Drinks Fast Food What's New

Dunkin’ Is Testing Boba In Iced Tea And Coffee Forms

Boba and milk tea have become wildly popular across the entire United States. Chains featuring the drink and tapioca balls have popped up at locations just about everywhere, and there’s even creative versions like creme brûlée topped boba that have captivated the country.

In a sign that big brands are really starting to look at the popular beverage topping, Dunkin’ has begun testing a couple of drinks that contain boba on the East Coast.

Dunkin’ boba images courtesy of Dunkin’. Background image taken by Joan Oger // Unsplash

Available now through mid-August, according to Mass Live, two variations are being served: Bubble Iced Coffee, and Bubble Iced Tea. Dunkin’ confirmed to Foodbeast that these are made with brown sugar-flavored syrup, and the boba are brown sugar-flavored as well.

Dunkin’s description of the drinks are as follows: “Dunkin’s signature beverages are sweetened with brown sugar syrup and new brown sugar-flavored bubbles for delicious sweetness you both can sip and chew. Both tasty new beverages are served with a special, extra-wide Bubble paper straw.”

The drinks are part of a larger batch of different beverages being tested across the Northeast. Dunkin’s take on boba is offered at five locations in New York, as well as five locations in Massachusetts. Those locations can be found below:

4 Harding Ave.LudlowMA, 01056
112 N. Genesee St.UticaNY, 13502
1701 Black River Blvd. NRomeNY, 13440
751 Meadow St.ChicopeeMA, 01013
55 Maple St.East LongmeadowMA, 01028
694 Page Blvd.SpringfieldMA, 01104
1155 Erie Blvd., WRomeNY, 13440
81 Oriskany Blvd.WhitesboroNY, 13492
9221 River Rd.MarcyNY, 13403
568 Belmont Ave.SpringfieldMA, 01108

Dunkin’ is not the first major American chain to have sold boba in the US, as Panda Express has had it at their Tea Bar locations for a while now. However, this is the first time a major fast food chain is offering the drinks out of one of their regular locations.

Drinks Fast Food What's New

Del Taco Is First Major Fast Food Chain To Add Popping Boba To Their Menu

Popping boba, encapsulated pearls that burst when you bite into them, have yet to make it onto the menus of major fast food chains in America. While they’ve become popular at froyo shops — the concept of boba and its popularity have been a thing for a while now — it has yet to penetrate the biggest chains in food.

Photo courtesy of Del Taco

That all changed with Del Taco’s most recent introduction, Sprite Poppers. Made with popping boba topped over Sprite and ice, the new drinks mark the first time a major fast food chain has added the unique topping to their menu.

Del Taco’s offer consists of two flavors, mango or cherry popping boba, that are piled on top of the iced beverage. The drinks cost $1.29 each, roughly the same price as a small soft drink.

For those curious, popping boba is typically made by encapsulating a liquid, such as juice or flavored syrup, within a “shell” made from a calcium solution and sodium alginate, which is a gelling protein found in seaweed. It’s the reaction between the calcium and alginate protein that leads to the gel-like capsules to form.

They’re typically difficult to make at scale, making Del Taco’s addition of these drinks noteworthy. Whether it leads to more popping boba drinks coming to fast food, or even the addition of real boba itself, remains to be seen.

Del Taco’s Sprite Poppers will be available for a limited time.

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This YouTuber’s Boba Shop Is Pioneering American-Born Chinese Cuisine

Chinese and Taiwanese food is slowly starting to have a renaissance movement in the United States. This is clear from the prevalence of renowned dim sum chains like Din Tai Fung, the emergence of hot pot, and the proliferation of boba shops across the country.

Despite all of this, the most popular Chinese dishes in the USA are still Chinese-American, rather than Chinese. General Tso’s Chicken and orange chicken dominate the palates, all because Chinese food in the US was engineered around Western palates first, making the food sweeter and less authentic to what you can get in China and Taiwan.

In Los Angeles, restaurants are starting to open up that push back against that concept. Instead of engineering Chinese food to work for American tastes, they’re twisting up beloved American dishes to work with the traditional flavors of China and Taiwan. While you might expect to find this through the lens of fine dining, one of the pioneers of this movement is a small boba shop and cafe in the heart of LA’s San Gabriel Valley.

The spot is called Bopomofo Cafe, a modern take on boba and American-born Chinese food. Bopomofo, which is named after the first four letters of the Taiwanese Mandarin alphabet, is co-owned by Philip Wang, one of the main creative forces behind Asian-American YouTube and digital media powerhouse Wong Fu Productions. Wang, together with his co-owner Eric Wang and chef Andrew Park, have put together a revolutionary menu that fuses Chinese, Taiwanese, and American together, but not catering to the “American runs on sweet” mantra.

“We always thought that there’s new American food,” Wang told Foodbeast, “but there’s no new real Asian-American food, and that’s kind of how we saw our menu.”

As a result, you get dishes that explode with equal, stunning amounts of creativity and flavor. The gold standard at Bopomofo is the Ma Po Tofu Tater Tots, which swaps out the Sichuan classic in a modern rendition of chili cheese tots. Since mapo tofu is typically served over rice, the crunch and fattiness of the tots is an unexpected yet welcome contrast that elevates both dishes this one is inspired by.

Other such innovative items on Bopomofo’s menu include a Walnut Shrimp Burger, nachos made from Chinese scallion pancakes and topped with braised pork belly, a fried chicken sandwich modeled on Taiwanese flavors and cooking techniques, and a “MOFO Club” inspired by Wang’s travels to Taiwan.

Bopomofo keeps that creativity going in their drink selection as well. Whether it’s a beet-colored Taro Milk or a dreamsicle-like take on Orange Bang! (called Orange Wang), you get nostalgia yet novelty in every sip and bite of the cuisine served up here.

With that creativity, Wang and his team are pushing the envelope of what it can mean to combine American, Chinese, and Taiwanese flavors. By staying true to core Chinese and Taiwanese flavors, but still using ingredients familiar to Americans, the food here becomes a potential pathway to explore authentic Chinese and Taiwanese tastes through an American lens.

To learn more about Bopomofo, watch the above episode of Foodbeast’s News Bites that features the cafe.

Culture The Katchup

Why Boba Guys Refuses To Ban MAGA Hats From Its Restaurants

Illustration by Sam Brosnan/Foodbeast
Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast episode titled “#94: Boba Guys Is For The Culture Pt. 2,” out now on Spotify, Anchor.FM and the Apple Podcasts App.

The current mainstream political atmosphere in the U.S. has an all-or-nothing, “choose your side” feel, and there’s very little room for moderates who see see the arguments from both ends of the political spectrum, as it can be misconstrued as choosing the wrong side, regardless of explanation.

That is the dilemma that Boba Guys co-founder Andrew Chau found himself in when he was asked about fellow Bay Area chef, Kenji Lopez-Alt, who tweeted (and later retracted) that he would ban customers wearing the infamous, red  “Make America Great Again” hats made in support of President Donald Trump.

The hat itself is polarizing, as to many, it is a symbol of hate that they feel has accrued under the Trump administration. To others, it is seen as a sign of change they wished to see under the administration.

Chau, who is outspoken about his beliefs, made it clear that he is not a fan of the hat and the baggage it comes with. With that said, it didn’t sit right with him to take the type of stance that would lead to banning customers from his Boba Guys locations.

Chau detailed the decision on the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast, and explained why he did what he did (The timestamped segment of the podcast begins at: 9:27).

“I’m from California. I’m from San Francisco. Everyone should know where we stand… you know what side of the world we’re on,” Chau said. “My stance is… I don’t ban them, but I’m like, if you cause trouble, you’re on the radar. But I’m not into banning.”

When Chef Lopez-Alt issued his statement on the hat, Chau was immediately asked by his peers, and even his own staff, if he would follow suit. He did his best to explain what he wanted to achieve with his stance on the matter, and while it did not sit well with some, it was a decision he stood by.

“It comes back to dialogue. We forgot how to talk about difficult things,” Chau said. “I said we won’t ban MAGA hats because I think it stops dialogue. The goal is bridging cultures, and you can’t achieve the goal of bridging cultures if I ban MAGA hats.”

He then made sure his guests knew that he was not going to tolerate anyone using the hat to purposely incite problems.


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In the podcast episode, Chau went pretty deep into culture, food’s role in it, and ways he feels culture can be improved through empathy.

While his MAGA hat decision wasn’t a popular one, it is a form of diplomacy that isn’t often deployed in the U.S. these days.


Boba Cakes Are Here, Are We Ready To Ride That Wave?

In Instagram’s heightened influence on how we eat within the past couple of years, the proliferation of wild concoctions and foods especially made “for the ‘Gram” have become the norm. Trends have come and gone while the pasta that’s stuck to the proverbial wall have become mainstays due to achieving that unique appeal of simply being an item that we’d crave and need regularly as opposed to a one-time photo-op.

The latest player in the Game of ‘Grams for foodies are boba cakes, a combo of words that I thought would only be possible being mentioned as separate entities in one sentence. But here we are in 2019, faced with the delicious aspect of soft, chewy, and mildly sweet tapioca balls occupying the space within a cake usually reserved for sweet creams and frosting of different sorts.

As you can see by the above clip from Hok Tea in Westminster, California, the boba cake concept is prime content for Instagram feeds, what with the jaw-dropping reveal of a mini Nutella cake being chockfull of boba balls. Hok Tea also serves an ube boba cake that’s covered by a layer of ube cream cheese. Yeah, that part. And while this very notion of boba balls inside moist cakes can be appalling to some, it’s more so a tempting fusion that warrants curious palates like mine to sink our teeth into. I mean, what could go wrong? Boba in cake — where do I sign up?

As for the inspiration behind the boba cakes, Hok Tea commented, “The idea of the boba cake originated in Asia and became very popular. We always want to create a unique product that seems to represent both Western and Eastern culture. From there we came up with an idea to merge both cake and boba together.”

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This Immersive Tea Shop Is As Much An Experience As It Is A Boba Lover’s Dream

Boba tea is something that is near and dear to me. It’s love, I’m sure of it. I could stuff myself stupid on any meal and still highly consider grabbing some boba if there was a tea shop within a five minute drive’s distance. But as much as I indulged in the experience often, it’s valid to wonder, ‘Could hitting up the tea shop be any better?’ Thanks to Percolate, in Los Angeles, CA, throwing in an experiential element into it all brings that ‘better’ part into the equation.

Truly it’s a shop that is ahead of the curve by providing an immersive experience to patrons by stimulating their senses through an interactive touchscreen ordering system that even remembers your favorite orders, a “smell wall” that lets you take in the aromas of various colorful tea leaves, glass percolate globes that measure the perfect tea to water ratio and provide the optimal heat specific to each varietal, small-batch boba that’s made from scratch in-house, and buzzworthy offerings like cheese tea foam and sparkling tea.

Getting mad science boba vibes? Good, me too.

Photos: Peter Pham

Reusable Boba Straws Are A Reality, Here’s Where To Get One

Bubble tea has had a boom in the U.S. for a while now, and its enlarged straws are quite distinct, needing to be wide enough for marble-sized tapioca balls to be sucked through.

With many food establishments around the world eliminating single-use plastic straws, that presented a bit of a problem in the boba community, until now.

The Boba Straw” is the first reusable straw of its kind, allowing boba lovers to help reduce plastic use as well.

The Boba Straws come in three colors: rose gold, true black, and gunmetal. It also comes with a cleaning brush and drawstring carrying case.

Those unfamiliar with reusable straws might think it sounds ridiculous to carry one around, but that seems to be where the future of on-the-go drinks are headed.

Major fast food players such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have already made sweeping moves in eliminating single-use straws for environmental reasons. That leaves customers with the option of going straw-less, using the establishment’s reusable straw, or like the Boba Straw is pushing, bring your own.

However, it’s not just restaurants that are eliminating the plastic straw usage. Major U.S. cities such as Seattle and Malibu have already passed laws to ban plastic straws.

In less than a week, The Boba Straw Kickstarter campaign met its fundraising goal of $3,812.00. With more than a month to go as of this writing, the pledges are likely to keep coming in, as this is obviously something people are clamoring for.

And now you have your own eco-friendly way to drink boba.


Culture Drinks Fast Food

The First ‘Made In USA’ Boba Is Finally Here, And It Could Be HUGE For Fast Food

Boba’s popularity has grown to encompass the entire United States. With that has come the exploration of incorporating milk tea into fast food. Panda Express has looked into the possibility, and there was an April Fool’s prank this year that had people thinking Starbucks was doing the same. That could actually be a reality now, though, as the US finally has its own tapioca pearl factory up and running.

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Created by The Boba Guys co-founders Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, US Boba Company is now starting to test its first set of tapioca pearls from off of their production line. They’re not the first business to make the chewy balls in-house, as companies like the now-closed Pulse Cafe in Santa Monica have done it before. However, Chau and Chen do have the first in-country factory to make them with, something that could be huge for major chains looking to add the drink to their menus.

It’s not like fast food hasn’t looked into adding tapioca in the past, as McDonald’s has run a limited-time batch of milk tea in Germany before. But bringing in ingredients from other countries comes with a host of regulations and red tape, something fast food companies could now avoid thanks to US Boba Company. They could potentially get all of the pearls they need to consider regional, or even national, launches of bubble tea to continue to proliferate the spread of boba.

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That may not happen for a while, as Chau and Chen continue to test and improve on their initial runs of tapioca pearls. For now, though, you can try them out at the Potrero Hill location of Boba Guys in San Francisco. There will also be the opportunity to visit and tour the new factory in the near future, and photos and footage of it will be displayed on social media so everyone can see how the pearls are made.