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Labobatory's next-gen drinks are leading boba's second wave




Purple yams, cookies, and matcha are just some of the newer ingredients in boba milk tea now.
Purple yams, cookies, and matcha are just some of the newer ingredients in boba milk tea now.
Elton Keung

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Angelenos are no strangers to boba. The bubbly milk tea that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s had made it to Southern California by the early '90s. Nearly two decades later, the popularity of the beverage has grown — and the number of flavors has exploded. 

Elton Keung, owner of the San Gabriel tea shop Labobatory, is part of boba's second-wave. From Lebanese rose tea to horchata boba, Keung's creations are inspired by the flavors and cultures of Los Angeles.

"Growing up in this taco truck culture, horchata is a part of our lives," says Keung. "It's only natural that I add boba to it." 

Keung collects local ingredients, from Trader Joe's cookies to ube ice cream, a made with the purple yams that are a popular flavor in Filipino cuisine. "I was able to find the perfect ube flavor at Fosselman's Ice Cream in Alhambra," he says. 

Alcoholic boba are served up every other Thursday night at Seven Bar & Lounge by boba master Elton Keung.
Alcoholic boba are served up every other Thursday night at Seven Bar & Lounge by boba master Elton Keung.
Elton Keung

In addition to making fusion boba tea, Keung also hosts alcoholic boba pop-ups at Seven Bar & Lounge in downtown L.A. on Thursday nights, starting Jan. 18. You'll be able to try boozy boba drinks such as the SpongeBoba and the LeGindary Leia.

But it's not just about putting a shot in the milk tea. "You want the boba as a chaser, something that can smooth rather than punch," Keung says.