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Chomp! What's this business about boba?

By by jessica rodrigo/jrodrigo@vicad.com
Dec. 5, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.
Updated Dec. 6, 2012 at 6:06 a.m.

Taro/Chocolate bubble tea with black pearls and Mocha bubble tea with coffee snakes at Noot's in Victoria.

STAR RATING (for boba)

FOOD: Three stars

SERVICE: Two stars

SCENE: One Star

One Star = Meh

Two Stars = Good

Three Stars = Great

TRY THIS

My favorite flavor is anything coffee flavored, so the Thai coffee is superb. I also like the regular pearls, but the bursting ones would be good if paired with the right flavor. Our server at Noot's recommended almond slush with the cherry pearls - tastes like an amaretto sour. Kat's new favorite is the taro with chocolate - tastes like chocolate cake.

DETAILS

Noot's Thai Kitchen

Address: 6360 N. Navarro St.

Phone: 361-578-8424

Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily

China Inn

Address: 3602 Houston Highway

Phone: 361-573-0609

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday

Fast Food

THE DRINK:BOBA/BUBBLE TEA

THE EATERY:NOOT'S THAI KITCHEN

THE ONE SENTENCE REVIEW:SOFT, CHEWY BALLS (OF TAPIOCA)

A few weeks ago, Luke and I were driving around town when he was pulling into the Donut Palace parking lot. Or at least I thought that's what it was - I do love those sweet, fluffy confections and thought he was having a hankering for them, too. But we had just had a late breakfast at Ramsey's (Oh, and by the way, the doughnuts at Ramsey's are well-worth getting up early for) and I didn't have much room to eat anything else.

Then I thought that maybe he was bringing me to Pullin's Meat Market to check out what they had (and also because I want to learn how to butcher my own meat and would love to apprentice under any pros out there), but I was still wrong.

Then it became clear. On a window next to the doors of the China Inn restaurant, was a poster that looked like it came from the early 90s. Its colorful and cheesy design with fruit and blocky letters read, "Bubble Tea."

What!? When did this happen? I love boba!

I was thrilled. I hadn't had boba (or bubble tea depending on where you are) since I was living in Albuquerque. But now here it was. They had a different kind than I was used to, but we gave it a try.

Allow me to take this moment to explain what boba is. Boba is a popular drink that originated somewhere in Asia. The popularity of the drink has taken off in younger markets and some places have gotten really creative with labels and flavor combinations. The original version of boba is a frozen or slushie drink served with black tapioca pearls. The straws are built about three-times wider than straws we get at fast food joints to accommodate sucking up pearls along with the frosty beverage. And now, they have bursting pearls that have a sweet syrup inside them.

China Inn had just a handful of flavors, included ice mocha, mango, papaya and other fruit concoctions, and only the bursting boba pearls, or at least that's what we got when I ordered an ice mocha. The guy behind the counter didn't offer any other kind and their menu didn't mention the black pearls either.

During a visit to Noot's Thai Kitchen, I discovered they had boba also.

Where had I been all this time?!

Their menu was long and included a range of flavors from traditional taro and green tea to healthier versions like fresh carrot or broccoli. Noot's list of pearls was just as extensive. They have all kinds of bursting pearls, the original version and extras to boast. They even had a new one I hadn't heard of before called coffee snakes, so I had to order a tea with those.

I know it sounds weird, and that is probably because it is. It's another one of those love-hate relationships. You either love boba or you don't. It's a texture thing for sure and the first time you try it, take it slow. Noot's has a disclaimer on their boba menu for a reason. But once you have a few of those pearls come up your straw, shoot into your mouth and start chewing on it, you'll get the hang of it.

I prefer the softer pearls, and Noot's has got it down. I've been to some places where they serve them a bit on the al dente side and they're not as good that way. But do give boba a try. If you're on the south side of town, visit China Inn, and if you're in the heart of Victoria, stop in at Noot's.

Jessica Rodrigo cannot believe it is December. It's hot outside! Do cool off with a boba tea. If you try the broccoli, carrot, or tomato, let me know how it is, @eatseatseats or jrodrigo@vicad.com.

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