The Best Bubble Tea in Des Moines

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    Photo by Mr. TinDC

    Bubble tea is a traditional Thai drink that typically has boba or popping pearls in it. In Des Moines, there are not a lot of options for bubble tea, but thankfully the options are well worth the drive.

    I never guessed that my love for classical music would lead to a newfound obsession: bubble tea. My newfound interest in bubble tea came from the YouTube Channel Twoset Violin, which discusses classical music in a modern and silly way. They also have an intense love for boba, which has been used throughout their videos as a joke or prop. Their love for bubble tea piqued my interest, and I decided to finally try it, and there was no distance nor price that would deter me.

    My adventures first brought me to a popular and favorite boba place, called 8 Degrees on Drake’s campus. Being inexperienced, I timidly ordered their signature milk tea with boba and was shocked by the amazing flavors and interesting texture of the boba. The tea intermixed with the boba produced an immaculate experience, and I craved more. 

    A few days later, I traveled to Ocha, a charming boba and dessert shop located in Windsor Heights. I was extremely impressed with the way they carried out business, although it was difficult to hear the person taking my order at times (which was probably my fault, it was late and I had absolutely no caffeine that day). It was also a little difficult to find with construction, but my grievances were quickly shunned by the sweetness and boldness of the bubble tea I had ordered. 

    In comparison, there are a few things surrounding bubble tea that need to be addressed:

    One, the texture and flavor of the boba. The boba from 8 Degrees was tough and hard to chew at times. It also had an interesting flavor that was more difficult to get behind. The boba from Ocha was softer, and I had ordered the honey boba, so it was very sweet. The honey from the boba also permeated the drink, making it much sweeter.

    Two, the flavor of the tea itself. Typical bubble tea drinks (I had gotten the signature from both places) use black tea. Much like coffee, it is important that the sweetness from the sugar and milk do not overpower the bitterness of the tea, but rather provide a holistic representation of everything. Both 8 Degrees and Ocha did this extremely well, though I am inclined to say that Ocha did it better. The tea was extremely sweet and sensational, but I could still taste the black tea underneath.

    Finally, there is the overall presentation. 8 Degrees’ presentation was very cute, and it seemed like it was very well thought out. Ocha did the traditional way of displaying the drink, where the consumer must poke a hole in the plastic with the thick straw. The presentation was better with 8 Degrees, but Ocha’s was much more fun, as there is an unexplainable feeling of mirth with poking through the top. 

    By far, the most popular place to get boba is at 8 Degrees. Senior Lauren Logue said, “The place is super cute and has a good variety. [They have] smoothies, milk tea, and all kinds of boba.” The opinion is shared by junior and fellow news staff member Christine Aukes, who said, “the environment of the store is super relaxing and cute. Whenever I go there, my tea is super good. I always get the popping bubbles. They also get their tea out fast, and you don’t need to wait for a long time.”

    Overall, both places deserve accolades, as all aspects of their bubble teas were amazing. However, I believe that Ocha is better for many reasons. The most prominent reasons are the environment and the flavor of the tea. I felt more comfortable in Ocha’s small and charming store, and there were no words to describe the amazingness of the tea. The worst part of the experience was when I finished the drink. I very strongly recommend both places, but Ocha will forever have my heart.