85 C Cafe – Danshui, Taiwan – the Starbucks of Boba

27 Dec

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A visit to Taiwan is going to yield a bunch of Taiwan-specific posts. Let’s kick things off with a post about the Starbucks of Taiwan, 85°C.

Unlike the outlets of 85°C in America, which are primarily known as pastry houses, the 85°C shops in Taiwan are small drink stands. Like Starbucks, 85°C shops are everywhere in Taiwan. When I’m there, usually someone on a scooter pulls up and hops off with their helmet still on to order a sea salt latte to go. So if you’ve only experienced the American outlets in Irvine and Hacienda Heights, you may not be prepared for the humdrum ubiquity of 85°C in Taiwan, and the much smaller selection of baked goods.
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Not having jostling crowds is a good thing, though, as I can get my boba fix at almost any corner in Taipei.
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Unfortunately, ubiquity isn’t the only thing 85°C has cribbed from Starbucks. Drink mediocrity has also been copied.
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The boba is OK, fully cooked, a little sweet. It’s fine. The milk tea is not great, though, with a cheap tea taste not unlike Lipton. It’s decently sweetened (meaning not too much), and the milk part is fine. For 30 NT (a little more than $1 USD), it’s a good deal in American terms. Certainly better than $1 boba in the US, like Quickly (nee Suckly) or that horrible place Berkeley undergrads go near campus in the Asian Ghetto. For Taiwan, you can probably do better for 30 NT, as night market boba is 15-20 NT. But for the convenience, I’ll still be going back to 85°C.

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