‘Sweet Salt Boba Drinks’ Opens Doors To Sell Out Crowd

PHOTO: Don Fish Jr. - NewsPlus

Patrons sit at the counter enjoying a delicious beverage while shop owner Jin Lee prepares a batch of boba and his employees get ready for the next wave of customers.

Jin Kim and his family never expected to open the doors of their Boba shop to eager customers waiting in line out of the door to try a delicious cup of goodness. The latest business to the Phelan Town Square, Sweet Salt Boba Drink Shop, opened its doors on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. The joint was hopping all day, with locals stopping by to sample what the Boba shop was offering. By that afternoon, supplies were running low; the owners hadn’t anticipated such an overwhelming response to their “little boba shop in Phelan.”

The Sweet Salt Boba Drink Shop offers its patrons smoothies, slushes, milk tea, shakes, shaved ice, ice cream, hot tea, lemonade, and cheesecake; all made fresh while you wait. Hot, iced, and blended coffee will come within a few weeks. They use the freshest of ingredients which is immediately apparent upon the first sip.

For example, the Strawberry Lemonade contains two thin slices of lemon carefully placed opposite each other on the inside of the glass, which is then filled with lemonade and diced strawberries with just the right amount of ice added. Drinks come in 16 and 24-ounce sizes, and each is sealed at the top with a plastic covering adorned with a cute cartoon. The drink comes with an oversized straw cut to a point at one end. Just poke the straw through the plastic covering to begin a flavor explosion. The wide straw allows the bits of strawberry to rise out of the drink and into one’s mouth, along with the lemonade.

What sets this “coffee shop” apart from the rest are the toppings offered for their drinks. Toppings include Boba, Lychee Jelly, Mango Popping, Strawberry Popping, and Rainbow Popping. If you’re in the know, then these are familiar delights. For everyone else, here is a quick primer. Boba is the tiny pearls usually found at the bottom of a boba beverage. However, it can also refer to the boba tea drink. Often black in color, the pearls are made from tapioca or cassava starch, both gluten-free and formed into small spheres. They are often simmered in a sugary and sometimes flavored syrup to sweeten their taste.

The boba pearls are then added to the base of a drink, most often milk tea. Milk tea is tea combined with either powdered or fresh milk and sometimes a sweet syrup. Green and black tea, coffee, slushies, and even smoothies can be used to complete the boba drink. Popping boba is similar to tapioca pearls. They are slippery, little fruit-flavored balls, have thin skin, and are filled with fruit juice that pops in your mouth when bitten or squeezed. Boba comes in many sizes, and the drinks are usually accompanied by a large diameter straw round enough to suck up all the boba pearls.

Boba elevates drinks to the next level, adding fun to the whole experience. Fun is precisely how shop owner Jin Kim describes his new business. “I want everyone to have fun when they come here. I want our employees to have fun. A gathering place for fun.”

Jin was born in Korea and came to the United States with his family when he was just 14 years old. He moved to Phelan from Los Angeles about three years ago to help care for his parents. He and his wife started talking about the possibility of opening a business in town and saw a need for a coffee/drink shop, and that’s when Sweet Salt Boba Drinks began. “Once we decided to start the business, everything seemed to just fall into place.” It has been a year in the making, Jin leased the store space over a year ago, and it took that long to get through all of the permitting and hoops required by the county.

Jin built much of the shop’s interior on his own, with his design and vision in mind. His wife, 16-year-old son, and 4-year-old daughter can be seen working hard behind the counter, though his daughter seems to mostly be in charge of quality control as she sits in her chair observing the crew and occasionally taste-testing. The Sweet Salt Boba Drink Shop is located on Phelan Road in the Phelan Town Square, just down from Mill’s Hardware. They are open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Please stop by and give them a try. You’ll be glad you did.

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