The Boba Files: First Annual Boba Festival (San Jose, CA)

8:00:00 AM

The Boba Files #019: Boba for Days~

The First Annual Boba Festival was hosted by Alpha Kappa Psi at San Jose State University last Saturday. 

PC, YL and I had caught whiff of this event a month or two back and ordered our early bird tickets.

Honestly, I don’t know why something like this wasn’t done sooner, since the overall popularity of boba seems to be at its peak in the Bay Area. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, there’s practically one within a mile circumference of everywhere in San Jose.

One ticket gives you the opportunity of trying 10 samples of milk tea, each at 5 oz each, which means a whopping total of 50 oz. of milk tea. Who needs 50 oz (in case ounces are too foreign, that’s over a liter) of milk tea?

College students. Teenagers. And twentysomethings who have an addiction to milk tea. 

All fingers are pointing at me.

Due to the popularity of this event, they sold out tickets so quickly that they changed the rules to allow three people to enter per ticket and then to just free admission, but no boba samples for non-ticket holders.

Which… wasn’t really a problem considering how things went down on Saturday.

Note:  All proceeds from this event will go towards Water 1st Foundation and a scholarship for Future Business Professionals.

Seeing as how this is going to be an incredibly long post, I’m going to separate things into several sections to make things easier for the eyes to follow. Also I’ll link my reviews of boba places I’ve already reviewed (in the headline) who were also at the location.

On Our Way to The Boba Festival

We may have gotten lost on the campus.

We may have consulted the directory at one point.

And walked back and forth between the Event Center and the Student Union.

Our excuse: The Student Union was still being rebuilt when YL was attending. And PC and I did not attend SJSU.

BUT we did find it! The ballroom was located on the second floor of the new Student Union. We came a few minutes early, but there were already about 30-40 people waiting outside to get in.

There were two tables located in the front to check in and they had a list of all the names so that you didn’t have to pull the tickets up on your phone. Wished they told me sooner so I didn’t have to download the app, but oh well. Un-installing is just a matter of pressing a few buttons.

When you check in, they give you a pamphlet brochure, stamp card with ten slots for the vendors to sign when you go up to their booth for samples and also three cards to fill out for Best Boba, Best Milk Tea and Fan Favorite.

Since it was still early, a lot of the booths were still in the process of setting up when we initially entered the ballroom. There were a total of 8 boba vendors there: Barcode, Gong Cha, Jazen Tea, Simply Boba, Soyful Desserts, Super Cue Cafe, TFM and Teaspoon. Out of the eight, I’ve tried five beforegoes to show just how much milk tea I’ve drank over the course of many years.

Jazen Tea had a large inflatable cup of tea blown up in the back corner of the ballroom, which made for great photo opportunities.

Super Cue was also in the process of blowing up their inflatable caricatures which were essentially the highlights of the boba festival. Super adorable. Super cute and a whole lot of fun. More about those guys later.

Round 1: Gong Cha

For our first round, we decided to head over to Gong Cha. They were also the most “set up,” and I’ve been to their stores more than a handful of times. So I knew what to expect.

They had a selection of two teas: green tea milk foam and a regular milk tea. I went for the milk foam. Gong Cha is known for their consistency, so their milk foam didn’t divert from anything I’ve already tried before. It was the exact same with the exception of the mini-cups.

For only 5 oz of drinks, they put a good amount of milk foam over the top. Their cups were branded with a Gong Cha sticker and all their employees were wearing the standard Gong Cha uniforms.

Not a bad way to start out!

Expectations: I can totally do 10 of these. How hard can it be? Lets continue the boba hopping!

Round 2: Soyful Desserts

After Gong Cha, I was fairly confident that I could down 9 more cups of milk tea even though I have yet to eat anything for lunch yet. We ventured over to the Soyful Desserts stand since PC and YL has never tried them before.

And wow~

Soyful Desserts definitely took the edge with the sheer variety of drinks they brought along to the festival. Most shops brought two or three different flavors.


They had five. I think. There was the HK styled milk tea, taro, creamy milk tea, tofu dessert and one more that have slipped my mind.

PC and I went for the tofu dessert, while YL had the HK styled milk tea, which I have already tried previously before during one of my last visits.

The tofu dessert is their take on the soft tofu dessert that you’d find at a dim sum restaurant or in my family’s case, the local Vietnamese tofu shop. It was a soft silken tofu with added boba and topped with a sweet coconut syrup. Usually it’s a sweet ginger syrup, so that was a surprise.

It was refreshing, but probably not one that I would purchase full size at the store because of the sheer volume. Unless I was going to share it with another person.

That and I should’ve skipped out on drinking the syrup at the end. Too sweet!

Expecations: I can still go! But now I’m hungry and I really… should eat something more solid.

Lunch: Hoshi Food Truck

Milk tea, boba and shaved ice are not a meal replacement for lunch.

We needed real food.

I remember reading on the event page that they were going to have food trucks at the event as well, but the three of us had no idea where they were going to be.

And this is where we got lost again.

Yes, we got lost. Looking for San Fernando Street, which shouldn’t even happen because we were fairly sure of that street.

We wandered around outside (in the hot sun) looking for the food trucks because the organizers said that they were “right outside,” when in reality they should’ve said: they’re right in front of Peanuts.

There were two food trucks parked across the street from Peanuts, a Mexican food truck and a Japanese food truck. We decided to go for Hoshi, which was the Japanese food truck.

Their main menu
Side Menu
Their menu was pretty straightforward and consists primarily of Japanese curry and an assortment of smaller snacks. Wanting something that was easier to split, we decided to go for the snacks. We placed an order for the black pork sausages, wakame salad, takoyaki, and karaage at a total of $23.

Afterwards, we took everything with us back into the Student Union to eat.

Everything came in little paper containers and they all had a small side of cabbage salad, with the exception of the wakame, which was well… already a salad. The black pork sausages were little wieners that had a nice snap and were incredibly juicy and succulent.

Black Pork Sausages
As for the wakame salad, they gave an surprising large amount for $2. The three of us initially thought that we might only have enough for a bite each. Neon green, the seaweed salad looks intimidating for those who have never tried it before, but really the texture comes off as crunchy and chewy.

It was dressed a bit too heavily in vinegar, which was off-putting but tolerable, when paired with the other dishes we were eating.

The largest disappointment fell in the case of our chicken. Instead of being crunchy and piping hot, our chicken was cold and the breading was limp and soggy. They were large pieces of dark meat, which allowed the chicken to retain some of the moisture, but it lacked flavor.

They look crunchy enough.. 
I don’t think that’s the reason why they provided the mayo, but we ended up dipping our chicken generously into it as a result.

Last, but not least, we had the takoyaki: five piping hot octopus balls, topped with sauce and bonito flakes. Hard to go wrong when it comes to takoyaki.

It was a decent meal, but nothing to really write home about. I was hoping that they had more selections available, but it was already close to 2 PM and we still had 8 more boba samples to power through.

No time to waste! Time to hustle!

Round 3: Simply Boba

Next up was Simply Boba. I have never been to their store before so I was looking forward to trying out their milk tea.

They were the first one you would  see when walking in, located on the right corner of the ballroom. And also a considerable line when we were there. Unfortunately, they were running low on milk tea and were running back to their store for refills when we got there, so our choices were more limited.

So. Much. Ice. 
I went for the roasted milk tea, which came with a hefty amount of ice (wasn’t any problem with the coldness issue here) and a few pearls while PC and YL went for the lychee strawberry (I think?), which tasted vaguely more lychee than strawberry.

Unlike some of the other vendors, these were definitely honey boba because I tasted the sweetness from the honey very prominently. The ice did nothing to dilute these babies.

Not bad. Not bad at all. I need to make a visit in the near future. They even volunteered to fill up the cute mason jar that PC bought for YL and I, but I was starting to feel boba-out.

Because you know, everything is better in a mason jar. 

Expectations: I can still do this! But with lunch, I’m beginning to crash from this sugar binge. DON’T FAIL ME NOW!

Round 4: TFM

At this point, we were getting close to 3 PM and some vendors have started to give out milk tea for free. I’m looking at you TFM and Super Cue! It’s not a competition guys! Don’t drug your audience with milk tea!

TFM was right next to Simply Boba and they were beckoning at us to try their milk tea. They had four samples to choose from: Jade Lime, Rose Garden, House Milk Tea and Taro Milk Tea.

The stickers definitely stood out. 
We started off with the House Milk Tea and Rose Garden and ended up with also Taro Milk and Jade Lime later.

This was where experimentation took an odd turn. Rose Garden tasted overwhelmingly more  lychee than rose and their house milk tea was on the blander side. Taro was very milky with some taro bits in the bottom.

And Jade Lime?

It was one of the oddest milk teas I’ve ever tasted.

And I’ve drank a lot of different milk teas over the years. I think it was suppose to come off as refreshing, but the flavor combination was strange and unpleasant on my palate. Sorry TFM, but Jade Lime isn’t a winner in my book.

Expectations: Too. Much. Milk. Tea. Starting to feel awfully sluggish. Where am I? And how am I only 4 rounds in? And technically this one didn’t even count because they didn’t sign my card.

Round 5: Teaspoon

The fruit flavored teas continued as the three of us tackled Round 5 with Teaspoon. They had a strawberry balsamic vinegar tea available and a lychee cucumber green tea.

There was a lot of sugar in the strawberry balsamic vinegar tea and I’m not sure if the balsamic vinegar is suppose to be subtle or whether or not the strawberry was overpowering.

PC was feeling adventurous with Teaspoon and got the Grass Hopper (lychee green tea topped with fresh cucumber juice), which all three of us also tried. We were not impressed. I definitely tasted the cucumber, but once again, the flavor combination is too funky for me.

Expecations: Cucumber.. weird after taste in my mouth. Ack. Too much sugar. Not my cup of tea.

Round 6: Super Cue Cafe

Super Cue has been the darling of the show with their adorable mascots running around and grooving to the music. Whoever decided to bring the blown up mascots along to the festival wins in the marketing and PR department.

They were also going around and  passing out sealed cups of milk teas to anybody who wanted one. As for the actual milk tea at the stand, they had a peach oolong tea and assam black milk tea available for choosing. YL and I took the peach oolong tea while PC grabbed the assam black milk tea.

First thoughts: Warm.

The milk tea was warm. I’m not sure if they ran out of ice or if they just came back with a batch of boba that was on the warmer side. Either way, I couldn’t fully appreciate the cup of tea as a result.

Expectations: Warm. Lukewarm/warm milk tea does not suit me. I might’ve been able to finish this if it was cold, but the warmness was not sitting well with me.

Ice Husky Shaved Ice

And if you’re not already sugar crashing from reading about what I’ve done, I had Ice Husky to top things off with some shaved ice. The time was dwindling down at this point and we were hitting the 3:30 PM mark. YL and I hobbled over to the shaved ice stand, our brain screaming for us to stop while our heart is too high on sugar to listen.

This is it. Shaved ice to round out the end of the First Annual Boba Festival.

I love their branding.
It was a finely shaved strawberry shaved ice, topped with passionfruit jelly and mango mochi.

Mind numbingly sweet.

Sugar coma was a success.

Expectations: That’s it! I’m done. Absolutely done. It’s impossible to stick Jazen Tea and Barcode in this stomach. Only got as far as Round 6.

Awards Ceremony

At the end of the festival, the votes were submitted, tallied and the awards were presented.

All winners. Inflatable mascots included!
Best Boba: Barcode (I didn’t get a chance to taste their boba, but Barcode brings back memories of high school and mediocre milk tea. I suppose they could’ve improved from back then.)

Best Milk Tea: Soyful Desserts (Rightfully so! They had such a variety that it would’ve been unfair if they didn’t win.)

Fan Favorite: Super Cue Cafe (All thanks to those super adorable mascots of theirs)

Overall Thoughts

It was a success. And it was a clean, heart-warming fun for a Saturday afternoon. The vendors were fantastic, the organizers were great at keeping everything organized. And I think they did a great job!

The aftermath. We failed!
Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and they certainly enjoyed the milk tea.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year! Fingers crossed for more adorable inflatable mascots? And more food options? Until next time, Bobamon, signing out~ Toodles!

Take that Vanna White!
Did any of you guys go? And if so, did anybody manage to get through their entire stamp card? If so, I commend you.

You Might Also Like