Local boba shop amazes with cheesy, umami tea variations
September 20, 2018
The pantheon has grown. Now amongst the ranks of Boudin Bakery bread bowls, anchor steam ale and classic Ghirardelli squares, bubble tea—a.k.a. boba—has risen to the top of the Bay Area crop. The Taiwanese drink was developed in the 1980s, but only recently has gained acclaim in the United States. Like any culinary import to the U.S., this novel beverage has been fairly diluted to meet the sweet tooth of the American public.
A local bubble tea spot called Happy Lemon rejects a derivative approach to this wonderful drink. In keeping with the millennial-driven umami rage, Happy Lemon serves a classic boba with a salty, cheesy twist.
Yeah. You heard that right. Cheese. I promise you it’s not what you think. Presumably this conjures the nauseating image of a Kraft Single half melted atop an otherwise refreshing iced tea. Let me assure you, that’s not the case.
Happy Lemon has sizable, diverse menu offerings which include a seperate “Salted Cheese Series.” Upon first glance, these drinks seem to fit in with any other boba or milk tea. It is colorful, translucent and consistent in texture. However, there is a frothy, thin foam that rests on top—giving it the appearance of an ale. After a first taste, it’s immediately perceptible that this is the cheese.
My go-to from the selection of “Salted Cheese Series” is the green tea. To me, it captures everything this type of drink should be.
The gentle bitterness of the green tea is complimented and even enhanced by the creamy, savory topping. This contrast of flavor and texture is a perfect balance to make a delicious tea. I see it as a nice chaser to a meal from any one of the Korean restaurants around Santa Clara.
Happy Lemon appeals to any and all customers. Whether you’re a first time explorer or an experienced fan of boba and milk tea, the shop has something for you. There are basic bobas, but more adventurous options are on the table as well. The milk teas with Oreo or tiramisu are my favorite suggestions. While heavier than most other options, these drinks are wonderfully flavorful.
Novices need not fear, however. Happy Lemon is here to help. All this jargon about teas, toppings and cheese can be a whirlwind of information.
The staff is more than happy to take you through the menu, and the store is even set up to help you most enjoy your purchase.
They have put up posters instructing customers on how to drink their teas—especially the cheese-laden options. They detail the flavors and textures to look for, and even break things down to the angle at which to hold your cup (45° will do just fine).
New foods can be daunting. Even I had a fair share of troubles on my first trip to Happy Lemon.
Nevertheless, any foyer into a new cuisine could be just the right push into the rabbit hole of new experiences. Happy Lemon, while a little glitzy and overwhelmingly bright, isn’t just some gimmicky shop of passing fads. Instead, it serves to show us the possibilities of a food that has been bastardized by American tastes.
Outside of its cultural meaning, the tea is flavorful and refreshing. So take your friends on a quick excursion off-campus and try something new and unique this year at Happy Lemon.
Contact Kevin Thich at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408)