid, safe choice. But if you prefer milk tea that has distinctive notes of tea, TBaar might be better the better option.
The number one appeal of Lollicup is that it will always taste the same, no matter how many times you order it. This is a drink that is classic, straightforward and consistent.
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Kung Fu Tea’s closest location to BU’s campus is on Harvard Avenue in Allston. It’s a bit of a trek from East Campus, but here’s why it was worth it.
Kung Fu Tea offers a range of traditional tea options, such as classic milk, green and taro teas. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also order specialty drinks, including grapefruit green tea or Oreo milk tea. We went with the classics — jasmine green milk tea and a standard black milk tea — and were impressed. These drinks maintained a strong balance between tea and milk, offering both flavors but not going too overboard on either. The boba itself tasted sweeter compared to the other spots we tried, which was a plus, and provided the texture we had been looking for: chewy but firm.
Some things to keep in mind for Kung Fu Tea: it gets crowded at night, especially weekend nights, and while the café is spacious when empty, it could easily feel claustrophobic during peak hours. So we suggest finding a day when you’re willing to go for a bit of a walk, visit mid-day and take a sip of sweet, chewy goodness.
PHOTOS BY ALYSSA MEYERS AND OLIVIA FALCIGNO/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF