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10 Boba and Book Pairings

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Jessica Yang

Staff Writer

Jessica grew up in Silicon Valley, yet somehow ended up rather inept at technology. She dreams of reading luxurious novels all day in a greenhouse, and is guilty of writing puns for money. Majoring in Japanese and English literature made her both wary and weary of the Western canon. She can be bribed with milk tea. Follow her on Twitter @jamteayang.

Actual, mature adults and people with less of a sweet tooth than me would pair books with coffee or books with tea. But for those out there who have a thing for boba AKA pearl milk tea AKA bubble tea — I’ve got you. Here’s my not-so-definitive list of the perfect boba and book pairings:

Boba tea in Taipei

Pearl milk tea from the motherland!

Classic pearl milk tea Howl’s Moving Castle, or pretty much any other book by Diana Wynne Jones. In my less than humble opinion, every one of DWJ’s fantasy books is an automatic classic – heartwarming and familiar, they never get old, kind of like your classic pearl milk tea.

Jasmine green milk tea Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Controversial opinion incoming! Like the hefty, bajillion page fantasy book, jasmine milk tea is lovely and refreshing, but if you have too much, too fast, it stops being good. Green milk tea tastes like soap to me after a while (ick), and my brain starts fleeing for the hills after the 100th page of the genteel magical-political machinations in Jonathan Strange. I’m probably wrong about this. Don’t @ me.

Milk foam and black tea – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I’m honestly not really sure what the official name of these drinks are — Milk foam? Tea cream? Salted cheese? *shrugs* My case for this pairing is that it’s refreshing and just the tiniest bit sweet, like Sáenz’s book about two teens who discover friendship, then love.

Earl grey milk tea with puddingSorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. Sorcerer to the Crown is a sweet, hilarious, very Austen-y (but with a post-colonial bent) fantasy about Britain’s first black Sorcerer Royal and — well, I won’t spoil you. Go read it. I promise you’ll meet some awesome witches. For a book with this vibe, you need something sweet, but different, to drink: Earl grey milk tea with pudding! Yes, the pudding is essential.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan and Boba Tea

Plant milk teaIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Uh, what’s plant milk tea? Dear reader, it’s a regular boba milk tea with crushed oreos as the top layer, and a sprig of mint as the ‘plant’. It’s very silly, very cute, very #aesthetic, and a whole lot of fun – much like In Other Lands, the final form of the originally online tale Turn of the Story. Get this book for a magic school adventure with bonus diplomacy, queer romance, and Elliot, the King of Snark.

Taro milk tea Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or any other Austen book. People either love taro milk tea, or they hate it. It’s distinct, iconic, and comes in a variety of forms – like Austen’s body of work. Love it or hate, you can’t ignore it.

Oolong milk tea Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. Fairy tale, murder, and fiction-come-to-life all merge in Mr. Fox — and reading the book definitely puts you in a contemplative frame of mind. When that happens, you need a hot oolong milk tea to see you through your thoughtful mood.

Mango green teaWant by Cindy Pon. It’d be practically criminal of me not to mention the first YA book to be set in Taiwan (the birthplace of pearl milk tea!) in a boba list. The sci-fi thriller is set in the heart of Taipei, and follows its hero and resident bad boy, Jason, as he fights back against the corrupt Jin Corporation with his friends. Mango is one of the fruits Taiwan is known for, so mango green tea it is!

Yakult green teaI Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo. What happens when you take the rules of Kdramas and apply them to your love life? You get Goo’s latest YA book, a story that ricochets between cute and awkward-hilarious-dramatic from page to page. Sweet with a light caffeine kick matches the book — it matches either yakult (you know, those tiny, super sweet yogurt things) green tea or passion fruit green tea.

Honey green tea – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. While the story may center on Rachel Chu’s fish-out-of-water experience in Singapore’s high society, the tone of the book is surprisingly down to earth. I think it’s all the snarkily informative footnotes and sardonic observations that do it. Either way, a classy yet simple honey green tea is what you need when you’re in for the long haul of Crazy Rich Asians.

So those are my boba and book pairings. What famous boba tea flavors am I missing? What did I get wrong? What did I get right (please tell me, I love validation)? Most importantly, what’s on your boba/book list next?