Nearly 15 years ago, Lollicup Coffee & Tea founder Alan Yu helped introduce America to a drink popular in his native Taiwan: boba milk tea (a.k.a. bubble tea), named for the chewy tapioca balls known as boba that hang suspended in the beverage. These gummy treats make the drink something of a snack, too?people slurp them up using oversize straws, chewing them between sips or collecting them in their cheek pouches.
Lollicup's specialty is milk tea flavored with almond, jasmine, coconut, or other infusions, but boba can also be added to most of Lollicup's other colorful drinks, from grapefruit green tea to watermelon juice and signature soy pudding. There's food, too: shareable morsels of fried meats and veggies, or rice plates if a well-rounded meal is in order. Thanks to word of mouth and a spot on the Food Network's Unwrapped, Lollicup has expanded to dozens of locations across the country and has outposts opening soon in Europe and the Middle East.