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Best Pearl Tea: Whatever your little heart desires 

J&S Coffee and Tea

"NIPPLE! I FOUND CHINAMAN! HE'S MINE NOW!" reads the message on the Hello Kitty note. That's just one of dozens of multilingual notes -- Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English for the most part -- tacked to the exuberant public message board at the best local place to partake of the cultural phenom known as pearl tea. A sweet sticky drink half-filled with chewy black balls of tapioca (pearls!), the tea was first offered in the early 1980s at street stands in Taiwan to schoolchildren looking for a sugar fix at the end of their day. At this shop in the Pacific East Mall, choose from more than one hundred flavors, some of which are surprisingly subtle, such as honey chrysanthemum or hot plum with milk. Suck languidly through extra-wide straws in eye-popping shades of pink, turquoise, or yellow, and peruse messages peppered with spritely handwriting and teen angst: "Matt, even tho I try I can't love you less. It's killing me." Ignore the mundane English name for this shop. Chinese characters emblazoned in neon over the doorway tell the true story: Heart's Desire.

Readers' Pick:
SweetHeart Cafe
2550 Durant Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-6136

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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