I’m embarking on a quest to find not terrible boba tea in Chicago.

When I moved to Madison WI five years ago I gave up on finding any decent boba tea this side of Nevada pretty quickly, but a couple of weeks ago I went to The Steepery in Madison on a whim. I almost didn’t, because I was just waiting for a bus across the street and wasn’t sure if I had enough time to grab anything, but I am very glad I did cause it was surprisingly good! I mean the bobas were oddly small, a couple of millimeters smaller in diameter than the ones usually used, and the texture wasn’t top shelf, but otherwise it was just as good as most boba teas on the west coast, which in turn are a couple of steps down from the boba teas in China, but still.

My ideal boba tea is the color of a bottled Starbucks frappuccino. It’s made with black tea so strong that even diluted with milk it’s a tiny bit tannic. It has enough sweetness to balance the bitterness of the tea, but only just. And if you didn’t know any better you’d swear there was a bit of chocolate milk in it. There should be enough boba to last til the very end with a few left to spare, that you can then pick off from amidst the ice. They should have a uniform texture throughout, and be so chewy that you think they’re bouncing around in your mouth. They should not stick to each other, each one perfectly smooth.

The boba tea at Saint Alp’s Teahouse is not very good. The color is pallid, the flavor is not deep, it has no body, but at least they don’t try to compensate by adding too much sugar like some other places. The internal texture of the bobas was pretty good, but the edges were overcooked so they were sticky on the outside and clumped together. It was $3.25 (bobas are 50 cents, included) which is ok for Chicago I suppose. On the bright side my dinner entree was $6.00 for a “small” size portion of noodles, which were pretty tasty. I was full after eating half the plate. This is the sort of casual dining, 3 out of 5 star place Schmoops would probably never agree to go to — better get my fix while I can.