Tpumps in San Mateo
So a couple of weekends ago, I stopped to get Cuban take out on B street in San Mateo and I saw line of teens and Asian families snaking out of a teeny storefront. Looked around, saw that it was a generic Asian tea/boba/cafe type joint. I asked different groups of people in line what the big deal was, and no one could answer.
So what's the chowhound word on this place? All boba tea type places are fungible IMHO.
As an aside there were groups of people waiting outside Old Town Sushi next door also. Made for a very busy corner that evening.
There's a prior topic with a bunch more takes on the product.
I tossed a nearly full cup of honey milk tea (less sweet) in the trash over its cloying sweetness. They have a decent brew going on, but it's covered up by the sweetness.
I fully agree with KK's assessment about it being a "hit" with the young crowd. It's highly customizable, and there's the whole social/herd mentality to it that as you've found, makes the whole thing unexplainable when you ask the average person in line.
The owners of Tpumps are Taiwanese, but they have clearly figured out a formula that is a huge hit with the high school teens, college, and yuppies/young working professionals crowd.
The teas are freshly brewed and not overly steeped, and generally pretty good quality. The "milk" they use is actually Coffeemate, and the various fruity flavors are for the most part Torani syrups (hence the joke, Torani-Pumps).
The boba is actually pretty good....I'm not much of a Fantastia fan these days, but on a good day, the boba was on par with Fantasia Cupertino's boba from the 1990s.
Kids love to customize their drinks and mix upwards of two or three syrup flavors together. You can only shake your head when some kid picks up something that's chocolate strawberry milk tea, or honey passion lychee...which sounds good on paper and tastes ok if in a small sample cup...but a large sized with extra boba? It's fine if you are still young. At that point it just becomes a mess and adds to one's waistline.
Should you brave the wait in line, just stick with a honey tea (black, green, or even Oolong). If you get it hot, at least it is not diluted. If you care, ask for no sweet (ie no fructose corn syrup), and just let the honey do the sweetening. The drinks can be inconsistent depending on your luck and who makes the drink. But the place remains as popular as ever and their fanbase extremely loyal.
Old Town....yes just like shanghaikid says, large portions for a great price. I must say that the uni tray I saw one time looked like a spongecake...very hairy scary, but people were all too happy to get a 2003 era Sawa Sushi sized gunkan uni sushi packed to the gills (structurally challenged that it might topple over to the side), for $9 a pop. Pricey but when you see how much you get, you might actually be impressed by the portions.