You say boba. I say bubble. No matter what you call it, the delicious tea treat with pea-size tapioca pearls (known as boba) has a giant following in Oregon and the United States, in part thanks to the Insta-worthy beauty of these colorful concoctions. Cafes and food carts around the state offer this drink with Taiwanese origins in delightful infused flavors that tickle the belly.
The options are endless but the basics are typically the same: Take a base of hot or cold tea and flavor-infused milk — usually nondairy creamer or coconut milk — and drop in tapioca-flour or fruit-flavored boba pearls. The tapioca-flour balls are slippery and addictive; the “popping” or “bursting” kind will explode with fruity syrup when you bite them. Gussy it up with pleasing add-ons like fruit, jiggly cubes of gelatinized juices or custard. You can even add more toppings, from Japanese-style caramel syrups to bits of crumbled-up cookies to a slightly salty cream cheese whip.
No matter which way you go, you won’t want to miss these must-stops, where each drink comes infused with extra creativity, fun and expertise. Some boba cafes offer great snacks, too.
Artisan Tea for the Boba Purist
If you want to know pretty much anything about tea and Chinese culture, Yin Na at Tea Artist in Seaside is your expert. Na is a bona fide Chinese tea specialist, academic, teacher, tour leader and author whose handcrafted bubble teas, ice cream and packets of custom-blended tea are worth the trip to the North Coast. Try the classic roasted-oolong milk tea with brown-sugar boba. Another option for purists is Wabi Sabi Tea in Salem, which crafts its boba drinks with high-end teas and fresh fruit.
Inventive Toppings for Unique Creations
They say art is in the cup at Bobahead, with one location in Corvallis and two in Eugene, and that art tastes delicious. The secret stems from fresh tea leaves imported from Taiwan and combinations of yummy seasonal ingredients for toppings. You can sample pure teas like green or hibiscus — or go for the silky flavored milk teas — and dress each up with anything from aloe jellies and strawberry popping boba to Oreo crumbles, kumquats, oranges and maybe a layer of “creama” — a kind of extra-foamy whipped cream — on top.
Also in Eugene, Day & Night Boba Tea House can make a kiwi drink with yogurt popping boba or a milk tea with crème brûlée on top. For another interesting textural contrast, the taro version comes with a layer of taro — a potato-like starchy root — at the bottom.
If you like your boba sweet and colorful, TeaCupfuls in downtown Bend has clown-bright versions that’ll make a child’s eyes bulge with delight. The Mint Chocolate Chip “tea” alone is a joy to behold with a white chocolate, peppermint and honeydew base stuffed with tapioca boba and marbled with a chocolate drizzle. Top it off with a poofy mound of cotton candy, a mini peppermint patty and a chocolate kiss, and the sugar high just might be eternal.
With more than 15 Oregon locations including Portland, Grants Pass, The Dalles, Lincoln City and Hermiston, Bobablastic took the state by storm in 2016 with a vast array of toppings and teas that combine to make more than 6,000 different drinks, the owners say. Swing by any location for flavors like almond, matcha or lavender, and add the toppings of your dreams — think honey boba, green apple or aloe-vera jellies, or billowy scoops of custard.
Teatime With Savory Treats
Portland has no shortage of awesome bubble-tea houses with establishments like Tiki Tea, Ding Tea Williams and Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea among the many favorites. Fat Straw, one of the earliest boba spots in Oregon, specializes in sandwiches and smoothies alongside the boba tea. Try the honeydew milk tea with lychee jellies paired with a Vietnamese-ham banh mi.
With multiple locations in Portland and the Willamette Valley, T4 tea house serves up classic milk teas and typical munchies you’d see in Taiwan. At their Keizer location, sample a milk tea that comes with two types of pearls for more flavor and texture. The nibbles are worth checking out, too. You can’t go wrong with the ever-popular popcorn chicken with fried basil or the takoyaki — a Japanese seafood fritter — alongside an order of salt-and-pepper curly fries.
Triple J Deli in Klamath Falls adds a deeply American twist to the drink with a bursting-boba-infused Rockstar energy drink. It’s even better with a Triple J sandwich, the deli specialty that’s heavy with layers of chicken, turkey, bacon and cheese, slathered with ranch and buffalo sauce.