Maybe you’ve seen it on Facebook timeline, or taking over your Instagram feed, but boba and milk tea culture has made its way to the West and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. The drink originated in Taiwan in the late 80s as a way to cool down over the summer. Because shaved ice and tapioca pearls were pretty standard desserts, and tea drinking was very normalized in parts of East Asia at the time, street vendors started combining some tapioca pearls at the bottom of cups, followed by a layer of shaved ice and milk tea on top.
The term boba actually didn’t come until later and derives from a Chinese slang term for breasts. Slowly over the years vendors started adding various toppings in addition to or as replacements to the tapioca in milk tea such as egg pudding and red beans. Boba then made its way West in the 90s following the influx of Taiwanese culture that came along with widespread immigration across the states, and the introduction of ‘café culture’ that became popular from restaurants like Starbucks and the hit show Friends.
Today, we know boba places for their really chill and welcoming atmosphere, and they are now branded very differently than they were ten or even twenty years ago. Now here’s the situation: it’s three in the afternoon, you and some friends are miraculously done with classes for the day, but you’re not really feeling like grabbing coffee or a bite to eat. Someone suggests you go and grab some boba but you don’t know where to go. I spoke with a few local Oregon State students and alumni to see where they think the best boba in Corvallis is.
Speaking with a handful of students, a majority of them said that April’s Teahouse on Monroe and Kings were their favorites. Before writing this article, I had only heard of April’s so I jumped at the opportunity to go and try it for myself and I have to agree with them.
Lyanna Hoang, a student in digital communications has been drinking boba since she was really young and before it started getting marketing it as cute and aesthetic.
“I think I would go out of my way for good boba so even if it was far from campus I’d rather still go to April’s!” said Hoang.
Located just across the street from campus, April’s Tea House is a cute and inviting restaurant with a wide menu really kind staff. Talking to junior Kate Poet, she says, “it’s the best boba in Corvallis right now. It’s decently priced, close to campus and their boba pearls have a great texture. Plus it’s cute and small.”
I tried the lychee black tea with crema (one of their more popular drinks) and also ordered two egg tarts which all ended up being really good. Like most boba places, you can tell them how sweet you want your drink but I ended up ordering my tea on the stronger side because the crema is on the sweeter side. The tapioca pearls had a great texture which is something pretty hard to nail with boba, the tea didn’t overpower the lychee flavor, and the crema was a great sweet and kinda salty topping. Egg tarts are also a personal favorite of mine and were perfect all the way through.
Other students mentioned some other local favorites such as DIY Tea and Beyond on 9th St., or Lemongrass which is also along Monroe. OSU alumni Cory Zimmerman said DIY was his favorite because it reminded him of all the places from back home in San Diego before he moved to Oregon.
“It’s the only place where I’ve found rose milk tea in Oregon,” said Zimmerman.
Another honorable mention that I’ve found amazing boba at is Sweetheart Desserts on 9th St. They’re a brand new business that opened up over the summer with a really big boba menu and a wide selection of more traditional East Asian desserts and snacks!