Here's my quick survey. There are 3 tapioca drink sellers on the 22nd and Irving block! Talk about concentration and competition. They all charge about the same prices.
Wonderful Foods has been there the longest, I believe. It is the most popular. People line up and they have at least 2 people preparing the drinks. They say the most popular is the tea tapioca, #1 out of over 30 flavors. The flavors are divided into tea, flavored, and fresh fruit.
Just next door is the store that sells Double Rainbow ice cream and tapioca drinks. It seems to have a few customers in there, but not as may as Wonderful Foods. You can sit down and enjoy your tapioca drink at small tables.
Skip several stores walking west. On the corner is the newest place. It has been there 1 year and was formerly a sausage store. They feature Mitchell's ice cream and tapioca drinks. The server behind the counter was very friendly, yet there were few customers in there.
Based on foot traffic, Wonderful seems ahead. Yet, I'm willing to give all of them a try!
Can anyone explain custard tapioca? They take a custard out of its container and put it into the tapioca drink cup. So the custard then gets all smooshed; seems like destruction of the work to make the custard...
What about those custards at Vietnamese stores with either corn, red beans, mung beans, or taro suspended in mid life in the custard? Has anyone enjoyed them?
re: elise h
Elise, I recall reading a b-school marketing case study about this competition. Double Rainbow took the proactive step of adding tapioca drinks to its offerings.
I tried Q Cup in Cupertino Village a few weeks ago. We went with the slushies and tapioca pearl. The passionfruit was delicious but the green apple one tasted like Jolly Rancher fake apple candy. Also the tapioca didn't have much taste, all texture. So only fair.
re: elise h
I've been to all these 3 places you described on Irving, and I'm partial to the bubble teas and most of the fruit-based tapioca drinks at Double Rainbow. Also, the taro flavor is excellent. We also tend to joke about the "evil" doll that they use to shake/mix the tapioca drinks. Looks like something right out of a Stephen King novel. **chuckle**
However, I prefer the papaya milkshake with tapioca pearls at the Sweet House - the one that replaced the Chinese sausage place. I had the papaya milkshake at the Double Rainbow place once and there was hardly any papaya flavor. Don't know if it's a one off or if they are consistently bad at it.
Wonderful foods is also fine, but I suspect they get more traffic because they also sell a whole range of Chinese preserved fruits and candies.