I went on a tasting extravaganza with two of my favorite boba connoisseurs who pretty much introduced me to the drink four years ago at Teaspoon on Castro Street in Mountain View. Teaspoon, the newest addition to the Castro Quintuplets, is known for having pricier but higher quality drinks without using powders or syrup.
We purchased 5 different drinks, each with a different combination of toppings to see if some can beat the classic honey boba. Full disclaimer: I didn’t even like boba the first time I tried it so I’m pretty sure most of these would grow on me. Honestly, who knows.
Paradise Lime: aloe vera, grass jelly, chia seeds
I was really proud of this creation before I tried it. From what I had read, aloe and grass jelly are more refreshing and are best with non-milk teas. Chia seeds are something I consider Californian — we put it in our smoothies and pay an extra 25 cents for it because they’re a superfood and apparently give you energy? Sure.
It’s been a whole day and I swear the aloe taste is still in my mouth. The aftertaste is bitter and the chunks just kind of feel like biting into a watermelon that’s been pickled. The grass jelly (fun fact, not made of grass!) is also not what I’d consider jelly. In the picture, it’s the black stuff floating with more of a liquidy pudding texture. It didn’t really taste like much — definitely for fruit, non-milk drinks. The chia didn’t taste like anything either: a little bitter, but hey, maybe I’m immune to diabetes now.
Peach virgin mojito: crystal boba, rainbow jelly, mango star jelly
This is one of the two that I would possibly order again. I’m a fan of the mango star jelly: it’s cute and sweet and I like it. Sondrine was disappointed by the rainbow jelly. She said it didn’t have enough fruit flavor, and I know at some of the other places in the area, their jelly is better. For those of you that don’t know what jellies are, they’re usually block-shaped and fruit-flavored — in my opinion, they’re best if they kind of hold their shape and are like little gummies.
Crystal boba is actually made from agar (yes, those things on petri dishes), and the jury is still split on whether or not they’re a good choice. I liked them with the other jellies, but Sondrine and Nitya both took to spitting them out because they “ruined the drink.” I think they’re overdramatic and it tasted fine, so long as they’re not the only topping.
Creamy Jasmine: coffee jelly, red bean, almond pudding
Why would you ever mar a beautiful creamy jasmine with red bean? I love red bean curd in my pastries, don’t get me wrong. But something about actual beans coming up your straw is just sad. I think it might be a nice topper for their snows, but in a drink, it’s a very weird consistency at the bottom. The almond pudding was delicious (I’m very skeptical of pudding in my drinks, but then again, I put tapioca balls in it). Sondrine would recommend it added to milk teas like this one, the house milk tea, and earl grey. The coffee jelly was interesting: I would prefer if jelly as a general rule was fruit flavored. Also, they’re in cubes, not rectangular prisms, which I feel violates the laws of boba. The mix of jasmine, almond and coffee tastes surprised me though, and was actually pretty good.
House Milk Tea: honey boba, coconut jelly, egg pudding
This drink was the all-around favorite. Teaspoon’s honey boba is always pretty consistently excellent, so there was no surprise there. They have a good firmness, chewy and the right amount of subtle honey (although the Los Altos location has better boba… it’s new so we’ll give it a pass). The coconut jelly was, according to Sondrine, “the texture a jelly should be. Take note, rainbow jelly and coffee jelly.” The coconut flavor isn’t overwhelming, but it adds a nice taste to the drink. The egg pudding is a topping that I always see recommended when the unspeakable happens: they run out of pearls. It’s a little hard to get into your straw (come on guys, it’s pudding), but it’s fun to chew and adds texture to a drink without any overwhelming flavor.
Taro Lover: yogurt popping boba, taro chunks
Sondrine literally named this combination the “Satan Drink” and gets the award for “Most Disgusting Drink Sondrine Has Ever Had in Her Mouth.” She’s not wrong. The taro chunks were the consistency of vomit. It was like pureed potato with an uneven consistency attacking your peaceful straw-sipping. Yogurt popping boba, though one of my more preferred toppings, did not end up being a good choice with this drink. I like them in a fruity one with no milk — adds something to the flavor — but when you’re sipping chunks of root vegetable and are already overpowered by the taro taste, there’s no need for anything else.