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Chewy Balls of Fun


Late-night snacking is an inescapable part of college life. When class at noon seems early and staying up until 4 a.m. is completely normal, additional sustenance after dinner just makes sense. For me, it started out innocently enough–a handful of chocolate chips while doing a Stats 60 problem set, maybe Easy Mac after a party. As freshman year went on, my late-night snack habit escalated into a full-blown addiction. Spring quarter, I’m pretty sure my friends and I were averaging six In-n-Out trips a week. (Ew, right? The cashiers learned all our names). But it took being a wiser, more acclimated sophomore for a truly unshakable late-night fixation to develop–I’m obsessed with boba.

Boba can be hard to explain to outsiders. Wikipedia, the serious scholarly source, helpfully describes boba, also known as “pearl tea,” as “a Taiwanese chilled tea mixed with some variation of fruit syrup and milk.” Boba comes in a wide range of flavors, although personal experience suggests that not all flavors (see: watermelon) are actually fit for human consumption. At the bottom of the tea are gummy balls of tapioca, which are also called “boba”–yes, this double naming is confusing and no, I don’t know what tapioca is actually made of (it’s either unicorn tears or cassava root, based on my Wikipedia sleuthing). But to be honest, boba is an acquired taste (it took me a year), the love of which develops independently of knowing its origins or ingredients.

I get my boba fix at a place called Verde in downtown Mountain View. Verde is a cramped, often bustling space with a cozy, eccentric and slightly shabby atmosphere. Leigh Tanner ’12 grew up in Asia and raves that the boba at Verde is “such an authentic experience…and delicious!” Natalie Davies ’13 agrees–“the pearl-tea is mind-blowing.” The staff is friendly, albeit not super good at helping boba neophytes navigate the long list of flavor choices. I personally like to stick to classic pearl milk tea–a super sweet, creamy black tea drink. I also really like the mint flavor, whose Tiffany-blue color complements its refreshing taste.

Both flavors come with milk, but milk-free options also exist. I like the passion fruit flavor, although that’s a controversial stance among my friends–Natalie called it “awful.” Boba comes in two sizes: regular and large, which is truly massive and comes in an almost comically out-of-proportion cup. You can also ask for double or triple the tapioca balls (for an added cost), a choice Taylor Goodspeed ’12 calls “necessary,” but that Katie Hanigan ’12 calls “gross.” At about $3-4 a drink, boba at Verde is an affordable and delicious snack that I can’t recommend more highly. Who thought gummy balls of cassava root could taste so good?

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