South Bay: Barcode
Barcode is just your average pearl tea joint. While that may make perfect sense to all us Californians, the concept of a shop dedicated entirely (well, almost entirely) to pearl tea (or as SoCal peeps call it, "boba") may be completely foreign to many in the Midwest.
After moving to Chicago, it didn't take me long to realize - to my utter HORROR - that while pearl tea can be found in a couple of restaurants, there are absolutely no pearl tea/bubble tea/boba shops in Chicago. That's right. None. That means no Quickly, no Tapioca Express, no Q-Cup, no Fantasia...you get the idea. When I asked my local Chicagoan friends about this tragic lack, they just looked back at me with blank faces.
Totally blew my mind.
So CK (future roommate and Korea travel buddy), this post is for you. As well as for all those poor souls out there who don't have the luxury of having a pearl tea shop in your vicinity.
Here's what a typical pearl tea place looks like inside:
Pearl tea shops like Barcode offer a wide range of drinks, from flavored milk teas to various smoothies. You can also choose to add tapioca pearls, pudding, grass jelly, or assorted jellies for an additional $0.50 (which doesn't seem like much, but when drinks themselves cost over three bucks, that extra 50 cents can really hurt).
For those that aren't feeling particularly adventurous, you can't go wrong with regular milk tea with pearls:
The key to a good pearl tea place is good tapioca. If the tapioca is bad, nothing else really matters.
Besides drinks, pearl tea places usually also offer snacks. Snacks can vary from french fries to crepes to whole bentos. Most commonly, you'll find popcorn chicken (popcorn sized pieces of chicken fried with basil). One of my favorites is the fried octopus:
Here's a secret for you newbies: the basil leaves are actually the best part.
Pearl tea places are great for a quick grab-and-go or even for a long, leisurely chat. They're good for both after-school hangouts and late night rendezvous. If the weather is nice and you want to escape the music that's bound to be blasting inside (could be English or Chinese or both, depending on where you're at), there are usually tables set up outside.
Though I love pearl tea joints, I don't go very often because drinks aren't exactly cheap. When I go back to Taiwan, however, that's a whole different story. Pearl tea is so cheap and pearl tea shops are so commonplace there that I can buy a cup on one block, finish it as I walk, and buy another on the next block.
Sigh...I miss Taiwan...
1728 Hostetter Rd
San Jose, CA 95131