Whoever thought that Los Angeles Lakers player D’Angelo Russell would take time out of his day to sip tea in a punchy pink Los Angeles space on Fairfax just south of Melrose? The venue in question is Pearl’s Finest Teas, a new boba tea specialist making Instagram waves with its poppy, rainbow-hued drinks studded with everything from egg pudding and grass jelly to chewy balls of pink and honey tapioca.
Pearl’s is part of a recent swell of boba concepts—like Sticky Rice at LA’s Grand Central Market, and Boba Guys in New York—rooted in fresh ingredients and fun flavors over the more expected powders from which most boba shops build their beverages.
According to co-owner Francis Miranda of Los Angeles’ Lock & Key, Pearl’s menu was a group effort between himself and partners Robert Panlilio and Dennis Calvero, owners of nearby clothing shop Crooks & Castles, along with barista Phong Trinh, who they met through a mutual friend. Explains Miranda, “we really set out to bring something as authentic as possible to that side of town, as we felt as though there weren't any really good tea or boba spaces nearby.” He goes on to explain that Pearl’s offers “traditional drinks such as taro milk tea or peach green tea that every boba shop should have,” in addition to “a DIY option where you can add a little twist to each drink and customize something special.” And yet, while the cafe might be named after those chewy orbs, one of its most curious refreshments doesn’t necessarily involve them.
Some may have heard of salty coffee thanks to Taiwanese import 85 Degrees C bakery cafe, which drew curious consumers to Irvine, California, in 2009 when the chain’s signature sea salt coffee and purple-swirled taro rolls hit home turf. Similar to 85 Degrees, Pearl’s is pushing the salty coffee thing, but unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t begin with basic beans. Instead, Trinh’s savory-sweet beverage involves a 48-hour cold brew prepared with locally roasted Gaviña beans, “to maintain a rich coffee flavor,” states Miranda.
The chilly brew is then topped with a thick rim of what can be best described in texture as whipped cream meets marshmallow fluff but lighter, with a sort of mildly sweet, nutty vanilla flavor. It’s oddly addictive. And that almost-roasted taste is echoed in the unsweetened brew, making the coffee versus cream a perfect pairing, balancing bitter and sweet with a curious dose of pink Himalayan sea salt, which brightens the whole drink while offering a counterbalance. And although the cafe’s sea salt black coffee is typically served chilled, a hot version is on offer, too, using that same cold brew.
Pearl’s has been soft-serving for the last several weeks, but look for them to officially launch in the new year. And still to come? A matcha menu, detox drinks, plus tea-tinged treats.
Photos courtesy of Pearl's.