Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The magical glory of pearl milk tea

Pearl milk tea is something that I discovered only after arriving in California. The drink, which at first seems unappealing, is magically delicious. Take some milk tea and add tapioca pearls, and you have pearl milk tea, PMT for short. I took it upon myself to try various places near Stanford and let the masses know what I thought of them.

The Gods of Intermission said I could do this article and then told me, “You must try the Tresidder pearl milk tea! Bwahaha . . . ” On that ominous note, I headed over to the Corner Pocket. I overcame my worries and ordered a standard green milk tea. It was a visual shock; there were weird chunks floating in it, and it was one of the most unnatural colors I have ever seen. Despite this, I took a sip, which caused my tongue cry out in pain. The tea itself tasted like an unholy mixture of sugar and saccharine and distilled grossness. “The pearls may redeem it,” I thought. How wrong I was. The pearls were reminiscent of ass-flavored taffy. After recovering, I realized just how important it was to inform clueless Stanford students about real pearl milk tea. Here, for your pleasure, are some of the bumpinest PMT places in the area.

Black Pearl

Located on California Avenue, Black Pearl gives neat student discounts, and they also have video games, checkers and two big couches. I had a black pearl milk tea and a coconut milk tea. Both were really tasty, tea-wise and pearl-wise. On top of that, they sell other snack food, ramen, scoop ice cream and mochi ice cream. If you’ve never tried mochi ice cream, it is worth a trip over to Black Pearl to taste it. It is ice cream wrapped in mochi, which is a kind of Japanese rice dough. Ice cream in finger food form: How cool is that? On a side note, avoid any of the sucky citrus flavor milk teas. Also, there’s a lot of high schoolers that show up. They irritate me to no end, but they’re definitely a part of the Black Pearl environment.

Atmosphere: 3 stars PMT: 4 stars Other stuff: 4 stars

@live Cafe

This PMT place is located on University Ave. The teas taste good, and they have a large selection, but their itsy-bitsy pearls ruin the beautiful tapestry that is pearl milk tea. They get points for the uber-cool practice of sealing the cup with a lid of cellophane. It is fun to stab the straw through that cover to get at the sweet drink held within. @Live is a good place to go if you have a PMT craving but no way to get to a better place. They have some ice cream if you don’t dig the PMT. The store itself is on the small side, but they have some neat Chinese fashion magazines laying around that provide endless entertainment.

Atmosphere: 3 stars PMT: 3 stars Other stuff: 2 stars


Q-Cup, in Cupertino Village, wins as my favorite. The store has pop, cartoony decor with techno music. Their selection is huge and cheap, around $2.50-$2.75. The most notable non-PMT refreshment they have are the heavenly crepes. Big, soft, ice-cream-and-other-stuff filled crepes. While my eyes were glued to the crepes, I got a jasmine pearl tea and also tried a coconut milk tea. They both rocked. The pearls are the perfect size, with a good flavor and consistency to boot. On top of all this, Q-Cup seals their PMT with the plastic covering. STAB! Sweet.

Atmosphere: 4 stars PMT: 5 stars Other stuff: 5 stars

Verde Tea House

At Verde on Castro Street, the PMT is comparable to Q-Cup’s. This place gets packed to the brim on weekends and serves some really tasty thick toast with peanut butter. Along with PMT, Verde Tea is bright green inside and stays open late into the evening. It was here that I lost my PMT cherry, so there is a special place in my heart for Verde Tea House.

Atmosphere: 4 stars PMT: 4 stars Other Stuff: 3 stars

Lucy’s Tea House

It’s located in an alley behind Verde Tea House, on Villa Street off Castro. Lucy’s wins the Neat Atmosphere Award. It has mad ambience. Lucy’s has a large stock of board games. I thought it was incredibly fun to play Go while sipping my tea. The Indian milk tea and the Thai milk tea were both tasty. The pearls are also a good size and flavor. Although they do PMT well, their selection is limited. I’d recommend checking out the tea floats, which are PMT with a scoop of ice cream in them. Check this place out, but be warned: the PMT is a steep $4 unless you get it to go, then it drops mysteriously to $2.50. Either you pay more or you miss out on the coolest part of Lucy’s.

Atmosphere: 5 stars PMT: 4 Stars Other stuff: 5 stars

After a whirlwind week of PMT comparison, I think that Q-Cup is my favorite. They do everything right. It is far away, but worth the trip. Lucy’s is the coolest joint to chill at with some friends. Failing that, Black Pearl is still pretty good. I would say that it rocks all right. In closing, try some pearl milk tea but please avoid Tresidder PMT. It hurts.

The magical glory of pearl milk tea
By Shawn Standefe