boba tea & more in chicago, il: saint’s alp teahouse & cafeAugust 14th, 2011
located in chicago’s chinatown is saint’s alp teahouse & café, an import from hong kong. while boba originated in taiwanese tea shops during the 1980s, saint’s alp was the first to introduce it into a teahouse atmosphere. since first opening in hong kong in 1994, they have expanded to more than 40 locations there, as well as having three in the u.s. and one in macau.
although you can sit down for hot or cold teas and both chinese and japanese food at any saint’s alp teahouse, the first drink on the menu is boba tea. that’s what they’re known for and what we were there for. we ordered an almond black milk tea, light on the tapioca pearls, and learned that we’re not alone with this request. the café is seeing a trend toward health-consciousness and is happy to oblige by customizing the quantity of tapioca pearls in a drink.
of course, we then negated our good intentions by ordering a fresh mango ice cream sundae. this probably wasn’t the best idea, but when it arrived in a large martini glass, we tasted it and quickly determined it was worth the indulgence. the boba tea was also perfectly prepared, just the right sweetness, and so cute in its tall glass with a thick pink straw. in fact, we loved the fun factor throughout the concept, with the citrus-colored tables and chairs, playful graphics on the wall, and our pink and orange cups of water.
the menu is extensive, but unfortunately we were there in mid-afternoon, with lunch behind us and dinner plans ahead. at another time, we would have found it easy to be tempted by the extensive array of asian foods (we’re talking pages!). and there’s a just-as-extensive list of mostly tea-based drinks, enough that you could have a different one every day for a couple of months. many are available hot or cold. the boba is super-popular, and not just among the young, but again, there’s something for everyone on this menu.
several popular entrees include beef with chinese okra, fish filet with chinese chives and garlic, japanese tofu with assorted mushrooms, and fried rice with roasted duck. there are also hong kong-style snacks such as sweet condensed-milk toast, soups ranging from hot and sour to shark’s fin, seaweed salad, and noodles and rice in various asian styles.
the delicacy we should have ordered was the tea eggs. but somehow the boba and ice cream won us over, and we have no regrets. with their delicious teas, whimsical marketing and plans for expansion, we know we’ll find saint’s alp on the road again.
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