Bubble tea, or "boba," inspires strong opinions. It's one of those things. The love/hate mostly seems to derive from the tapioca "pearls" that make the drink what it is. People either love the novelty of having gummy blobs unexpectedly rise into their mouths from the extra-wide straws or can't stand the weird interruption and having to chew to an otherwise great beverage. I stand solidly in the former camp.
Here's how two local bubble teas, from neighboring Eat Street joints, match up:
Jasmine Deli has a lot going for it, not least of which are its cheap and superior grab'n'go banh mi. Add their bubble tea to the list. Choose from a variety of flavors posted on the sandwich case by the register. The $4 green tea version comes blended, giving it a creaminess not unlike a frappe. It's not overly sweet and tastes very much like green tea, green tea ice cream actually.
Quang's front counter is an insane hive of orderly activity. You've got people paying up, people waiting to place take-out orders, and people manhandling the desserts on the counter. Unlike Jasmine, Quang's bubble teas come with the shrink-wrapped lids that you get to stab open with the straw (fun!). The $4.32 lychee green tea is assaultingly sweet and lined with both pearls and slivers of lychee.
The Winner: Quang's lychee green tea boba, with it's bright, assertive sweetness and double duty texture make it truly stand out. Though the tea gets lost in the tapioca-lychee battle, its flavor is nonetheless standout. Jasmine's, while equally readily consumed, fell a bit short, mostly because it tasted kind of mix-y, like the bubble tea version of one of those margaritas from one of those big premade jugs.
Jasmine Deli 2532 Nicollet Ave. S Minneapolis 612.870.4700
Quang's 2719 Nicollet Ave. S Minneapolis 612.870.4739