O's Bubble and Trader Joe's

Boba Tea Face-Off: Costco Vs. Trader Joe's

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Invented in Taiwan in the 1980s, boba or bubble teas have been making a splash on social media — with foodies either marveling at the chewy consistency of the starchy balls swimming inside or bashing it for being too weird. "I don't want to have to eat my drink," says my girlfriend, who recently tried boba for the first time. Most lovers of the drinks, though, say chewy, delicious tapioca pearls are as important as a high-quality tea. 

The downside of buying boba teas at stores is how pricey they are. A small drink typically costs at least $6, and a large can start at $8.

You can save by buying boba tea kits from Costco or Trader Joe's, enjoying a homemade bubble tea with pretty minimal effort. To help you decide where to shop, we tried both brands and reviewed them for taste, quality, and affordability. What do you think of bubble tea and bubble tea kits? Tell us in the comments.

Costco's Variety Instant Boba Pack

Price: $11.39 for 12 drinks

Calories: 120 for taro and matcha, 140 for brown sugar

Overall rating:3.5/5

While the brand of boba teas that Costco carries isn't the cheapest, the pack comes with three flavors: taro, brown sugar, and matcha. After trying all three with friends, we agreed the brown sugar is the best. That being said, all three teas aren't overly sweet and actually taste pretty good. The downside was the consistency of the tapioca pearls. After following the instructions on the package and microwaving the packets for 45 seconds, the boba still were rock-hard, hence the 1.5-star deduction. Sorry, Costco! 

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit

Price: $5.49 for four drinks

Calories: 110

Overall rating: 4.5/5

A clear winner in price if you aren't buying in bulk, TJ's brand of boba tea was surprisingly good and tasted (almost) store-bought. The tapioca pearls were much softer compared with Costco's after being boiled, and the tea itself had a stronger taste. The half-star deduction was due to excessive sweetness, but people who enjoy sweet beverages will find this a solid choice. There's just one flavor, though — brown sugar.

The Verdict

After trying both brands, we found Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit emerged victorious, superior in taste and tapioca quality and lower in calories. That said, Costco's pack comes with more (12 packs, as opposed to four) and results in more bang for your buck — it's 95 cents for each drink from Costco's kit, versus $1.37 for each drink from Trader Joe's. But if you're looking for better quality and taste, TJ's is the way to go. 

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