Happy Lemon consistently uses fresh ingredients. […] That practice alone would distinguish a bar, let alone a fruity drink shack with a giddy lemon mascot.
The experience at Happy Lemon starts like any other. Boba and milk tea are machine-sealed inside a plastic cup and stabbed with a straw. The “real tea” taste of Happy Lemon’s bubble tea, however, is what separates this joint from peers serving watery milk.
It’s no surprise that their bubble tea tastes faithful to the drink’s name. Happy Lemon consistently uses fresh ingredients. Their lime-flavored offerings, for example, are made from fresh-squeezed lime. That practice alone would distinguish a bar, let alone a fruity drink shack with a giddy lemon mascot.
Don’t expect to find exotic flavors here. Happy Lemon’s bubble tea offerings focus around just bean, pearl sago, puff cream, and taro. It compensates for a lack of boba variety with a panoply of other drinks, some of which are based on yogurt or lemonade. I tried the Milk Tea with Taro Balls, Milk Tea with Pearl Sago, and Fresh Milk Tea with Pearl Sago.
Be careful when poking your drink with the straw. The key is to stab quickly. If you move too slowly, the drink pools out and forms a puddle over the cup.
The beginning of each slurp tastes sweet, silky, and wholesome. Boba glide through the straw and chew with a consistency halfway between jello and gummy bears. There’s enough boba to last the whole drink and then some.
The bubble teas would be better if they were more chilled. They turned lukewarm if I didn’t guzzle them down. (The drinks were so delicious, though, that wasn’t hard to do.)
I enjoyed the Milk Tea with Taro Balls, but I liked the Milk Tea with Pearl Sago far more. The latter exuded a stronger tea aftertaste.
I was told that the regular bubble tea drinks are actually made with milk powder. For that reason, Happy Lemon also offers “fresh milk” varieties of each flavor for a few extra renminbi. The Fresh Milk Tea with Pearl Sago was creamier and heavier, but the milk drowns the tea aftertaste that I so appreciated in the original drink.
On top of the taste, the unbelievable prices are what kept me coming back: all of the drinks were 8-15 RMB ($1-3 USD). Happy Lemon is worth a shot if you ever find yourself in China.
Happy Lemon. Shanghai, China
Food ⋅ June 2015