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 boba b 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 bubble teas at boba shops 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 homemade bubble tea with pretty minimal effort. To help you decide where to shop, we tried the boba pearls from both brands and reviewed them for taste, quality, and affordability.

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 tapioca varieties. Flavors include: taro, brown sugar, and matcha green tea. After trying all three with friends, we agreed that the brown sugar boba is the best. That being said, all three tea flavors 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 were still rock-hard, hence the 1.5-star deduction. Sorry, Costco!

Costco Variety Instant Boba PackPhoto credit: Cheapism

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.

Trader Joe's Instant Boba KitPhoto credit: Cheapism

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is boba made of?

Boba is made of tapioca, a starch extracted from cassava roots. To make boba pearls, producers add boiling water to tapioca flour, kneading the mixture until it has the consistency of dough. This dough-like mixture of tapioca starch and water is then cut into round pearls.

Is boba healthy?

Unfortunately, no. The pearls have little nutritional value (they're mostly carbs), and the teas are full of sugar.

What other boba products does Costco carry?

Other popular Costco boba products include: J Way Boba Milk Tea Variety Set, Shaomei Boba Lovers’ Treats Frozen Bars, Shaomei Brown Sugar Boba Bars, Tropical Fields Boba Milk Tea Mochi, Tropical Fields Boba Milk Tea Mochi Brown Sugar Flavor.

What other boba products does Trader Joe's carry?

Trader Joe's sells two non-dairy ice creams that come loaded with boba pearls: the Black Tea and Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert and the Cold Brew Coffee & Boba Coconut Non-Dairy Dessert.

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