I love boba milk tea. Like, to an unhealthy, perhaps-obsessive degree. Not only do I try and make a point of having a drink loaded up with boba at minimum once a week (at one point even going as far as having boba every day — don’t do this!) but I’m intimately familiar with most boba tea shops in the greater Los Angeles area. Name a neighborhood in LA (hell, throw in the OC too) and I’ll point you in the direction of the best boba shop to spend your money at.
We can even go granular here — do you like powder-based milk tea or the real brewed stuff? Do you have a preference re: boba size? Do you want to add aloe or lychee to your drink? I’m telling you, I’m obsessed.
So when I found out that Jack in the Box was adding boba to the menu I was intrigued. Notice, I didn’t say “excited,” because adding boba to a menu as an afterthought rarely goes well. Boba tea shops do it well, but restaurants, smoothie shops, and fast food joints jumping onto a trend tend to disappoint. Even between boba shops, the quality can vary widely — so I wouldn’t say my expectations for Jack in the Box’s boba drinks were high, exactly.
Still, I was certainly going to try the stuff and report back to you. I sampled Jack’s iced coffee, vanilla shake, and milk teas — each loaded up with brown sugar boba. Check mt review of each below.
Jack in the Box Boba Review
Price: $6.24 (Vanilla Boba Shake), $4.74 (Iced Coffee Boba), $4.74 (Milk Tea Boba)
In terms of what boba drinks Jack in the Box offers, all three are in line with what you might find at a typical boba tea shop. The Vanilla shake is a bit of an outlier — usually tea shops have more interesting blended drinks, like matcha, red bean, taro, or something fruit based — but the iced coffee and milk tea are tried and true standards. So good on Jack in the Box for not doing some weird sh*it like giving us boba-infused Red Bull fountain drinks.
Since the boba is the same in all three drinks, I’m going to talk about the flavors of the drink themselves and then talk about the boba at the very end. Let’s start with the shake! The Vanilla shake is JiB’s stock vanilla shake base with a layer of brown sugar boba at the bottom of the cup, topped with whipped topping. Presumably, JiB can also make an Oreo Shake with Boba — why they don’t seem to think that’s an obvious winner is beyond me!
The shake is delicious, it’s thick and creamy, like a drinkable version of vanilla soft serve. Jack in the Box makes great shakes, this is the foundation that all of those shakes are built on, so unsurprisingly it’s good. The brown sugar syrup the boba lives in also adds a nice earthy molasses character to the shake when it works its way up the straw. I’d suggest stabbing the shake a few times with the straw to distribute some of that syrup throughout the shake.
Let’s talk about the coffee. JiB’s coffee isn’t great — it’s a bit watery. There are hints of roasted coffee flavor, but overall it mostly comes across as dull and characterless. Most of the flavor comes from the sweet cream and vanilla syrup that is added to the drink.
Overall, it’s way too sweet, and the brown sugar from the boba makes it even sweeter. Hard pass on this one for me!
JiB’s milk tea features a mix of freshly brewed black tea, sweetened cream, and vanilla. That’s in keeping with most of the milk tea you’ll find at specialty boba shops, the drinks tend to be sweetened with some sort of non-dairy creamer rather than actual milk. Actual milk tea exists, and it tastes luxurious and rich, albeit a bit less sweet. Having said that, I’m not going to hold it against JiB for not using actual milk here.
Flavorwise, I’m surprised by the quality of the tea. It really does taste freshly brewed, it has a soft non-bitter flavor with some caramelized, nutty, and roasted qualities. It tastes more like Oolong tea than straight black. The sweet cream and vanilla are a bit much though, all of that natural tea flavor is drowned out here by the intense vanilla-focused sweetness. I’ve certainly had worse milk tea, but considering JiB’s tea is so flavorful, I think a less heavy hand pouring the cream and vanilla would serve the drink better.
Now we have to talk about the boba, which JiB totally fumbled. As you may have noticed in the above photos, none of the drinks were served with a wide boba straw. That wasn’t for lack of trying, I asked the drive-thru employee if they had boba straws available, and they told me regular straws were all they had. Now, judging from JiB’s promotional photos which show a different straw, that seems to be a location-specific issue, so I won’t hold it against them, but be warned that you may not always have access to a boba straw.
Oddly enough, that’s a blessing in disguise. Once I fished out a few boba with a spoon I instantly regretted it. This is hands down the worst boba I’ve ever had. I’ve had my fair share of bad boba, and a lot can go wrong with boba. It can be stale, over or under-boiled, under-sweetened — I’d take any of those over what I experience at JiB. The boba here was hard and almost crunchy. Great boba is soft and squishy. Chewy, but not laboriously so, the best stuff almost melts in your mouth. This boba had the texture of a refrigerated gummy bear.
The boba is also suspended in way too much brown sugar syrup, leaving a puddle of mushy sweetness at the bottom of your drink. That works in the shake’s favor, but for every other drink, it ruins the experience.
The Bottom Line:
The worst part of JiB’s new boba drinks is the boba itself and that’s a major problem. You may find yourself tempted to add a milk tea or a boba shake to your usual order just because of the convenience and novelty but resist that urge. Especially if you’ve never tried actual boba from a proper boba tea shop. Because if this is your first experience with boba you’ll never understand what the hype is all about.
Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.