Review | The Plaza’s new boba shop was surprising, and not in a good way

boba

The tea at the Plaza’s new boba shop was lukewarm, and the boba tapioca balls were unexpectedly caramel-flavored. Photo by Jackie Cohen

As Old Towne Orange transforms from antique stores to trendy restaurants, it was only natural for a boba tea shop to open.

For students, the “coming soon” sign in front of T-Milk was a beacon of hope that they would no longer have to drive 10 minutes to get boba tea, a cold beverage that has tapioca balls.

But when T-Milk finally opened in mid-February, many students were disappointed after trying it. I had to try it for myself because, after all, it is conveniently close to campus.

The shop is cute with wooden tables and bright red walls. The drinks came in sleek, clear cups that say “tea” on one side and “milk” on the other. I could definitely picture these cups on people’s Instagram feeds.

I decided to get my usual mango green tea with boba. That was the easy part. Then came the multiple questions from the cashier. From the amount of sugar to the amount of ice, I was given an overwhelming amount of customization options.

I like having choices, but answering this many questions when you just want to get your normal order leaves you wondering if you made the right choice. I answered all of her questions, saying I wanted it with ice and 70 percent sweet.

My drink cost about $5, which is a little more than what I pay at other places, but T-Milk’s proximity to campus made up for it.

When I was handed my tea, I was confused as to why it was warm. It wasn’t hot like tea or coffee from Starbucks, but it wasn’t cold like iced tea, which is how boba usually is. It was more like tea that you forgot about and left out for an hour. I had to drink part of it and ask for more ice. (I guess I should’ve asked for more ice during our initial game of 20 questions.)

Ignoring the weird temperature, the tea was pretty good. It was the typical mango green tea and had the perfect amount of sweetness.

When trying boba tea, the make-or-break factor is the tapioca balls. For people trying boba for the first time, the moment when the first squishy ball comes up the straw can be surprising if they don’t expect the boba’s texture. I’m not new to drinking boba, but when the tapioca ball came up the straw, I was definitely surprised: It was caramel-flavored. Besides the fact that I didn’t expect that flavor, it was not good. The caramel turned the boba tea from refreshing to sickeningly sweet.

The amazing thing about classic tapioca balls is that they fit perfectly with milk tea, coffee, smoothies and most other beverages. Caramel boba doesn’t really have the same effect. It might be good with iced coffee or something that balances out the sweetness, but with a mango green tea, the two flavors seemed to be competing.

If I go back to T-Milk, I would only order tea without boba, but honestly, I might be better off getting an iced tea at Starbucks or Contra, which would probably cost about the same anyways.