Review: Is Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit Worth Buying?

For the past few years, a refreshing drink has exploded in popularity: Boba, the Taiwanese bubble tea, is the name given for a myriad of iced (or hot) drinks served in special shops that come with balls of tapioca pearls mixed inside. Boba teas also come with a wide-mouth straw that's specially designed to suck up the satisfyingly chewy pearls. As for the drink itself, it can be a mixture of tea or coffee with milk, fruit juice, flavored syrups, and dozens of boba tea combinations depending on the shop. 

It used to be that you had to go to a special boba tea shop to get this delicious treat. But recently, Trader Joe's released a brown sugar instant boba tea kit, so you can make one at home. Half the fun of boba tea is getting to customize every option, like how much ice or sweetness is added, and these vegan and gluten-free boba kits put the creative power into your hands right at home. But, can a homemade boba tea stack up against a store-bought boba? We grabbed a couple kits to find out. 

What's in the Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit?

Picking up one of these homemade boba tea kits from Trader Joe's will make you four individual drinks, unless you decide to hack the instructions and make up your own rules. Inside the package is four pouches each containing a mixture of brown sugar and tapioca pearls. The kit also comes with four paper straws that are specially made to be wide enough to suck up the pearls. 

The brown sugar mixture is rock hard when frozen, but once thawed, it softens to a sticky, sugary syrup. These syrup pouches are also intended to stay frozen until you actually go to make the drink, probably to preserve the texture of the tapioca pearls. Each pouch has roughly two dozen pearls, which is more than enough for a standard boba tea drink. What's not in the box is whatever liquid you'll be mixing into the drink, like milk or some kind of non-dairy milk, according to the instructions. 

Cost and availability of Trader Joes' boba tea kit

These instant boba kits are currently being sold at Trader Joe's nationwide for $5.49 per package. With each kit making four drinks, that's just $1.37  each — plus the cost of any milk, which we're assuming you already have on hand — for a quick, tasty beverage. We found the boba kit in the frozen dessert section of Trader Joe's, near the popsicles and ice cream. These brown sugar drinks started to roll out at the beginning of August and should be available in most Trader Joe's stores. 

As with a lot of Trader Joe's products, there's no telling how long it will stick around. Due to factors like popularity, price, and fulfillment, the popular grocery store is known to regularly swap out items, with some Trader Joe's products disappearing forever. If you like these boba tea kits, it's probably a good idea to stock up now while they're still available. Plus, a strong fan following usually ensures that the best Trader Joe's products stay in stores for a really long time. 

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Tea nutritional value

Each Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit comes with four packets, so one pouch of boba mix is 110 calories — and mostly all sugar. The chewy tapioca balls, which are made of regular and modified tapioca starch, don't offer much nutritionally. The sugar is all in the 18 grams of brown sugar syrup per serving. Caramel color and natural flavors are also added to the vegan and gluten-free snack.

Keep in mind that you are meant to add milk with the syrup, so depending on what kind of milk you add, the nutritional value will change. For a fully vegan and lower-sugar option, opt for a non-dairy coconut milk or a nutrition-packed bottle of oat milk

Store-bought boba teas can be crazy high in sugar, and it's enough to turn some people off of the drink completely. Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kits let you control how much syrup is added and the milk or creamer, so a homemade boba can be a better option for someone looking to satisfy the craving while keeping their sugar low(er). You can always use a liquid that is completely sugar-free with the mix, like iced coffee. But, after all, having a treat is the whole point of a boba tea.

How to make Trader Joe's Instant Boba

The instructions for making a Trader Joe's instant boba with this handy kit are super straightforward. First, you use either a microwave or your stove to thaw the pouch of boba pearls and brown sugar. It takes just 45 seconds in the microwave, or you can place the pouch in boiling water for one minute. Once the pouch is in its liquid state, you simply pour it into a glass, then top with ice and your choice of milk. Don't forget the straw!

The package instructions state you can skip milk and add your "beverage of choice," if you want to get creative with you boba flavor. Some kind of iced coffee or tea (like a quality matcha) could be an interesting spin, either alone or in combination with milk. Most store-bought boba drinks contain black tea, so for a more authentic creation, you could pour a bit of your favorite brand of tea into the brown sugar syrup before topping with milk. 

How does Trader Joe's boba compare to store-bought?

We ran to our closest boba tea store and picked up a brown sugar milk boba to compare how the boba kit from Trader Joe's stacks up. Brown sugar is one of the most popular flavors of boba, so any good store should have it. Most boba stores mix the brown sugar with black tea before adding any milk. The one that we bought definitely had a more subtle sweet and nuanced flavor, lightly flavored with floral notes of iced black tea. The pearls were chewy, yet tender, and so satisfying to slurp up. 

The Trader Joe's brown sugar boba was rich, creamy, and sweet, though not overly so. We first thought that based on looks alone, it would be way too milky with less flavor, but we were completely wrong. The dark, rich, caramel sweetness from the brown sugar was very distinctive from the kind of sweet flavor you would get with white sugar. The pearls were perfectly chewy and did not stick together, a feat for a homemade kit — making the boba tapioca pearls is the most difficult part. 

Overall, Trader Joe's instant boba drink is definitely a treat, and we would be interested to try it again with some iced tea or coffee added in along with the milk. 

Is it worth buying boba from Trader Joe's?

For a quick boba tea, Trader Joe's frozen kit definitely wasn't bad. True boba fans might not feel like it can completely replace their store-bought favorite. But, for those that don't have easy access to a boba store nearby, or just want a little treat without spending $5 per drink, the TJ's boba kit can absolutely hit the spot. This homemade boba was a fraction of the price of the store-bought, and it's ready whenever we want without having to leave the house. 

The best part about the boba kit is the versatility it leaves you to customize your own dairy or vegan drink. Even store-bought boba drinks are limited to what that particular store has in stock, but at home, you are free to get experimental. Since the texture of these tapioca pearls turns out so well with this kit, you could even strain them out of the syrup to make a completely different kind of boba!