Mix and Matcha

Mix and Matcha

“Don’t Teas’ Me,” pleads a neon sign inside Looseleaf Boba Company, but the menu will do just that. There are Fresh Pressed Tea and Quick Tea and Organic Matcha categories. There’s an “Inspired Menu” and several “Fifty50” options (half coffee/half milk tea). Seasonal Drinks are posted on the side. And once you figure out what to order, you’ll also need to choose a sweetness level, milk (premium, almond, oat or condensed) and toppings.

Frozen by my options like the ice in a Dirty Matcha Latte, I did the only sensible thing: I ordered one from each category. Well, almost. The cashier guided me to three popular choices, from classic to fruity to full-on sweet tooth.

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Located in the former FroyoWorld storefront on High Street, Looseleaf Boba specializes in milk tea with some unexpected twists. My daughter and I started out with a simple choice: Thai Milk Tea ($5.25), served at half sweetness (the lesser of two “recommended” levels) with regular milk and, of course, honey boba in the bottom ($0.50). Earthy tea married rich milk in a tall, iced drink whose sweetness washed away the heat of the day. I can’t explain why it’s fun to suck up chewy balls through an oversized straw while you’re drinking tea. It just is. Looseleaf’s were plentiful and not too sweet.

We moved on to the Strawberry Matcha Latte ($5.75), layered like a parfait with green matcha tea on top, milk in the middle and a house-made strawberry compote in the bottom. We added slender rectangles of lychee jelly ($0.50). I was skeptical of this concoction, especially after we stirred the drink into a uniform, foamy green, but the tang of strawberry held its own against matcha that Looseleaf boasts is the best in the biz: “100% Premium Ceremonial Grade Japanese Matcha” that’s handpicked to avoid stems and ground by stone rather than steel to preserve its flavor. The lychee jelly was less pleasing to me. It was too gummy and sweet, and, unlike the round boba, the rectangular jellies don’t slip easily up your straw.

We might as well have asked for dessert when we ordered a Banana Foster Milk ($6.50) off the Inspired Menu—a selection of drinks inspired by cultures and tea shops around the world. Concocted of banana paste with rum, pandan, coconut and cinnamon, it tasted just like its bananas-and-ice cream namesake, made complete with an added caramel drizzle ($0.50). All this iced drink was missing was the traditional flambé. A fight didn’t exactly break out over sharing, but this was our unanimous favorite.

As we sat at one of three cafe tables on High Street, we watched a Gen Z-heavy crowd pour in. The business began humbly as a pop-up at a California swap meet. Today Looseleaf has four shops in California and Connecticut with a fifth opening soon in Dallas, Texas. Tea is brewing, and so is this creative, cross-cultural take on a Taiwanese treat.

Looseleaf Boba Company
46 High St, New Haven (map)
Sun-Thurs 9am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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