As a boba enthusiast, I have always had to travel at least 15 minutes to find decent boba. So when I heard that a new boba shop was opening less than a mile from campus, I was more than thrilled. Nestled next to the Bank of America and across the street from Yogurt Haven, It’s Boba Time recently opened its doors to a boba-deprived Eagle Rock.
For the uninitiated, boba—also known as pearl tea and bubble tea—refers to a tea drink with chewy tapioca balls. The tea can be served iced, blended or hot, and many stores offer toppings like pudding, jellies, fruit bits and red beans. While boba can be found near campus at places like Yogurt Haven and Zweet Station, these stores do not specialize in boba and often use powder mixes to make their tea. Prior to the opening of It’s Boba Time in Eagle Rock, Occidental students had to venture to surrounding neighborhoods to quench their thirst for quality boba.
It’s Boba Time is a small franchise with 10 stores in Southern California. In fact, some boba fans may already be familiar with the tea from visiting its Koreatown location. The Eagle Rock store is smaller than other locations, and the lack of seating makes it more suitable for picking up a drink to go rather than hanging out or studying.
At $3.25 for a standard milk tea with tapioca, It’s Boba Time is relatively cheap. The tapioca and tea are standard quality, on par with most boba specialty shops, although It’s Boba Time seems to rely heavily on flavorings and sweeteners that mask the distinctive tea flavor. Drink options include slushies, smoothies, coffees, frappes and fresh juices.
The next-closest store specializing in boba, AU79 Tea Express, can be found across the street from Pasadena City College, about 15 minutes from campus. While AU79’s tapioca is standard, much like It’s Boba Time’s, they upgrade the quality of their tea by freshly brewing every order and mixing real pieces of fruit into the drinks. Prices are reasonable, starting at $3.50 for a regular milk tea with tapioca. Students often study at AU79 and order Taiwanese snacks like popcorn chicken while enjoying their drink.
Half and Half is another popular Southern California boba chain, famous for its bucket-shaped cups. Their location in Pasadena offers a variety of drinks in addition to tea and toppings, similar to It’s Boba Time. However, at $3.85, the regular milk tea with tapioca is more expensive, and the flavor of the tea is sometimes lost in excessive sweetness. The interior of the shop feels crammed and also does not offer much in terms of seating and atmosphere.
Factory Tea Bar, located in San Gabriel, offers a completely different tea experience with a hip, laid-back atmosphere. This place is pricier—milk teas with tapioca start at a little over $4—but is worth the expense as the tea and tapioca are both freshly made and high quality. The exposed brick walls, chalk art and couches make it a perfect space to hang out with friends and enjoy boba. The only downside for Factory Tea Bar is the 30 minute drive required to get there.
While AU79 and Factory Tea Bar still take the lead in serving quality boba drinks, the convenience of It’s Boba Time will undoubtedly make it a favorite for students craving a quick, cheap boba fix.