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Mar 21 2013: Sipatea review

Originally published on El Estoque.

It is easy to walk past the newly opened Sipatea cafe without even noticing it. The storefront is tucked inside an existing pho shop, and the only eye-catching thing about it is the white “Grand opening” banner draped across its roof.

Like its exterior, Sipatea’s dimly lit interior does not make an engaging first impression. Loud fan noises pierce the room and the dirty eating area is shared with the restaurant, failing to create a lively atmosphere. It does, at least, offer a coffee shop staple: free wi-fi allows for customers to be productive while enjoying a drink.

Luckily, a glance at the menu helps to overcome the initial perception of mediocrity. Fruit-infused “tea sips,” “snow sip” ice cups and “smooth sip” smoothies are available in many flavor combinations and come in fairly large serving sizes. The largest size cup, for instance, clocks in at 32 ounces and contains the volume of four soda cans –– a gracious portion that costs less than a 16-ounce Jamba Juice smoothie.

Sipatea claims it is the only tea shop that “strictly uses fresh fruit for every single fruit drink,” but we spotted sealed tubs of preserved fruit chunks behind the counter, and the Lychee Explosion tea tasted strongly of canned fruit and the sugar water it is packed in (even if it is fresh). That’s not to say that it tasted bad, though — the drink was sweet and boldly flavored, and generous lychee chunks were a nice twist from the classic boba pearls.

Other drinks that also pleased our taste buds:

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The light layer of whipped cream complements the smoothie well. This drink lives up to its name and floats down your throat, reminiscent of a balmy Caribbean breeze. The addition of pineapple made the Caribbean Breeze drink a nice twist on the conventional strawberry-banana smoothie fusion — the tri-fruit flavors blended well together.
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Although still sweet, the Original Milk Tea drink is not cluttered with unnecessary sugar, allowing a truly authentic tea flavor. In terms of taste, it’s far richer than Tapioca Express’ signature pearl milk tea. The texture of the honey boba pearls is chewy rather than gummy, and the honey flavor comes through strong.
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Though layered with small pieces of strawberry and mango, the Tutti Fruity tea tasted diluted due to its excess ice. Fortunately, the tea redeemed itself with its sweet, refreshing aftertaste. The fruit bits enhanced the drink’s flavor, though the strawberry slices were served in conservative amounts.

The verdict:

Sipatea’s beverages are more creative than those of Tapioca Express and other PMT baristas, but it’s offerings are not enough to make up for the atmospheric setback.

Sipatea is located on 1089 S De Anza Blvd. Operating hours are Sunday through Thursday from 10 am to 11 pm, and Friday through Saturday from 10 am to 12 am.

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