Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lollicup: Weird but Good

Recently a friend told me about a little shop in the Viet Town section of Orlando called Lollicup. She said they serve shaken iced tea with milk that has little gummy balls at the bottom that you drink with a wide straw. She proclaimed the shop, “weird but good.”

You know I had to check it out.

She was right. Lollicup does serve several flavored iced tea and milk drinks (lattes) - along with juice and slushes. Each drink comes with about an inch of tiny, tapioca balls, or “boba” at the bottom of the beverage. The top of the cup is heat-sealed across the lip with a cellophane cover in place of a traditional lid and the drink is shaken, creating bubbly foam at the top. You puncture the seal with your large straw and enjoy - boba and all. The sealing process is really convenient if you’re taking the drink to go. Why don’t other places have a system like this?

You can choose not to have boba included, but you have to try it at least once. It’s the best part of a visit to Lollicup.

I chose a Caramel Milk Tea with boba ($3.59), served over ice which quickly melted. It tasted like a strong iced tea latte with just a hint of sweet caramel. It was good but not great. The boba, however, elevated the beverage to an entirely new drinking experience.

The first sip is a little scary. Sucking up the balls through the straw is like sucking up lemon seeds in iced tea. It kind of freaks you out. The little balls are slimy and chewy - like wet gummy bears. They are supposed to be tasteless, but they tasted like tea to me from soaking in the drink. It was fun at first to drink/eat the boba, but the novelty quickly wore out. After a while, I just wanted to enjoy my drink without feeling like I was going to choke on little gelatinous balls. By the end, I wanted to spoon them out; they really started to gross me out. I would never order a drink with boba again.

My guest ordered a Banana Milk Tea with boba. A small banana was blended into the drink. He liked the milk tea but “hated” the boba.

Apparently, teas with boba are very popular in Southeast Asia. The drink originated in Taiwan, and spread quickly to other Asian countries including Vietnam. In Hong Kong, the locals called the tapioca balls “boba” - their word for tiny pearls.

Other milk tea flavors include almond, cappuccino, chocolate, lavender, jasmine and sesame. Slushes and fruit teas are also available. The slushes looked good. I think I’ll try the passion fruit slush next time –without boba.

Lollicup is near the corner of Mills and Colonial, set amidst myriad Vietnamese restaurants and small businesses catering to the community. It’s fun to stroll along the streets around Lollicup and window shop. It’s a busy, vibrant community. Peering into shops and seeing the locals attending to day-to-day tasks, you would almost believe you were strolling through an area of Saigon. You feel a world away from typical Orlando, the home of Disney World and the tourist capital of the world.

Service was fast, friendly and welcoming. The two young men serving were quick to help us order and explained the process and boba to us. We didn’t feel the least bit awkward after a minute or two.

There are a couple of table outside in a courtyard. It’s not an attractive area to lounge - cars zoom loudly by on Colonial and trash sails down the sidewalk in the wind, but you do, somehow, feel really cool sitting there. You feel like a stranger in a strange land, with a strange beverage.

I enjoyed my visit to Lollicup, and I’ll be back for more. It will be fun to bring friends who have never experienced boba before. My friend enjoyed hearing about my reaction to the place, and I have to agree with her in the end: Lollicup is weird but good.

4 Gelatinous Balls out of 5


Lollicup Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon


Bobby said...

Bubble tea has come and gone. You definitely are not up to speed on whats new with foods out there. If you are looking for the new fad....try looking up frozen yogurt. You might have even seen it on a AmEx commercial lately.

Bobby said...

Update: After reading your summary for the 2nd time, you should have mentioned the gummy balls are actually Tapioca balls. They are soft and smoooth when first drinking. If made right, they stay soft through out the drink. However, most times the Tapioca balls harden up due to the coldness of the drink and become chewier. The Boba drinks come in a lot of exotic flavors and definitely worth trying and overall very refreshing especially in the Florida heat.

Anonymous said...

instead of boba, they also offer a variety of jelly you can ask for instead.

Anonymous said...

Bobby, do you know Lolicup also serve tart frozen yogurt? Try it out, totally yummy yet healthy.