The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The Talon’s Pearl Milk Tea Rankings

There’s no doubt that even the most loyal pearl milk tea (PMT) lovers among us have floundered in the sea of choices offered in the Mountain View area. The Talon breaks down the top four places to get your PMT fix.

Tea Era (271 Castro Street, Mountain View)

Tea Era is undoubtedly the best local place to get your standard cup of PMT. Tea Era’s tea is made from freshly brewed tea, and the boba (tapioca pearls) maintain a consistent texture that is sweet, chewy, soft and delicious. The tapioca pearls are neither overbearingly large and cumbersome to chew nor minuscule and hazardous to swallow. And out of all the other pearl tea places, it has by far the best ammo for plastic straw guns (not that one would ever waste such good pearls as ammo). It’s heaven in your mouth.

The menu offers updated innovative variations of milk tea (such as Honeydew Milk Tea and Almond Milk Tea) as well as smoothies, flavored teas and juices. Prices at Tea Era are relatively low, as they range from around $2.50 to $3.50 depending on the type of drink and size.
One downside of the store is that unlike other pearl tea stores, it does not offer any snacks. Tea Era is also fairly small. There are only a few tables located inside and outside the store, making it a less than optimal place to spend time with friends. The store is also cash only. Loyal Tea Era-ians, however, are granted a drink reward card—every 10 drinks purchased merits 1 free drink. Although it is awkwardly nestled behind a Chinese noodle store and difficult to find, after the initial discovery the store is unforgettable.

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OCHA (1350 Grant Road, Mountain View)

Ocha differs from the other PMT stores in its methods of brewing the tea. Unlike other stores, Ocha uses a machine called a “Teapresso.” Essentially, tea is brewed through an espresso machine. This allows the lingering flavor of tea leaves to permeate much more so than in the typical cup of PMT.
While Ocha sells PMT, the flavor of the tea is interesting and unique. The flavor of the PMT is slightly reminiscent of soymilk, with a strange aftertaste that is neither good nor bad. The boba at Ocha is decent—soft and slightly chewy, but undoubtedly below par compared to the boba offered at Tea Era. It simply does not offer the same quality of chewy bounciness that Tea Era pearls have. The PMT itself does not taste awful, but it is undoubtedly different.

Ocha’s truly delicious drinks are its natural teas. It offers a large variety of teas—from Passion Fruit Green Tea to Earl Grey to Oolong Jasmine Tea—and almost any drink from the Espresso Tea menu tastes delicious. Each tea has its own delicious flavor. In addition to this, customers are also allowed to fully customize their drinks. One can opt to alter the sugar levels in their drink to truly customize the experience.

The store also offers a highly extensive snack and meal menu. The crispy chicken, a popular item, is actually chicken. Unlike Verde, the crispy chicken at Ocha features chunks of meaty chicken deliciousness. The chicken can also be customized by of adding various degrees of spiciness. The meal menu offers basic entrees: fried rice, various types of noodle soups and fried noodles, Shabu-Shabu and sizzling plates.

Ocha’s biggest drawback is its prices. Ordering a drink and a snack can easily cost around $8. Eating a sit-down meal can cost $16 per person. However, Ocha is definitely the place to go for a good cup of tea and traditional Taiwanese cuisine.

Verde (852 Villa Street, Mountain View)

Verde makes a cute effort at creating pearl milk tea, and it doesn’t do a half bad job. The standard PMT at Verde is a creamy blend of milk and tea. The icy flavor of the drink itself mitigates the creamy texture, but also contributes a bit of sloshy consistency. The vast quantities of ice make consuming those last few pearls a difficult task. The tapioca pearls are definitely something to order if one feels like just chewing on something; they’re the perfect blend of chewiness and pleasant sweet flavor. Overall, the taste of the pearl milk tea is decent.

Perhaps Verde’s greatest asset is its extremely diverse menu. From various drinks to foods, Verde offers an interesting array of snacks such as Taiwanese Toast—some sort of jam on top of regular toast. However, interesting varieties do not actually equate to good taste, and the food at Verde is definitely subpar. Prepare to be vegetarian once you step inside Verde because ordering crispy chicken actually yields an unappetizing plate of very fatty crispy chicken.

The store is, however, an optimal place to hang out with friends as it is well-furnished with a number of booths. Verde’s unique asset is the Five Star Reward program. Instead of customers having to carry store-specific rewards cards, Verde simply scans one card that also serves as a reward card for other stores, a convenience that loyal customers will certainly appreciate.

Tapioca Express (740 Villa Street, Mountain View)

To be fair, Tapioca Express was one of the first stores in the PMT business. However, because of the rise of other pearl milk tea competitors and the lack of innovation on its menu, Tapioca Express has fallen to the back of the pack.

The standard Jasmine Milk Tea at Tapioca Express is extremely bland. The drink tastes like virtually nothing, and while Tapioca Express does offer a variety of add-ons—tapioca pearls, both large and small, and an assortment of interestingly colored jellies—most of them are lackluster and chewing on them feels like lodging one’s teeth into some sort of flavorless gum.

However, opting to drink a more flavorful option such as the Peach Milk Tea subjugates the drinker to an overly sweet drink. Most of the drinks on the Tapioca Express menu are overpoweringly and unnecessarily sweet. The store also offers a number of seasonal specials, but most of them are simply artificial sweetener mixed with ice.

Tapioca Express is the epitome of the stereotypical pearl milk tea store. It has all the basics—the large drink and snack variety—and it even offers free WiFi. But until Tapioca Express attempts to revamp its drinks, it will be mediocre at best.

Final Word

Overall, Tea Era is the best place to go to for just the standard cup of PMT. Ocha is an excellent, albeit expensive, alternative for good food and hanging out with friends. Verde offers acceptable drinks and an excellent ambiance for spending time with friends. Tapioca Express is only worth a visit if one is desperate for WiFi and some PMT.

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