There’s been a buzz going around about a new boba spot, Happy Lemon, that opened up a couple months ago in Burlingame. This boba chain has a couple of locations around the Bay Area, but the Burlingame location is the closest one to San Francisco. Since it’s fairly new and most likely crowded due to the hype, I decided to make a stop here on a late Friday night.
I expected Happy Lemon to be a cramped space with no seating. At least that’s what the early Yelp reviews said about this place. I was pleasantly surprised when it was the complete opposite.
For a boba shop, it’s a relatively spacious place with decent seating. There’s a couple of pub tables and regular tables scattered throughout the space. It was pretty crowded when I was there as all the tables were taken, but those without a seat were fine with standing around and conversing, so there’s quite a bit of standing room.
The interior is surprisingly not bad for a place that barely has any décor. Maybe it’s because of the Jamba Juice vibe they give off with the display fruit bins on their front counters. In the ~2 hours I was sitting inside Happy Lemon, I have yet to see anyone use any of the fruits in the bins, so I’m pretty sure they’re only for display. Regardless, it livens up the store without drawing too much attention.
The ordering process was pretty interesting. The cashiers will take your order on an iPad and give you a Happy Lemon token with your order number on it. Your drink will be listed on a TV overhead that shows you how long it’s been in the queue. Once your drink is ready, they’ll call the number on your number token and you go up to pick up your drink.
This McDonald’s-like order tracking feature seemed cool initially, but it actually backfires when your drink doesn’t come out in a timely manner. I waited quite some time for my drink, so having the timer there just reinforced the slow service.
Speaking of the slow service, I went during a popular time. When there’s a rush of customers, I expect the employees to be reactive and try their best to manage the rush. However, this didn’t happen at Happy Lemon, at least not when I was there.
I was next in line to give my order when an employee ahead of me was putting in his order. It took two(!) other employees to take his order, and while all that was happening, they were having a great time joking and playing around. I look back at the long line that was forming behind me, and I just couldn’t believe the nerve these employees had to use this time to slack off.
In Happy Lemon’s defense, most of the employees there looked like high schoolers or young college students, but even then, they should know to be professional!
Keep in mind that I’m reviewing their standard black milk tea with boba drink when Happy Lemon is known for their salted cheese drinks.
To put it bluntly, their black milk tea with boba sucks. The milk tea tasted very milky with absolutely zero tea taste at all. I was hoping I’d get some tea taste after a couple of sips, but it all just tasted like milky nothingness.
The boba itself was mushy and barely sweet. It wasn’t terribly mushy, but still mushy nonetheless. It didn’t have much of a sweet flavor either, but it wasn’t tasteless like other boba places I’ve been to.
Boba Drink: 6/10
Happy Lemon has great potential to be a staple in Burlingame. The venue itself is such a nice place to hang out in a group, but the milk tea and service just didn’t cut it for me.
I understand they’ve only been open for a couple months so they’re probably still formalizing their processes. I hope they improve their milk tea recipe, but being that it’s a chain, I doubt they would.
Final Score: 6.83/10