As an avid boba lover and a basic white girl, I always order bubble tea with brown sugar boba, and maybe lychee jelly if I’m feeling fruity. But this ends today as I am going to try every single topping offered at local boba shops.
Boba, or Bubble Tea, originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and has taken the States by a storm. Many people enjoy boba as a tasty sweet treat, but don’t expand their horizons to all the possibilities that boba has to offer. I worked with Monster Tea Bobarista and Franklin High School senior, Rory Johnston, to determine the best boba topping for different kinds of drinks to hopefully encourage you to try something new!
I developed this experiment by splitting the toppings into two categories for tasting: with fresh black tea and with milk tea. For this experiment, aloe vera chunks will be seen as neutral as they can pair with either fresh tea or milk tea. The toppings that were tried with milk tea were brown sugar boba, coffee jelly, egg pudding, and sea cream. The toppings that were tried with fresh tea were mango jelly, strawberry jelly, crystal boba, mango bits, mango jelly, strawberry jelly, rainbow jelly, and lychee jelly.
Going into this experiment, I was slightly hesitant to try some of the toppings. I am a texture sensitive person, and certain textures can trigger my gag reflex. Despite my anxiety, none of the textures threw me off too much and I was able to go through the experiment in full!
We began the experiment with the fruity toppings, and overall, they did not disappoint! Most of the toppings paired with the fresh black tea added a nice contrast of flavors as the tea was slightly bitter, and the toppings were pretty sweet. I will say, most of the toppings would pair better with a flavored black or green tea, like raspberry or mango.
The real downside to the fruity topping were the mango bits and aloe. The mango had an odd flavor to it and just wasn’t pleasant, which I was disappointed to report with a rating of 4/10. Johnston later informed me that the mango bits are really only used with their Mangonada, which is a blended mango smoothie topped with chamoy, tajín, and the mango bits, so their slight bitter tang is nicely paired with the sweet smoothie and tangy chamoy and tajín. I cannot find any way to defend the aloe chunks. I normally enjoy drinks with aloe vera chunks in it, but the flavoring of this was quite odd. Neither Rory or I could come up with a way to pair the aloe in a better way, which is why it landed last in my rankings.
The shining stars of this entire experiment were the strawberry and mango jellies. I had never tried them before and they blew my mind. Their texture was not quite Jell-o, but not quite as stiff as the lychee jelly, giving them a great consistency to pair with other toppings. Johnston also favors the strawberry and mango jellies, and finds that “the strawberry jelly and mango jelly are superior because they’re heart shaped.” These jellies flew straight to the top of my rankings at first and second, with strawberry taking the lead. Johnston recommends ordering a mango green tea with boba and strawberry jelly for a sweet and refreshing spring drink!
The other fruity toppings (rainbow jelly, lychee jelly, popping boba, and crystal boba) did not stand out as terrible, but weren’t anything mind blowing. If you order these with your drink, you definitely won’t be disappointed. Johnston adds a helpful tip: “Sometimes in a rush we will run out of brown sugar boba, so we will recommend the crystal boba to customers as it’s the same shape, just made out of white sugar rather than brown.” If you’re looking for a lighter alternative to brown sugar boba, crystal boba may be what you’re looking for.
For the toppings that paired with milk tea, I was surprised to say I liked all of them! If I were to choose a least favorite, I would have to say the coffee jelly, just because I am not a fan of coffee and don’t see myself ordering it in the future, but if you enjoy coffee, these would be right up your alley!
The egg pudding was what I was really skeptical of. I hate pudding. It sends shivers down my spine just writing about it. Surprisingly though, this pudding was not bad! It starts as big chunks, but when sucked up the straw they break down to a smaller bite. The flavor was a very mild vanilla and not overly sweet. I personally would not order it again just because it wasn’t anything I loved, but if you’re looking for something mildly sweet with a softer jelly texture, this would be worth the try.
What I was most surprised to discover was that I enjoyed the sea cream, a sweet, salty, and cold foam. Normally, I don’t like salted desserts, so I figured this would not be my jam, but honestly it tasted like a slightly salted marshmallow whip. It was super yummy with milk tea. I would definitely recommend adding the sea cream to taro or salted caramel milk tea.
Overall, my experience with trying each boba topping was very positive. My official ranking from first to last place is: strawberry jelly, mango jelly, brown sugar boba, lychee jelly, sea cream, rainbow jelly, strawberry/mango/lychee popping boba, crystal boba, coffee jelly, egg pudding, mango bits, and aloe chunks. I’m glad I expanded my horizons and I hope you consider trying some of these unique boba toppings too!