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Boba Guys, bursting with flavor

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As part of the new weekly column “Foodie Fridays,” Arts&Life staffers will share some of their favorite college student bites.

Like any self-described boba fiend will tell you, an iced milk tea with toppings is the perfect remedy for unusually hot weather. 

A popular stop for delicious tea and house-made toppings, Boba Guys is easily accessible from Main Quad with a 25-minute walk, 15-minute Marguerite trip or 7-minute bike ride. Located at Town & Country Village on El Camino Real, on the same journey you can pick up Trader Joe’s groceries for those late nights, purchase pints at Tin Pot Creamery, (window) shop at high-end boutiques and even visit the UPS store. 

After a hectic start to autumn quarter, I welcomed the familiar logo of an aardvark sipping boba from a straw, and I planted myself in a line that reached out the door and tangled around the nearby CVS. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, I had a clear view of the black-and-white lettered menu, assorted merchandise and green succulents, though I already set my heart on my favorite order.

Boba Guys keeps its promise to “serve the highest quality milk tea in the world,” with high-value ingredients and a commitment to sustainable practices. Recently, they launched a new initiative to use bamboo fiber straws, which are biodegradable, effective (will hold-up against temperatures and liquids longer than paper straws) and sustainable (bamboo is one of the most renewable and fast-growing resources on earth).

A pop-up that first started in San Francisco in 2011, Boba Guys has since expanded into the Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York, with more locations to come. Not only do they make their premium tea in small batches with real tea leaves (now sourced from their own company, Tea People), they also make their own syrups, all-natural fruit purées, tapioca balls, almond jelly and grass jelly in-house. Their organic milk comes from Strauss Family Creamery (think of an image of “happy cows”), and for the lactose-intolerant among us, their Oatly oat milk and Califia Farms almond milk substitutes taste fairly comparable to the original. Between the latter two, I recommend the oat milk for its surprisingly similar (if lighter) consistency to cow milk, which enriches the implosion of tea that can be somewhat obscured with a nuttier base.

I ordered my usual, a Matcha Latte with 25 percent sweetness (reduced to allow the naturally astringent matcha flavor to seep in), topped with honey boba and almond jelly. Boba Guys’ signature drink appeared too beautiful to disturb, with waves of forest green matcha set atop cloud-like milk, tendrils slowly wafting into the darker brown-sugar sweetener and black boba, contrasting with the pale jelly. I stirred and disrupted the layers, shifting the composition into a lighter green mixture, the cup fogging over slightly from the chunks of ice bobbing near the lid. Besides the rich, earthy taste of the tea, the honey-infused boba had a firm, round consistency ideal for chewing, with the almond jelly emitting the right hint of refreshing sweetness. When swirled together, the creamy base allowed all the flavors to combine with mellifluous fluidity.

For more adventurous mixes, you can try the Strawberry Matcha Latte and Matchata, which respectively add in strawberry purée and horchata, both housemade and carefully layered beneath the matcha and milk. Other selections from their Loose Leaf Teas, such as the Rose Black Tea and Duke of Earl Grey, are classics with their own elevation in quality compared to a usual boba shop. Even the seasonal and more unconventional drinks, such as the Matcha Peachu (Pellegrino Mineral Water with peach marmalade and cold-brew matcha), are just as excellent.

I finished my drink by the time I returned to campus. Now, I await my next opportunity (hopefully next week) to visit Boba Guys again.

Contact Shana Hadi at shanaeh ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Shana '21 is a Managing Editor for Arts&Life who is studying computer science, English, and their many intersections. She is also an active night owl who enjoys green tea and flights of imagination (spurred from works like Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation"). When she’s not reading speculative fiction or attempting to write it well, she wonders if books are word sandwiches and their themes are different flavors of idea jam, and if that’s why they're so nourishing to the soul.