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Pearl Tea in Cambridge

p
Peter McCarthy Sep 12, 2002 10:05 AM

In a response to ErstwhileEditor's request for pearl tea shops, I wrote that there is a Lollicup at Porter Exchange. I was slightly mistaken about that; there is a pearl tea stand at Porter Exchange, but it's not Lollicup. Here are all the places I know to get bubble tea in Cambridge:

Tapicha - In Porter Exchange.
They serve a full range of pearl tea. They have black, green and thai teas, 4 milk flavors, and 5 fruit drinks. You can get tapioca pearls or coconut jelly in your tea.

Concord Ave. Cafe - At the corner of Concord Ave. and Walden St.
A nice, eclectic corner store. They don't specialize in pearl tea, so it sometimes takes a bit longer to make. They make espresso too, and also have a variety of (mostly pre-made) food: pastries, lasagna, sushi, sesame noodles.

Dado Tea - 955 Mass Ave (1/2 mile west of Central Sq.)
Not open yet. Their scheduled opening date is 9/21. They're going to be a complete tea cafe. Their menu lists lots of loose teas, pearl tea, chai, Tibetan tea with butter (though I don't think it will be rancid yak butter). They have a website: www.dadotea.com.

  1. d
    dchow Sep 15, 2002 12:25 AM

    for the sake of ErstwhileEditor's plea and for pure curiosity, i did a taste test of three of the pearl tea shops:

    lollicup-
    the best pearls in town. awesome selection of flavors and styles (snow?, slush -- get the lychee, milk teas, fruit teas, hot teas, pudding?). a little pricier than others (avg $3.60 for a small, including pearls).

    tapicha-
    very good pearls. nice kids who run the shop -- turns out to be a student-run enterprise (didn't get a chance to find out from where -- harvard? mit?). the tea-maker lets you try out the tea for sweetness and flavor before he completes your drink. cool idea. and cheap, too -- $2.50 (maybe $2.75) for a small and $2.90 for a large.

    and concord ave cafe-
    they only have one flavor (milk black tea). pearls were clumpy enough that it was difficult at times to get them through the fat straw. $2.75 for the drink. their other food looked good (chinese noodles, sushi, etc.).

    by far my favorite is lollicup. just don't get the salt plum-flavored slush/tea/etc. my parents used to make me chew on a preserved salty plum when i was sick -- bad, bad memories.

    5 Replies
    1. re: dchow
      e
      ErstwhileEditor Sep 16, 2002 01:47 PM

      Such dedicated taste testers here! Thank you for your research!

      My daughter and I went into Porter Exchange this morning to get some pearl tea. It was not very good, so I guess it must be somewhat variable. I got the Thai tea, and asked for just a tiny bit of milk, and what I got was very weak--not a good-tasting Thai tea at all. My daughter, who was very disappointed that they didn't have coconut tea, got green apple, which was VERY sour (and I like it sour). Unfortunately, although they said they would adjust the taste, it seemed hard to do so after the tea was all made and in our cups. This would work better if they gave you a little taste while the tea was still a work in process.

      The pearls were very soft--either at the very edge of where I would normally throw them out, or below that threshold, but maybe I was too desperate to care at that point! I know it is impossible to get the pearls done exactly the same way every time, so I would not judge their pearls on this one experience.

      I think I will go back and be more aggressive about tasting the tea BEFORE it is a fait accompli. And I may shy away from Thai tea--sniff.

      I forget whether Peter listed all the variables so, here are my notes:

      The stall opens promptly at 12. Even though you do not see the tea brewing, it will be ready. They might have the tea pots, which are in the cabinets before they set up, on timers--or else they drop in earlier, start the tea, and disappear. It is manned by six very nice students....

      The large tea is $2.90; the small one is $2.75. The following teas appear in the pearl tea category: black, green, almond black, taro black and green, coffee black, and Thai. The fruit tea category consists of mango, peach, strawberry, green apple, and lychee. All of these can be made with black or green tea, and you can get either pearls or coconut jelly in them. Milk can be added at no extra charge.

      Actually the man who was right after us seemed to be putting together his own concoction, so I guess you can put together any permutation that appeals to you.

      ErstwhileEditor

      1. re: ErstwhileEditor
        b
        boba Sep 19, 2002 10:05 PM

        do they have fresh fruit shakes with pearls? and do they have the small white tapioca pearls?

        1. re: boba
          e
          ErstwhileEditor Sep 21, 2002 05:02 PM

          No, they don't have the fresh fruit shakes. And the pearls were "black"--at least I THINK we would have noticed if they had not been. We have only had the white pearls when we were desperate enough to try the canned pearl tea. Ugh.

          Jean B.

          1. re: ErstwhileEditor
            j
            Jeangenie Mar 18, 2008 09:09 AM

            Okay.... yuck yuck and yuck. The ONLY descent bubble tea I've had in the Boston area is at Boston Tea stop (and Dado, but it has problems). I had Lolicup twice and both times, my tea was so sweet, I ended up throwing it out because I couldn't stand it. Also, the taro tea I had a very slimy texture. I also tried the taro tea at the Porter exhange. Problem is, one has to pick a "tea base" to which they add things like taro. I chose black tea which was apparently very poor in quality since it was very bitter. The added taro didn't even taste like taro, it almost tasted minty. Dado tea is excellent, though the last time I went, I asked if I could have my taro tea hot. They said "no," even though they use hot water to dissolve the taro mix powder, it doesn't make any sense. So, I got my taro tea cold, I asked for extra powder since I like it strong. The end result that it was more watery than regular strenghth taro tea that I've purchaed in the past. This is after trying to get their attention for about ten minutes while they sat on the kitchen floor. I've never been served by anyone who didn't have high levels of THC in there blood. I wish that the service was better since the taro powder quality is quite excellent. The taro is even better than Tea Stop's, but Tea Stop is more consistant all around. They have excellent service and I've never been disappointed by anything I've ordered there.

            1. re: Jeangenie
              lipoff Mar 18, 2008 12:07 PM

              You might want to try the Infusions Tea Spa in Allston --- although it's been there for a while, I'm pretty sure they've recently come under new management, or at least they changed their menu extensively. The quality of the tea and freshness of the flavorings is comparable to Dado.

    2. e
      ErstwhileEditor Sep 14, 2002 03:25 PM

      Thanks so much, Peter. I'd say you are an angel, but you might find that insulting.... I will go in to Porter Sq. at least within the next two days. The lure of Thai pearl tea is just too strong--besides, now I have not had pearl tea for a week.

      I am glad to know, I won't have to go without this now.

      Jean B.

      1. y
        yumyum Sep 12, 2002 03:34 PM

        That's odd... I saw a guy with what I could swear was a Lollicup coming out of Porter Exchange. (Recognized it right away since it comes "hermetically sealed" -- or do they ALL come that way?)

        Thanks for the clarification, though. After experiencing the long lines at Super88's Lollicup, I went out to the web to check out the franchise opportunities -- it's a pretty amazing operation they run and the pictures of the franchises as well as the text on the website are amusing, at least to me. I am convinced that with the right location the owner of a Lollicup outfit could basically print their own money.

        Check it out....

        Link: http://www.lollicup.com

        1 Reply
        1. re: yumyum
          p
          Peter McCarthy Sep 12, 2002 04:18 PM

          I also think a Lollicup franchise in the right place would be a goldmine. The concern I would have doing it is that the big guys (i.e. starbucks) will move into the business as it becomes more popular.

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