Whether you call it snow bubble tea, pearl tea or boba tea, the Taiwanese beverage has become extremely popular among San Diego State students. Tapioca Express on Convoy Street is the designated place to get this drink, along with other food items, all while socializing with friends.
Opened in Los Angeles in 1999, Tap Ex as the regulars call it, continues to expand, with locations throughout Canada and Texas, Washington and California.
If requested, sweet, chewy tapioca balls are added into the tea, giving each drink a unique taste and composition. Glossy and black in color, tapioca balls are made of a gummy texture meant to be chewed.
For those hesitant to try boba with their drinks, Tap Ex offers smaller tapioca balls called baby boba. Baby boba helps people ease into the unique taste and texture of tapioca. Other additives include jelly and pudding. Some interesting jelly flavors offered are coffee, lychee, grass and green apple.
Tap Ex’s mission to “satisfy the five senses” is easily reflected in its menu with various food options and more than 100 drink items. The beverage menu is split into sections such as tea, shaved ice, coffee, juice and soda. The food snacks and combo menus include items such as calamari, fried tofu and crispy chicken rice.
Only a 15-minute drive from SDSU, the Convoy location is in one of the busiest plazas of
San Diego and is one of the most popular places to get boba in the area.
SDSU sophomore Chanthalom Sengvilay, who prefers the Convoy location above all others, went to Tap Ex once a week last semester to get his boba fix.
“It’s always uplifting and it’s nice to see other college kids enjoying the night not buried in books,” Sengvilay said.
He also likes the laid-back atmosphere of this location.
“It’s a college boba joint run by college students, what more can you ask for?”
Sengvilay’s favorite drink is the Thai tea snow bubble and is also a big fan of the extra spicy calamari.
Supervisor Amy Thai, who graduated from SDSU in May, has worked for Tap Ex for six years. Through the years, she has seen the store undergo two remodels and many additions to its menu. Thai said items are rarely removed from the menu, which grows with new items because customer input is greatly valued.
When multiple customers requested hazelnut as a drink flavor, Thai went to the grocery store and bought hazelnut to experiment with. After receiving positive feedback, she took action to give the customers what they desired. Hazelnut is now an avaliable flavor on the drink menu.
Thai, whose favorite drink is green apple honey green tea with aloe vera, said to be on alert for a new menu within a few months.
Because boba is made from primarily starch and sugar, Thai thinks it should only be an occasional treat.
Although various age groups come into Tapioca Express, college students make up the majority of the customers. Students come in groups to socialize and several even come to study. People can sit at tables, bars or booths by themselves or with friends and watch flat- screen TVs play music videos. There are also board games available.
SDSU junior Brittany Palmer said when she first tried Tapioca Express, “it was delicious and I was hooked.” Palmer said snow bubble drinks are especially appealing when the weather is hot.
“I don’t know what it is about the texture, but it’s addicting to eat,” Palmer said. Her favorite drink is the passion fruit snow bubble tea with boba “because it is refreshing and has the perfect combination of tart and sweet.” For SDSU students without transportation, Tap Ex has a location on El Cajon Boulevard, which is closer to campus. Although smaller, this Tap Ex has the quality expected by all bobafanatics.