Tea Station - Irvine
When did boba become a has-been? The tapioca pearl drinks -- the rage among Asian teens and college students during the middle to late nineties -- seems a little long on the tooth nowadays. Hopeful franchises, who sprang up during the Boba Boom and thought they were ready to take on Starbucks, have come and gone. And the lines that stretched out the door at places like Tapioca Express and Lollicup have migrated to the Pinkberries and Yogurtlands.
By the mid naughts, the bubble-tea bubble had burst.
Where it was once a beneficiary, boba drinks has now fallen victim to the fickle tastes and fleeting attention spans of a changing youth culture.
When I get boba now, it's for nostalgia. Boba milk tea is my generation's equivalent of the ice cream soda: We spent our allowance and summer job money on it, but having one now seems quaint.
Still around is one of the few stalwarts of the genre: Tea Station. This is a place where the drinks are still mixed in cocktail shakers.
Since the franchise is controlled by the Ten Ren Tea Company, the tea actually tastes like tea -- a refreshing balance of the bitter to the milky sweet ($2.75). The balls of tapioca which settle at the bottom are a chewy source of carbs that propel themselves like bullets down the barrel of that oversized straw. Paired with a snack of tea eggs ($1.00), they equate to the same amount of calories on a typical Sunday breakfast.
But the main attraction for me now is their food, namely their lunch plates. The best is the pork chop ($5.99), fried in a bubbled tapioca starch batter that crackles like a chicharon.
Served atop rice doused in soy-stewed ground pork, some stir-fried veggies and pickles, this is a meal that makes me forget that I'm in a boba tea shop. There's a fried egg that rides along in the dish, because let's face it, anything good is made better with a fried egg.
With the last morsel of pork eaten and the last sip of the milk tea drunk, I wonder: What will be the next food trend to fall by the wayside?
15333 Culver Dr. #430
Irvine, CA 92604