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If the warm spring weather has you craving a refreshing new drink, look no further than boba tea.
Also called bubble milk tea or pearl milk tea, boba tea is rooted in 1980s Taiwan but has grown in popularity all over the world. Made with tapioca balls, tea, milk and flavorings, boba tea is a customizable beverage experience that you drink but also eat.
When you take your first sip of boba, you’ll taste sweet and creamy tea. Then, with a couple more sips, the smooth, bouncy and chewy boba bubbles will make their way up the extra-large straw to your mouth.
Boba tea is all over TikTok, where creators post videos that show them making the sweet and fruity beverage at home, coordinating different flavors of boba tea to their outfits, requesting shops to put extra-extra boba pearls in their drink, and even making a bucket-size boba tea.
But due to international shipping delays brought on by the pandemic, tapioca supplies are running low around the world. Many tea shop owners are worried they may run out of boba, and the shortage is starting to be felt in Utah too, says Don Ly, manager of Space Tea in Salt Lake City.
“Sadly, we aren’t sure how the boba situation is going to be,” Ly says, “but we had to look for different suppliers of boba, and they are limiting us, where we might run out depending on how long the shortage goes.”
But luckily, the options for bubble tea toppings don’t just include boba pearls made with tapioca. Many shops also offer “jellies,” typically made from fruit juice, that bring an extra punch of flavor and texture to any drink.
In the Salt Lake Valley (and Ogden), there are several locally owned boba shops that are well worth a visit. Here is a list of five bubble tea shops ready to satisfy the cravings of any discerning boba lover, or to quench the curiosities of anyone looking to try boba for the first time.
Located in downtown Salt Lake City at 1085 S. State St., Space Tea “is community-based, and there’s not that many bubble tea options available in Salt Lake with that kind of community,” says manager Ly.
Some of Space Tea’s out-of-this-world signature drinks include the Milky Way (cookies & cream milk tea with black sugar boba and creme) and the Martian (honeydew lemonade with crystal boba, aloe jelly and fruit bits). If you’ve never had boba before, Ly recommends trying the Thai milk tea, mango green tea or the strawberry smoothie.
Space Tea is also committed to protecting the environment — reusable jars and straws are available for purchase so your love of boba doesn’t have to equal throwing away single-use plastics. To order online for pickup, visit SpaceTeaSLC.com.
Pearl Milk Tea Club
If you’re looking for a boba shop farther north, Pearl Milk Tea Club at 110 25th St. in Ogden is the spot to check out. This shop provides unique flavor combinations for customers to try, like the taro lavender smoothie and coconut taro. Taro, a purple root vegetable grown in Southeast Asia, is a classic ingredient and flavor in many dishes and boba drinks. It has a mild, sweet, slightly nutty flavor that is usually balanced with vanilla in milk teas. In the summer, be sure to pair Pearl Milk Tea Club’s tropical jellies with mango fruit tea for an especially refreshing combination. Follow the tea shop on Instagram at @pearlmilkteaclub.
Bakes N Bubbles
Local restaurateur Anny Sooksri — owner of Tea Rose Diner in Murray, Chabaar Beyond Thai in Midvale, and FAV Bistro in Holladay — opened a new boba shop in the fall. Bakes N Bubbles, located at 6014 S. State St. in Murray, offers boba tea as well as cookies and other treats. The matcha and Thai tea options can be made into whipped drinks — a trend that became wildly popular in March 2020 with thousands of TikTok videos demonstrating how to make dalgona coffee, aka whipped coffee. For their special-“teas,” Bakes N Bubbles offers original flavor combinations like lychee lemon, mamba mango, passion peach and red guava. For updates, follow the shop on Instagram at @bakesnbubblesutah.
For a boba place that also has plenty of food options, Gossip Tapioca at 1629 W. 3500 South in West Valley City is the way to go. Here, you can order your favorite boba drinks alongside classic Vietnamese dishes like pho (in a variety of flavors), vermicelli noodle bowls, rice plates and more. On Gossip Tapioca’s menu, the banana, mango and orange “Da Bomb” boba smoothie is marked as the shop’s most popular boba drink, but there are plenty of other sweet and fruity boba tea options available. Visit GossipTapioca.com to see the full menu.
Located in the heart of Sugar House at 1201 Wilmington Ave., Tea Bar has an extensive collection of various teas and snacks for customers to choose from. Employees place stars on the menu next to the most popular drinks, which include taro milk tea, mango slush, lychee blended yogurt, honey and kumquat herbal tea, and a fresh avocado milk smoothie. Tea Bar has a unique offering with the sea salt cream tea option — try it with green tea to offset the typical sweetness associated with some boba drinks. As far as nibbles to pair with your boba, you can never go wrong with the chive pancakes, and the fried squid balls are a cult favorite. Visit Facebook.com/TEABARUTAH to see the full menu.