A warm, enticing smell beckons pedestrians through the doors of Pop Tea Bar, a small, olive-colored shop. Tables and chairs fill the outside patio, and customers chatter as they sip their drinks. Visible behind a glass panel, employees are at work brewing tea, adding ice and taking customer requests. On the wall, a large illuminated sign advertises over 30 teas and drinks, each customizable for optimum enjoyment.
This is Palo Alto’s newest pearl milk tea shop. Squeezed between an array of stores at 456 Cambridge Ave, Pop Tea boasts delicious teas and boba at affordable prices.
Owner Melissa Zheng worked in a hospital for eight years prior to Pop Tea’s opening. Zheng said that the experience was sometimes saddening and decided to open the cafe afterwards.
“I decided that I would open something that would make people happy,” Zheng said. Soon after, she chose to pursue her interest in food with Pop Tea.
“I love to eat and drink,” Zheng said. “I love to cook for my friends, and they really like [the food].”
While several other pearl milk tea shops have recently opened in Palo Alto, Pop Tea offers unique drinks and blends. Most prominently, the store specializes in “popping boba,” or boba with juice that “pops” when one chews it. In addition, tea is made with mainly natural ingredients.
“Other stores may use types of chemical sugars which are unhealthy,” Zheng said.
The cafe only serves drinks with real sugar, as well as toppings which are homemade.
Pop Tea offers a diverse selection of both tea and boba. Pudding, red beans and three types of jelly can be added for 50 cents, while fresh fruit can be added for $1. The cafe also serves nearly 30 choices of drinks, which can be customized in many ways. The store offers a wide selection of milk, including coconut, almond and soy milk. In addition, customers can modify ice and sugar levels to their liking.
The Classic Milk Tea ($3.50) is easily the shining star on the menu. A perfect blend between sweet and bitter the tea combines a milky flavor with mint undertones. While people may find this drink too sweet, customers can modify drink sweetness. Overall this drink may be the best pearl milk tea I have ever tasted.
The Peach Fruit Green Tea ($3.75) and Strawberry Ice Slushy ($3.95) are also appetizing options. The Peach Fruit Green Tea’s flavor is subtle and contrasts well with the sweet milk for an overall great taste. The strawberry slushy is a perfect summer snack that blends a fruity flavor with an icy texture. While the strawberry flavor is strong, it is not overwhelming and it will easily please fruit lovers.
The Mango Green Milk Tea ($3.75) and Lychee Green Tea ($3.75) were somewhat less satisfactory. The mango tea’s texture is unpleasant due to the fruit pulp, making the drink taste more like fruit juice rather than tea. However, the drink’s sourness contrasts well with the sweet milk. While the lychee tea has a perfect level of sweetness, the overall lychee taste is too strong and the drink has an odd aftertaste. In addition, the servers forgot to add the jelly, which was ordered, to the tea.
Pop Tea’s boba greatly varies by drink, but it is generally sweet and chewy. When combined with the Mango Green Milk Tea, however, it tasted bland and it was difficult to chew. The overall price for both the boba and drinks is inexpensive.
Despite Pop Tea’s lengthy line, service was speedy and friendly. The tea bar offers several outdoor seats and an array of tables and chairs outside. The entire store was extremely clean and appeared to be well-maintained.
Overall Pop Tea has a delicious selection of tea drinks and toppings at affordable prices. The boba is sweet and chewy, and the teas are milky and delectable. Pop Tea is a welcome addition to Palo Alto’s assortment of pearl milk tea shops.