Pearls of wisdom: Tpumps and Tea Top disappoint

August 31, 2015 — by Eric Sze

If you have had the pleasure of knowing me, you are perhaps annoyingly aware of my liking of, nay, obsession with, pearl milk tea. As a PMT aficionado, I have been to nearly every pearl milk tea store in the Saratoga and Cupertino area.

 

If you have had the pleasure of knowing me, you are perhaps annoyingly aware of my liking of, nay, obsession with, pearl milk tea. As a PMT aficionado, I have been to nearly every pearl milk tea store in the Saratoga and Cupertino area.

Until recently, however, I had refused to frequent two of the most over-hyped tea joints: Tpumps, which opened in early 2014, and Tea Top, which opened in July of this year. After hearing friends rave about both establishments, I decided to try them out for myself. What I found was utterly disappointing.

I first stopped by Tea Top, which is nestled near the Orchard Farms Shopping Center in Cupertino on Bollinger Road, just 10 minutes away from the school.

Upon entering the cozy store, customers are greeted by large TV monitors, which display the menu and corresponding photographs, a great service for customers who need help choosing a drink. The drink choices are endless, and include about different 50 types of tea, juice and milk.

The modern ambience and the pleasant background chatter help customers unwind, and the store boasts plenty of available seating at glossy white tables with red chairs.

Tpumps, on the other hand, is located on Stevens Creek Boulevard, a 15-minute drive from the school. The store is more minimalist than Tea Top, with bare concrete flooring and a colorful chalkboard menu that evokes an old-school vibe. The cafe is admittedly short of seating, but what it lacks in comfort it makes up for in culinary options, possessing a diverse selection of add-on flavors, such as passion fruit, peach and coconut.

Tpumps also offers various tea bases — from the regular green and black to the more novel, like oolong and ti kwan yin, which are tea flavors most commonly found in Asia. Moreover, customers can choose among varying levels of sweetness, that is, those between 25 percent and 100 percent (my drink came with 100 percent sweetness).

To keep the comparison as fair as possible, I ordered a regular Pearl Milk Tea from both stores. The Tea Top drink, which had much milk and little tea, was obnoxiously sweet, and I nearly choked upon tasting it. To its credit, Tea Top generously filled my cup with six layers of pearls — traditionally given only at an additional cost (most pearl milk tea places only give 3-4 layers of pearls). This justified the $3.75 price point.

Tpumps, in contrast, failed to supply me with even a single layer of pearls in its $3.50 drink. The drink, as it turns out, was just as revolting as its price. The so-called tea more accurately resembled a soup of artificial flavors topped off with sugar. However, Tpumps, just like Tea Top, does give customers the option to choose between various levels of sweetness: light, normal and very. I also later learned that Tpumps offers “extra” pearls, but only for a surcharge of $0.50.

In the end, with the last sips taken and the remaining pearls gulped, I found Tea Top to be slightly better, though I maintain that both are overrated. I would recommend trying out any tea-based drink from Tea Top, but with only 50 percent or 80 percent sugar. If you do still plan on trying out Tpumps, I would advise you to ask for extra pearls (an additional $0.50), as the regular amount is completely unsatisfactory.

So, by all means, buy me a drink from Tpumps or Tea Top. But I’m telling you now — you’re wasting your money.

 
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