Monday, December 05, 2005

Lollicup - San Gabriel

If you are Asian and under 30 years of age, you are no stranger to the object pictured above. If I had to guess, millions upon millions of dollars, mostly from the disposable incomes of high school and college kids, have been spent on drinks such as this over the past decade.

That's a lot of piggy banks.

Is it any wonder why Tapioca Express and Lollicup franchises have popped up everywhere like zits on a teenager?

The highest concentration of the breakout is the San Gabriel Valley. This area is the oily "T-zone" of boba drink shops.

Here at the Lollicup on Valley Blvd., plop down $2, and a bubbly, Asian Hilary Duff will go on back and make you a "Tapioca Milk Tea." A spoonful of black tapioca pearls is dropped into a clear plastic cup and an opaque, tan-colored liquid is poured on by a ladle from a vat. The cup is deposited into a steel contraption, gears whir, and the top is hermetically heat-sealed with a plastic membrane.

You grip an oversized straw with a hole-diameter big enough to suck up a marble, and like Norman Bates, you plunge it straight down, piercing through the seal with a satisfying "pop."

The first sip is a surge of icy-cold milk tea, which actually tastes more like thinned chocolate milk than tea. Then comes the "thump, thump, thump" as the chewy, gummy tapioca pearls are propelled up the straw and pummel the back of your throat like bullets on Kevlar.

Choking hazard? You bet. And if you suck hard enough, it's entirely possible that one might shoot up and lodge itself in your brain. At least that's what Tony Bourdain thought when he tried his first cup of boba tea in a recent episode of No Reservations.

I, for one, have outgrown the boba habit, partaking maybe once every few months when before I couldn't go three days without getting a hit. Even now, on this visit, I opted for the more soothing "Pudding Milk Tea," which has been statistically shown to have a lower incidence of death-by-asphyxiation. The pudding, which settles restfully at the bottom of the cup is custard-based; smooth and silky with a clean finish.

Milk tea isn't the only thing you can get at these shops either. Lollicup, for instance, has a menu so long it reads like a tome of Asian drinks, boasting more fruit flavors than Starburst. The types of concoctions these teenaged employees must have memorized rivals a professional New York bartender's.

If that weren't enough, this particular Lollicup also offers generous bowls of shaved ice topped with gelatinous cubes of agar, lychees, rose syrup and candy-sweet red bean.

You can even order a full meal of rice and meats to pair with your drink and dessert if you're feeling the pangs of hunger preempting your thirst.

That afternoon at Lollicup, all the couches and tables were taken up by gaggles of young Asians. It's a hang-out place, like drugstore soda shops used to be, where giggly Asian girls trade gossip about boys. The boys, in the meantime, play cards and read Japanese manga. The vibe here is Starbucks mixed with a splash of Hello Kitty.

So kids, if your parents left you some extra allowance, or if you feel that you didn't have enough carbohydrates in your lunch, flip the bird at Dr. Atkins with a drink full of starchy balls of tapioca at a Lollicup near you.

(626) 282-5200
301 W Valley Blvd # 101
San Gabriel, CA 91776

(949) 559-9436
14805 Jeffrey Rd # A
Irvine, CA 92618

Note: Lollicup franchises of varying qualities can be found throughout the Southland.


At 8:50 PM, Blogger Christine D. said...

I know a few people who use to or still do the regular "boba runs." (lol, i just read that in an inappropriate way, but hopefully you'll understand it the way i meant to type it. hmm, but it does make me wonder why so many asians drink milk tea, yet so many of them might be lactose intolerant?) Anyways, i think boba's great but i don't drink it that often. maybe once every 3 months. i always get the same things: either milk tea boba, passion fruit juice boba, or strawberry boba. ohh i love those chicken snacks, but i've never had the one from lollicup. champion's pretty good too.

oh yeah, stay away from those mini bobas! they're annoying as hell because they're so small that you can't chew them and you feel gross after having to swallow them.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


How funny...on some days, I prefer the mini bobas over the regular sized ones, simply because I don't have to chew on them that much...guess I get lazier the older I get.

The crispy chicken at these places are always so addictive too...leaves you with a wretched breath though. Must be that seasoning.


It's definitely more palatable the younger you Pop Rocks, I used to like them, can't imagine eating them now.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Glad to know that everyone reading this saw that I wrote it with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek!

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Daily Gluttony said...

Ha ha, so funny that I've "outgrown" the whole boba craze too. And yes, the whole idea of asphyxiation by boba has crossed my mind more than once! I've gotta try that pudding milk tea that you mentioned!

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Round and slimy have never been my favorite combination. I guess I'm a generation or two removed from this Boba thing.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Pam and Kirk,

Odd isn't it that children would like bobas since it's chewy and slimy...seems so counter intuitive.

But wait...they do eat candies with names like "Snot" and relish gummy worms.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Christine D. said...

Someone's been jacking your posts for web traffic!

I saw that a Tapioca Express was opening near Noodle Avenue, so I googled "tapioca express" and "in tustin." I saw a search result for your blog and one for that other blog!

At 8:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks for the heads up, and for looking out for me.

Please excuse me while I go bust some heads!

At 3:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another boba drink station for delicious boba drinks - datz just great! There are other multiple type of drinks to choose from. A cool place to stop by in a hot summer day. Enjoy guru.....


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