First taste of Vantea: will on-campus boba tea live up to expectations?

20 students try two preview flavors over the weekend at exclusive taste-testing event

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The matcha Vantea beverage from the organization’s Feb. 20 taste test (Hustler Staff/Julia Tilton)

Julia Tilton, Staff Writer

Vantea offered its very first sips of boba tea to students this weekend in preparation for the organization’s pop-up shop Feb. 23 from 3-6 p.m. at Helen’s Hot Chicken. Both the matcha and classic flavors will be offered, and according to Vantea’s Instagram, they hope to ultimately expand their menu to include other popular flavors including taro, jasmine, mango, honeydew and thai tea. Students will also have a choice between tapioca pearls and lychee jelly bubbles at the pop-up.

Vantea is a student-run initiative to bring bubble tea, a traditional Taiwanese drink, to Vanderbilt’s campus. This past Saturday, Feb. 20, the organization rolled out its first batch of bubble tea to students affiliated with Vantea’s work. The two flavors offered to students were matcha and “classic,” which is made with sweetened black tea. 20 students had the opportunity to try the drink and provide feedback to the initiative’s figureheads, senior Joshua Cho and first-year Lyndon Shi. 

As somewhat of a tea fanatic, I had the chance to participate in this exclusive taste-testing session outside Rand. I chose to try the matcha option, since the green tea-based beverage is one of my all-time favorite flavors. Although I am somewhat new to the world of boba, I am very familiar with matcha. Having delved into the world of matcha-making myself, I feel confident distinguishing a good blend from a bitter mess. 

Julia Tilton pictured with a matcha Vantea boba beverage at their taste-test Feb. 20 (Joshua Cho)

To be honest, my expectations were not particularly high as I made my way to Rand circle to pick up my drink. In the past, the matcha-flavored boba teas I have tried have been far too sweet, resulting in a green drink that tastes more like liquid sugar than anything reminiscent of the earthy-nutty tea I love. However as I took my first sip of Vantea’s handcrafted matcha, I was pleasantly surprised to find the taste was subtle-yet-sweet. I was told the tea had been made with a 75 percent sweetness level, which resulted in a nice balance that was not overwhelmingly sugary. Most bubble tea shops provide customers with a choice to customize their drink’s sweetness level, but for the time being, Vantea has set its sugar level at 75 percent for all orders. 

One of the most frequent issues I have with matcha drinks is when the matcha powder is not thoroughly blended into the beverage’s base, creating a rather gross chalky texture (I’m looking at you, Starbucks). I often find myself having to mix these unfortunate drinks with a straw or spoon, a less-than-optimal method for iced beverages. Tasting Vantea’s matcha creation, I was happy to discover the matcha flavor had been completely mixed into the drink, creating a smooth texture interrupted only by tea’s namesake bubbles.   

I found the bubbles, made of tapioca, to be the perfect middle ground of consistency. They were not too doughy or melty but at the same time not overcooked. Of course, boba is not for everyone, as some are put off by a chewy texture at the bottom of their tea drink. For a fan of bubbles, however, they certainly have my approval. 

Overall, Vantea’s matcha was a winning drink for me. It was served cold and even came in a cute cup complete with the adorable squirrel logo. If you’re looking to get your first taste at the pop-up, your drink must be preordered (the form is only currently accepting waitlist orders) and will be sold for $4.50 each.