These Grass Jelly Drinks & Desserts Are The Big Craze In The SGV
Move over boba: the latest Taiwanese craze to hit Los Angeles is grass jelly drinks and desserts, and there are very long lines to prove it.
Blackball Taiwanese Dessert originated in Taiwan in 2006 and has since become a franchise with stores that span all over Asia. It recently opened its first flagship U.S. store in the San Gabriel Valley, and has been attracting long lines that wrap around the tiny store since its grand opening last month. The Taiwanese import offers a range of desserts made from Taiwanese ingredients like grass jelly, aiyu jelly, red bean soup, sweet potato, and taro.The name “Blackball” comes from a combination of the ‘black’ color of grass jelly and taro ‘balls’.
For those unfamiliar with grass jelly, it is an herbal jelly from Asia. It’s typically served hot or cold by itself, with fruits or with boba drinks. According to traditional Chinese medicine, grass jelly is thought to have yin (AKA cooling properties), which makes it an ideal snack to eat during the warm weather. Blackball’s signature grass jelly dessert is available cold, warm, hot, or icy. Blackball touts itself as Taiwan’s number one grass jelly chain that uses all natural ingredients. That’s quite a ballsy declaration considering how many grass jelly eateries there are in Taiwan.
Ordering is easy though. You place your order at the counter and you get a buzzer that goes off once your order is ready.
Blackball’s signature grass jelly dessert is available cold, warm, hot, or icy. The dessert comes in a bed of grass jelly with taro balls and sweet potato balls. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
I sampled four of their most popular desserts starting with their signature grass jelly with taro balls and sweet potato balls, this one being my favorite from the lot. Since the weather was well over 100 degrees that day, I ordered my grass jelly icy. The icy texture is that of a slushee, which is perfect for the hot summer months. Cold grass jelly essentially has the texture of cold Jello, and warm grass jelly is like a lukewarm Jello. Though hot grass jelly may have the texture of mush, it's delicious nonetheless. The grass jelly is refreshing and the taro and sweet potato balls give a chewy texture that is akin to boba. For those who have yet to try taro balls, the powdery consistency may be a turn off, but the sweet potato balls are an all around winner. If you like the semi-liquid kind of grass jelly, like the ones from Taiwan, go for the hot one. If you like to quench your thirst, go for the icy one.
Also popular from Blackball is the aiyu jelly with boba, taro balls, sweet potato balls. Aiyu is a clear jelly made from the gel that comes from the seeds of a fig. It’s a very popular dessert in Taiwan eaten by itself or in place of boba. The aiyu jelly has multiple health benefits: it is good for the skin, helps to improve blood circulation, and reduces swelling. Although I normally love aiyu, I would much rather have aiyu in my boba drinks than as a dessert with taro and sweet potato balls. The aiyu jelly by itself as a main course is lackluster and the boba, taro and sweet potato balls just feel and taste like filler.
Blackball’s fresh milk with grass jelly. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Since grass jelly is Blackball’s star, I ordered a fresh milk tea with grass jelly. For those new to grass jelly, the easiest gateway grass jelly item is grass jelly milk tea. Grass jelly in your milk tea is akin to putting custard in milk tea. If you haven’t tried it, it’s delicious and goes hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Although Blackball’s grass jelly milk tea is decent, it’s hard to give them my grass jelly milk tea patronage when Chatime across the street does a Roasted Milk Tea with Grass Jelly that blows them out of the water.
Blackball’s lackluster Lychee Shaved Ice, which comes with coconut jelly, mini taro balls, mini sweet potato balls, and chia seeds. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Overall, I fully recommend any of the signature grass jelly desserts from Blackball. They are not overly sweet, and the grass jelly is silky and melts in your mouth. There’s no chewing required unlike those canned grass jellies you see at the markets. The taro and sweet potato balls are cooked to perfection—soft and chewy. There's also an option to add additional toppings onto each dessert like taro, sweet potato, and green tea mochi balls as well as black sesame, green bean, red bean, and tofu pudding.
In true SGV fashion, be on the lookout for Chinglish emblazoned throughout the shop. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
In true SGV fashion, be on the lookout for Chinglish emblazoned throughout the shop and on their cups.
Blackball Taiwanese Dessert is located at 250 West Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 872-6865.