In many larger U.S. cities, it's not uncommon these days to spot an eatery selling boba or pearl tea?blends of tea, milk, fruit juice, and flavored syrups that buoy marble-size spheres of chewy tapioca. On the West Coast, at least, Tapioca Express is partly to thank for that trend. Wayne Lin founded the growing chain of drink and snack shops in 1999, starting with simple versions of the Taiwanese delicacy and then systematically designing and testing new flavors?such as coconut pineapple and vanilla cookie?in a state-of-the-art flavor collider.
Today, the menu tallies more than 100 different kinds of drinks, including yogurt and fresh-fruit smoothies, creamy coffee drinks, and tea-based slushies. Snack choices may be a little easier: favorites from the concise, pan-Asian menu include crispy chicken, steamed buns, and tempura.