Sweet, creamy boba tea is likely to be the Bay Area’s unofficial beverage of the summer season, however gross sales are likely to take a dip in the course of the winter. What’s a boba store to do, then, when it will get chilly outdoors? In the case of San Jose’s Milk Tea Lab, the reply got here in the type of a extremely Instagrammable expertise served scorching — in different phrases, boba scorching pot.
Of course, boba’s recognition amongst younger Asian Americans has been nicely documented. And scorching pot — the acquainted type, involving meat and greens cooked on the desk in a pot of communal soup — is a beloved wintertime staple not simply in abroad cities like Taipei, but in addition right here in the US, from coast to coast. But boba and scorching pot, as a part of the identical dish?
M.G. Ha, the co-owner of Milk Tea Lab’s San Jose location (1601 Branham Lane), believes the development might have originated in Guangzhou, China, the place boba and scorching pot are generally mixed in the best way you would possibly concern: A giant pot, divided into two sections, is positioned in the center of a dinner desk as if for a conventional scorching pot meal. One aspect will get crammed, as you’ll count on, with a savory soup base for cooking meat and veggies. But, in a stunning twist, the opposite is full of boba milk tea, which diners dip their straws into to drink communally.
“I asked a lot of people once I found out about the idea, and they all said it’s just not right when you have the meat cooking right next to your milk tea,” Ha says. “I can’t accept it, and I’m from Hong Kong!”
In different instances, the whole scorching pot consists of milk tea and boba toppings, served as a dessert:
Meanwhile, Xiang Hot Pot, a high-end Chinese chain with two areas in New York, takes “dessert hot pot” a step additional by letting prospects really prepare dinner uncooked meat in the milk tea.
A graphic designer by commerce, Ha says she would eat scorching pot for dinner each night time if she might. So after seeing boba scorching pot TikTok movies trending in China, Japan, Malaysia, and even Canada, she determined to give you her personal model, combining the interactive nature of a scorching pot meal with implements much like those used in a Japanese tea ceremony.
Here’s the way it works: For $15.99 (for as much as three individuals), prospects get their alternative of three toppings (from house-made boba to egg custard to assorted fruit jellies) and a giant, shabu-shabu-like cauldron of tea that’s warmed by a gel candle burning beneath. You add as a lot of the supplied easy syrup and pre-warmed milk as you need, stir the combination with a bamboo ladle, and you then’re able to drink. Ha gives one essential bit of recommendation: Put the toppings in your particular person cup, not in the communal pot, in order that every thing doesn’t simply soften — in any other case, “all you have is a sweet soup and all the texture from your toppings will be gone.” Six vials of house-made fruit syrups permit additional customization.
The entire expertise is enjoyably interactive, with a shocking quantity of consideration to element. The high quality of just about each ingredient on the tray exceeded expectations, together with the house-made boba and the egg custard. The strawberry syrup, in explicit, tasted surprisingly near the precise fruit. The enjoyable is in the number of toppings and syrups that enables prospects to make every cup of boba ladled out of the pot slightly bit completely different.
There are a number of Milk Tea Lab areas all through the Bay Area, however solely Ha’s San Jose location gives the boba tea scorching pot expertise. And to this point it’s been a giant success: After introducing it in mid-December, Ha says her retailer’s stagnant winter gross sales jumped by 100 % after simply two weeks. For now — till the phenomenon really goes viral in the US — Ha’s store seems to be the one place in the Bay Area the place you’ll be able to attempt boba scorching pot. And you’ll want to leap on it quickly: Because boba scorching pot a seasonal merchandise, it gained’t be round when the chilly climate disappears.