Tapping Into the “Big Pearls” Phenomenon

Boba, also known as tapioca pearls or tapioca balls, is derived from the starch of the cassava root – when perfectly cooked, it transforms into a sweet chewy ball with a gummy bear-like texture about a quarter of an inch in diameter. While there are many names for this derision, the original beverages were known as tapioca milk tea (or tapioca tea latte) or pearl milk tea, finally being introduced to Hong Kong where the locals called it “Boba” instead of pearl because of its shape; the word literally translates to “Big Pearls.”

Today, it is added to just about any drink – milk tea, icy smoothies, juice and even coffee – but when it’s added to tea, it takes on a different texture compared to the creamy and smooth tea base, infusing a fun twist to the beverage. The reference has evolved to become a slang of sorts for any of the drinks produced in Asian tea houses, thus yielding a wide range of concoctions with various toppings. The culture that basically worships these drinks, which in Los Angeles resides primarily in the San Gabriel Valley but encompasses the Woodland Hills area as well, is best compared to the coffee culture elsewhere in the City of Angels: The tea houses double as community gathering centers, where folks get really personal about their drinks of choice because the variations are so endless.

Let’s take a gander at some of the yummiest Boba places in Woodland Hills:

Bee’s Boba, located at 7212 Remmet Avenue in L.A., offers such tasty treats as milk tea, smoothies, fresh-pressed juice and more, and has become a favorite go-to juice bar amongst the Woodland Hills faithful. On the Bee’s menu you will find such customer-approved treasures as the Mango Mania Smoothie, Brewed Black Tea, Jasmine Green Tea, Thai Tea, Chai Tea, Watermelon Ice Blend Smoothie and the Mango Strawberry Watermelon Smoothie. From delicious smoothies and other incredible concoctions to very reasonable prices, Bee’s should be one of the first places you check out during your newfound “big pearls” experimentation tour.

Bon Bon Tea House, located at 8316 Winnetka Avenue in Canoga Park, presents its formidable customer base with such treats as Coffee Milk Tea, Oolong Milk Tea, Classic Milk Tea, Fresh Green Tea and other always-fresh surprises. Friendly service combine with huge selections, all of which can be taken out or enjoyed right on Bon Bon Tea House’s patio area – imagine chilling out on a gorgeous Southern California day, sipping on a luscious Iced Green Tea with Vanilla Sea Salt, completely taking in the rich, strong flavor…if that’s not enough to sell you on the merits of stopping by Bon Bon Tea House, we don’t know what is!

It’s Boba Time, located at 6600 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, began with a simple love of the beverages, its founders enjoying them every day until they began to feel they could make it even better. In 2003, they started a menu of 40 drinks, and today the business boasts more than 140 menu items, with more created every year. Only fresh fruits are used in the creation of this joint’s smoothies and slushes, and all drinks are made-to-order, with customers able to personalize each treat with real fruit and popular toppings.

Dulcet Gourmet, located at 23717 Vanowen Street in West Hills, is one of the most unique places in our roundup, offering shakes, coffee, ice cream and even lottery tickets, to say nothing of some of the freshest donuts in L.A. Called a “true landmark of the West Valley,” Dulcet Gourmet is lorded over by the most courteous owners who deliver consistently good food and garner a regularly bustling following, many of those customers returning for such favorites as the Strawberry Banana Smoothie, always made with real fruit and a dash of love.

YoBo Land, located at 19100 Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, specializes in kosher frozen yogurt in addition to a variety of mixed drinks. All ingredients used to make these specialties are of the freshest and most premium of sources, with yogurts that contain live cultures. From slushies and smoothies to shakes made with real fruit, YoBo Land offers a warm family setting in which to enjoy these treasures, with Boba available to be added to anything on the menu. In the mood for something a bit more “indulgent”? Try YoBo’s Brownie Sundae with ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and fresh strawberries and banana.

Food fads may come and go, but drinks such as the ones we’ve just highlighted seem to have become a staple in many people’s diets. As residents of Southern California can already attest to, it has become something of an obligation to know what these chewy pearl drinks are all about…and when it comes to Boba places in Woodland Hills, there’s no going wrong with any of the spots we’ve showcased here.