Friday, March 23, 2012

The Iced Milk Phenomenon! (Half & Half)

I'm going to venture out on a limb here by saying that by now I believe that most Southern Californians have probably had a boba milk tea or two. If you haven't, you should. I'm not going to go into what a boba is or isn't because there are already lots of posts out there describing the anatomy of a boba drink. Yes it's true.

What I am going to talk about in this post is a new phenomenon in the milk tea/boba universe. Let me explain. In the beginning, there was tea. Then milk was added to tea to give it richness and body. Then if that weren't enough, they added boba (tiny chewy jelly-like beads). And it was good. Well, not good for me since I am lactose intolerant, but good for everyone else that wasn't. Big names like Tapioca Express and Lollicup dominated this domain for many years. They still do.

Then one day "iced milk" came on the scene and changed the milk tea continuum. I don't know when it happened exactly but probably somewhere around the time of cute spoons from Yogurtland but before Ice Fluff (and that's a whole different post). Half & Half, the new kid in town specializing in iced milk quickly developed a cult-like following. It doesn't always look so calm and quiet like the photo below. We came on a Sunday afternoon and was surprised to find a rather short line. That never happens. Never! There are currently 3 locations in the San Gabriel Valley and there are lines coming out of all 3 locations. Always. No matter what time of day you go. It is worse if you go during prime meal hours.

From the time you step into line to the time you actually get your drink in hand, you can expect a lapse time of 45+ minutes. Yes, people wait for this and come back again and again. I hate waiting. So this is a nightmare to me. I only ever come here with my family since I cannot even drink this elusive iced milk.

The first thing you will notice about Half & Half is that their drink cups are wider in circumference and shorter in height. Sure it's a good marketing idea but these cups do not fit into your average car cup holders. Thinking about drinking this on the drive home, forget about it. Plus they are awkward to hold since they are so wide. It's a two-hander for sure.

The other thing you will notice about Half & Half is that their entire drink prep area is very closely guarded by privacy glass. Want a peek? Too bad. I'm surprised they didn't get mad at me for taking all these photos. Felt like I got away with something. This is the pick up window. The only place where the inside meets the outside. When a drink order is ready, the small curtain is lifted and everyone crowds around it like they are about to win a prize. Not your turn? Well than stand back. You can almost hear a sigh of sadness as the curtain is once again drawn close and the waiting continues.

So this is what everyone waits for. In particular, the milky drink in the front of this photo. It is milk...with ice and caramel and boba. And this is what people wait 45+ minutes to get. I would like to tell you that the wait is justified but I can't because I've never tasted it. But those who have informed me that it is special. Judging by the long lines I can't help but to think that I am somehow missing out.

Half and Half (Tea Express)
3007 Huntington Dr, Ste 104
Pasadena, CA 91107
(626) 844-1889


BikramYoginiRunner said...

I loooove boba tea. Are you sure they don't offer a coconut milk (lactose free) version? In many places in the east coast, they offer this.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh I don't think I would ever have the patience to wait that long! Those do look really good though.

Unknown said...

you're right we DO like A LOT of the same things! I <3 boba! My mother tried one for the first time w/me a while back & she loved them as well. I wonder if it's an "asian thing." the rest of my family thinks it's gross. we should set up a lunch date soon!