The Boba Files: Purple Kow (San Francisco, CA)

8:00:00 AM

File #011: Hype? Worth the drive?

Since Purple Kow just opened up a location in San Jose (on Tully Road), I thought it would be fitting to review the San Francisco shop.

My overall impression: just average..

My friends and I paid Purple Kow a visit after having some dim sum back in January. It was my first time trying it out and honestly, I was pretty excited. After hearing about it for what felt like ages, there was a lot of anticipation for this boba drink.

Maybe all those years sprouting about addictive crack-like substances in milk tea, there really was something along those lines at Purple Kow.

So, after parking about two blocks away, we made the trek to the shopstopping at an impressive line. It curved out the door, ending shy of blocking another shop’s door. We stood there waitingand waiting. Funny enough, it was quite warm in San Francisco that day and dare I sayI wore too much, waiting out in the sun at 2 PM.

After waiting for about half an hour, we finally made it to the front of the line. Inside, it was less chaotic and much larger than I anticipated. Most people were taking their drinks to go instead of hanging around to chat, but I guess I should have known since every minute spent sitting around means potentially running out of time on your meter.

And instead of having purple decorwhich I was expectingit was orange. Bright orange chairs matched the highlighter orange circles mounted onto the walls and everything was topped off by the snowflake cluster lights that reflected and left pretty shadows on the walls.

Massive. I had problems holding it with one hand. And this was a regular.
I ordered the honey milk tea with less sweetness and boba. My friends got the fresh milk tea, roasted oolong milk tea and a regular milk tea. Our anticipation turned into a series of puzzled looks because it wasn’t what we were expectingmuch like the inside decor.

At that point, red flags were being raised.

My drink was alrighta bit sweeter than I preferred, but tolerable. I tried my friends’ roasted oolong and regular milk tea and the regular sweetness was wayy too sweet for my taste. While PC mentioned how hers tasted more like milk than tea.

So what went wrong?

First of all, the size should be duly noted. It’s massiveas in, it’s more liquid than you can possibly hold in the average human’s stomach. Don’t quote me on that though because I don’t know for sure.

Second, there was too much boba. So while the boba was goodsweet, chewy, with just the right amount of bitethe problem was the amount. I got tired of chewing before I even reached half way through the cup.

Lastly, the pricewhich goes hand-in-hand with the size. You’re paying for the quantity, but the quality would improve if you cut down on the size and the cost. I feel like I would like Purple Kow more if I had less of it.

In general, I think everything I didn’t like about Purple Kow boiled down to the size. If the cup was only smaller, everything would be better. Because the current cup is inconvenientyou can’t put it in the cup holder inside your car. And I know I know that’s part of the appeal of Purple Kow, but I guess it’s just not my cup of tea.

I carried my cup around with me for several hours while we were wandering around Japantown and shockingly enough, I wasn’t able to finish the entire cupwhich is a first since I usually can. I had about ⅓ of a cup left, but I was tired of chewing the boba, full from the milk tea and didn’t feel like forcing myself to drink the remainder, which at that point was lukewarm.

I may be part of the minority here and it sure looks that way since the line was still out the door when we left, but I was disappointed. Not quite as disappointed as my first experience with Sharetea, but enough for me to take all Yelp reviews with a grain of saltespecially when it comes to those in San Francisco.

All those years of wondering boiled down to a long wait, mediocre experience and a sad cup of milk tea at the bottom of a trash can in Japantown somewhere.

So yes, it was hyped up. And no, it's not worth the drive. 5 mins? Sure. 10 mins? Okay, why not. One hour? No. Don't. Do. It.

What was your experience at Purple Kow? Has anybody ordered the large and finished it in one sitting? Maybe I should pay the Tully location a visit soon.

3620 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA 94121

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  1. purple kow's tea is pretty yikes- they're a lot better known for their fresh milk drinks (the D section on their menu)! as for the boba, they can cut it down if you ask, I normally go for 50% boba and 50% sweetness with my D4 and i finish the large pretty easily lol

    1. So I heard! Thanks~ I'll give them another chance. :) They opened up a location in San Jose, but I haven't had a chance to visit yet because it's in a pretty crowded area. And the chubby cups aren't really car friendly, so unless I'm meeting a friend there, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to go grab it to-go.