Long-Awaited Boba Comes to Downtown Middlebury


Ashley Wang/The Middlebury Campus
The owners of Yogurt City, Andy and Bingbing introduce boba to residents and students alike.

A small child plays by the window of the store as an older man stands at the register, taking orders from arriving customers.

When the crowd clears, he strolls over and introduces himself.

Andy Li, a small business owner and the owner of Yogurt City in downtown Middlebury, has been living in Vermont with his family since 1997, and every spring and summer for the past four years, he and his wife have run the seasonal shop adjacent to the now-closed Ben Franklin store.

This year, however, Yogurt City opens with new additions to its menu: drinks – and in particular, boba.

 Also known as bubble tea, boba is a tea-based drink that is typically mixed with milk. The name itself comes from the characteristic chewy tapioca pearls that often are added as a topping, and while originally from Taiwan, the drink is well-known amongst Asian and Asian-American populations. A beverage and snack rolled into one, boba has since spread to all corners of the world as a pop culture phenomenon. Indeed, in larger cities like San Francisco and New York City, boba chain stores are just as prevalent as your local coffee shop, and the booming bubble tea market shows no signs that this hit drink will be disappearing anytime soon.

Andy and his wife hope that these new additions to Yogurt City’s menu will attract a greater crowd and allow the store to remain open into the colder months of the fall. In preparation for the arrival of this new item, the husband and wife team trained in New York City to learn the technique behind the production of boba.

Yogurt City now offers tea bases on the menu that range from traditional Asian flavors, such as Thai and jasmine milk teas, to more culturally American ones, including vanilla milk and chocolate milk tea. Besides the traditional tapioca pearls, Yogurt City also offers red bean, milk caps and a range of jellies that can be added into the drink. The menu not only gives customers the option to adjust the amount of sugar and ice in their boba but also to alter the temperature.

But these customizations may seem intimidating at first, especially to someone who has never tried boba before. When asked about how they planned to introduce this Asian-style drink to a town as isolated as Middlebury, Andy says that they would love to offer samples to anyone who is willing to try something new. 

“I find it very powerful that first this really simple, tasty drink has been able to bring so many people together but has also become almost a symbol of this generation of Asian-Americans,” said Bochu Ding ’21.

While Li understands why individuals may be hesitant to try boba, he hopes that the people of Middlebury and the college will be willing to cross cultural boundaries. For those who try it and realize it’s not their cup of tea, Andy and his wife have also added smoothies, milkshakes and iced tea to the menu.

“I’m glad that there will be more diverse options downtown,” says Joanne Park, ’21. “As an Asian-American student, I think boba is an important part of Asian culture and should be introduced to the locals.”

With bright hopes for the future, Andy believes that Yogurt City can soon become a popular local spot for both Asian students and appreciators of bubble tea.

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