Word of the day: Boba (noun)
Bubble Tea: Usually when you find something solid and chewy in your drink, it's time to call for the waiter. But that's what boba drinks are all about. They're a concoction of either tea or juice combined with milk, fruit syrup, ice and—the surprise—small marbles of tapioca.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Boba. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boba
Kawaii Boba House started in Conway in March 2020 along with the COVID-19 pandemic, persevered and gained a second location in Conway, then another in Little Rock — and now Hot Springs has its very own Kawaii, located at 3812 Central Ave. Suite C.
Owned by Paul and Chelsey Grass, this boba house checks the boxes of convenient location, delicious, adorable and unique.
Unlike the seemingly-desired location of placing new businesses in and around downtown Hot Springs, Kawaii Boba House is located in the shopping center across from Chili's, and as a sweet treat shop, it couldn't be better placed. It's easily accessible from the bypass, and can catch the large amount of traffic filtering in and out of Cornerstone Shopping Center.
Selling hot, frozen and iced boba teas, as well as a large variety of Asian-themed snacks like steamed bao buns, Kawaii will be a hit for anyone looking for a cultural treat, or any self-proclaimed otaku.
Upon walking in you will be greeted by the face of Pearl the Boba Cat (one stinking cute mascot), stuffed animals resembling the well-adorned Squishmallows, an anime playing on the television, a bright pink and white environment and a friendly staff ready to take your tastebuds to Asia.
When I went to Kawaii I wasn't sure what I was in for. I only once before had a boba tea, and I had not heard of anything on the food menu. I asked the new location's general manager Hayley Chunn, who has been with the company from its inception but is also a Hot Springs native, to serve me a pairing she thought best embodied the boba house.
In lieu of Valentine's Day I received a Cupid's Arrow frozen boba tea, paired with a Bao Korean BBQ Pork and Bao Custard. I started off on a good foot by trying the tea first.
At the base were little red boba hearts. I assumed they were more for affect and decoration, not expecting them to have any taste. To my pleasant surprise they tasted like strawberry. That, mixed with the frozen chocolate tea, tasted like a chocolate covered strawberry shake.
It was a perfectly sweet treat. I drank it down to the bottom, not leaving a single boba heart behind and even ate the two chocolate Pocky Sticks that were stuck on top.
Next up were the two bao buns that had me curious. One white, one yellow. They were fun-looking, and I like fun-looking food. Also squishy, made of bread, and I like carb-loaded food.
I tried the white Bao Korean BBQ Pork first. I knew it had the title of korean pork, but I was still stunned by the savory flavor coming out of this bun. It undeniably did not mix well with my sweet boba tea, but I tried my best to cleanse my palette with water and it turned out to be a pretty good bao bun. Next time I think I will try it warmed.
Last, but not least, I tried the yellow Bao Custard. This is one I'm almost sure would be better warmed. I wasn't too keen on the consistency of the custard, but the sweetness of the bun with the squishy bread worked. Of the two, I preferred the Korean BBQ Pork, but I will definitely be trying both warmed in the future.
Kawaii's Hot Springs location softly opened Dec. 3, and will have its grand opening today.