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All tea, no shade: The Tea Boba Bar in Kendall Yards is the latest in town to offer the sweet beverage

UPDATED: Wed., June 16, 2021

With the first day of summer this Sunday, it is truly the season of cold and refreshing sweet beverages and desserts as Spokane temperatures rise into the 80s and 90s.

While most people enjoy ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato and sorbet, my first choice is boba partly because I’m lactose-intolerant (although with the help of Lactaid, I’ll risk it and face the consequences because my niece and nephew – OK, and I – love the Scoop and Baskin-Robbins).

For the uninitiated, boba, aka bubble tea, is a tea-based beverage that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. Boba, specifically, is the chewy tapioca pearls, or balls, in the drink, and they are made of tapioca starch from cassavas or sweet potatoes.

I describe the taste of a tapioca pearl as a cross between Jell-O and gummy bears. Boba beverages are typically tea, an added flavor, milk, tapioca pearls and/or fruit jellies. For decades now, my favorite boba flavors are passion fruit and peppermint green tea with boba and/or fruit jellies.

The Tea Boba Bar

The newest boba kid on the block is the Tea Boba Bar, in the former Paper & Cup Coffee Shop, in Kendall Yards. The Tea opened on May 15 in the cozy 312-square-foot space with four tables on the sidewalk.

I stopped by the Tea on Sunday and ordered two small boba: lychee black tea with lychee fruit jelly and passion fruit jasmine green tea with tapioca pearls, both a friendly employee’s picks. They were the two best boba I’ve had in town, as the tapioca pearls were cooked perfectly.

By perfect, the tapioca balls were chewy and delicate. They’re sometimes undercooked and a little hard. The teas and flavors were vibrant and refreshing. Other boba places sometimes use powders for the flavoring, and the chalkiness doesn’t add to the beverages.

The Tea’s boba menu: jasmine, green, black, oolong and Earl Grey teas and cold brew coffee; almond, coconut, oat and 2% cow milk; and passion fruit, lychee, pineapple, peach, kiwi, honey, brown sugar, caramel, mango and strawberry flavors.

Along with the tapioca pearls, there are mango, strawberry, lychee, passion fruit and pineapple fruit jellies and mango, strawberry and lychee popping boba. Menu favorite beverages, such as the Traditional Boba Milk Tea and Lilac City Smoothie, are $4-$6.

I’ll definitely and happily return to the Tea for all tea, no shade. Here are the top 10-rated boba locations in town courtesy of Yelp, some of them paired with places peddling poke, an absolutely, ahem, tea-rrific combination, and in Asian restaurants:

Boba Bubble, 4750 N. Division St., (509) 489-3990

Black Straw Tea Bar & Kitchen, 11808 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley, (509) 315-4093

BocoPop, 21980 E. Country Vista Drive, Liberty Lake, (509) 309-3920

Poke Express & Boba Tea Time, 113 W. Indiana Ave., (509) 960-8165

Vina Asian Restaurant, 2303 N. Ash St., (509) 328-2197

The Tea Boba Bar

Poke Express, 12208 N. Division St., (509) 960-7181

Star Restaurant & Lounge, 1329 N. Hamilton St., (509) 487-1530

Kokoro Ramen and Boba Tea, 509 N. Sullivan Road, Spokane Valley, (509) 309-2992

Le Teriyaki & Pho, 2018 N. Hamilton St., (509) 487-7700

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