Boba business bubbles over at Pearl Dynastea


Maeve Goldman, Staff Writer

A student staple at the school, Pearl Dynastea store opened in the summer of 2021, bringing Riverdale an assortment of fresh fruit teas, lattes, slushies, and Bao buns. 

At 12 p.m., the store opens to the sound of airy pop music and the whirl of boba machines. “Every day is different,” college student and Pearl Dynastea employee, Mimi Palana said. As “Please Don’t Talk to Me” by Jae Stephens plays, Palana lights up the faux chalkboard TV menus, places the Bao buns in their heater, and sorts an array of multi-colored and animal print cups and straws for service.

“I decided to work here because it was convenient, close to home, and I enjoy bubble tea,” Palana said. “When I’m working I feel like a real barista — even though I’m not a barista, I’m a ‘bobarista.’”

This week’s featured boba is a mango and strawberry green tea. “I put fresh mango chunks [sweet mango specifically since it’s in season], lychee jelly, and a little bit of grass jelly,” she said. Palana recommends the drink with only 30-40 percent sugar, she said.”I am a less sweet girly.”

As the day progresses, Palana and her coworkers brace themselves for rush hour, she said. On the intersection of Riverdale Ave and Fieldston Road, the store is walking distance from countless Bronx high schools and colleges: Horace Mann School, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Atmosphere Academy, Intech Academy, and Manhattan College. “At 3 o’clock when all the kids come rushing out, you know there’s going to be a line,” she said. 

Since the store is about a twenty minute walk, most students at the school prefer to DoorDash their boba orders, Naz Yetis (11) said. “Last week I spent 54 dollars on Pearl Dynastea,” she said. “I love to be a good friend and buy people boba — but none of my friends ever pay me back.”

Pearl Dynastea is especially exciting for underclassmen who can now order boba during free periods, Clair Tsai (9) said. “I UberEats Pearl Dynastea once every two weeks, usually during my free,” she said. Tsai’s go-to is a brown sugar boba. 

For Palana the best part of the job is pairing customers with their perfect drink, she said. Whether a customer is looking for something milky, refreshing, or unsweetened, it is the job of a well-seasoned bobarista to have them leave with a drink they enjoy, she said. “Like earlier a customer came in and said she wanted a hot jasmine tea with lychee but no sugar at all.” Palana substituted sugary syrup with fresh lychee, she said. “It was exactly what she wanted.”

Sipping on a mango oolong green tea with white jelly, Max Feng (11) felt overwhelmed with the flavor, he said. “It tastes like the Boba I have in the homeland.”

It’s Pearl Dynastea’s attention to detail and customer experience that makes it stand out from large boba franchises, Palana said. “We are very much a mom and pop store — Pearl Dynastea is my boss’ first franchise and storehead.” With over 40 flavors, the entire staff collaborates to curate personalized and unique seasonal drinks.

Mimi’s rec: Oreo Juice Foam drink