Pasadena’s new culinary experience highlights this popular Taiwanese American drink

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  • Published on May 15, 2023
  • Last Updated June 8, 2023
  • In Passport

The trail features over 30 spots that specialize in the Taiwanese American beverage.

Whether you’re chowing down on BBQ in Kansas City or sipping your way through wine country, taking a bite out of a city’s culinary scene is undoubtedly one of the best ways to learn about the culture of a particular place and its people. A new culinary experience has launched in Pasadena, CA and it’s all about the boba, as in boba tea.

For those unfamiliar, boba tea (also referred to as bubble tea on the East Coast) is an iced drink that is typically made of a tea base, milk or fruit flavoring, and chewy tapioca balls. The creamy and sugary drink is loved not only for the taste, but for its novelty, as it is consumed by way of a larger-than-normal straw. Pasadena’s brand-new boba trail, located along Route 66, comprises 30 places serving the Taiwanese American drink, according to Travel + Leisure.

“There’s still a huge sense of Asian pride around this beverage, symbolically representing acceptance for Asian Americans [and] AAPI pop culture exports,” Anna Yan, a spokesperson for Visit Pasadena, told Travel + Leisure. “With shops bringing the newest boba trends from Asia to Pasadena, such as cheese foam topping, hues of purples and blues from butterfly pea, handmade tapioca balls, and fluffy Japanese soufflé pancakes, boba culture continues to flourish as a culinary bridge for Asian pop culture exports.”

Boba tea, which can be traced back to the 1980s, made its way to the U.S. in the 90s, notes Travel + Leisure. It became a major staple in San Gabriel Valley communities including Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, and Pasadena.

“The subculture was a significant part of social life for young Asian Americans who grew up at boba shops with study groups, on dates, and playing board games with friends,” Yan continued. “It’s the parent-approved, non-alcoholic activity enjoyed with friends. Now, as that ‘boba generation’ matures, boba culture has also grown into an appreciation of artisanal craft beverages with handmade ingredients, tea leaves sourced from premium regions, and artful presentations, just as it becomes mainstream in America.”

The trail includes national chains, local boba chains, and smaller businesses such as Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea, 85c Bakery Cafe, 3Catea, Home Brewed Bar, Jin Tea Shop, Motto Tea Cafe and more. To start planning your route, or to visit all of the featured spots, visit the Pasadena Boba Trail’s webpage on Pasadena’s official tourism site.

Roshae Hemmings is an arts and culture magazine journalist from St. Louis, MO. A graduate from the Missouri School of Journalism, Roshae has bylines in the Columbia Missourian, Vox Magazineand 5280 Magazinediscussing topics ranging from pop culture, social justice and eat and drink. She is a foodie at heart and enjoys eating food as much as learning about the story behind it. You can reach Roshae via email at roshaehemmings@detourxp.com.

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