Ask the Critic: Where Can I Find Boba Drinks?

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You have your neighborhood gelato shop and ice cream parlor, but boba drinks -- cold, sweet beverages filled with ice and chewy balls of tapioca -- are much harder to come by.

I was living in New York City when the boba trend first hit. Also known as "bubble tea," the drink was popularized in Taiwan, and eventually hit Manhattan's Chinatown with the late-'90s opening of Saint's Alp, a Hong Kong-based tea house chain. I remember hellishly hot, humid summer days where the only thing I cared about was waiting in line at that shop to get a pastel-colored taro milk tea with a fat neon straw. Even now, the thought of boba is refreshing.

I'm glad to see boba gaining popularity here, although I have one complaint: why hasn't someone opened a boba joint downtown? The closest place I know of is 99 Ranch Market, at the Chinese Cultural Center.

Anyway, I've enjoyed them at Lee's Sandwiches and Boba Tea House (the former on the south side, and the latter on the north side of the Dobson/Warner intersection in Chandler), Fresco (a Korean place specializing in bingsoo shaved ice sundaes, 2820 S. Alma School in Chandler), Republic Ramen in Tempe, The Street (a little cafe next to Hodori in Mesa, 1116 S. Dobson), and Tea Light Cafe in North Scottsdale.

I'm curious to try Lollicup (2050 N. Alma School in Chandler), too.

Do you have a favorite boba spot? What flavors do you recommend? Please give me the lowdown in the comments section.

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