Bubble tea is a bit of a tough sell in Kansas City. Exhibit A? The bluetooth-enabled collared shirt behind me in line at Tea Drops' downtown shop.
"What's in bubble tea?" asks Bluetooth.
"It's a tea drink with tapioca balls," begins the barista.
"Just stop right there," says Bluetooth, who proceeds to order a black tea.
Apparent texture obstacles aside, bubble tea shouldn't be so easily dismissed.
The bubbles in bubble tea are "boba" -- chewy tapioca balls that rest at the bottom of the drink, which can either be tea or milk-based and typically is sweetened with fruit flavoring or juice. Drinking it is a bit of a game, because it's served with an oversized straw to allow you to suck up the peanut M&M-sized tapioca pearls. After asking baristas which flavors were popular, I ordered bubble teas from two shops to see how well they might help Kansas Citians embrace this Asian treat.
Nica's Cafe (14319 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park): Strawberry Peach Green Tea
The flavors include caramel and chocolate to prickly pear and pomegranate, while black, green, herbal, red, and chai tea are also available.
I stuck with peach and strawberry green tea on a recommendation from the barista, who asked whether I liked fruit roll-ups.
The combination of juice, green tea, milk and ice did indeed taste like a milky, fruit roll-up. It was powerfully sweet, a lighter version of a fruit milkshake.