Chicago has one of my favorite dim sum restaurants, MingHin Cuisine, but I’ve only visited the Loop location – never the original Chinatown location. I’ve actually never been to Chicago’s Chinatown either, so I figured it was time to change that. What’s more, there was lots of boba around there, so I could kill two birds with one boba 😉
I found Hello Jasmine by searching on Yelp. It has pretty decent reviews on Yelp, with a 4 star rating and 86 reviews. It also has decent scores on Google, with a 4.6.
- Location – is the area nice? Where is the shop?
The location of this shop is convenient if you’re in Chinatown already, but otherwise definitely not that nice. I don’t spend a lot of time in this part of Chicago, but it didn’t seem too bad.
The shop itself is located inside a basement food court in a building that doesn’t really look like a place you’d find a food court. You have to go down some stairs to get there and go through a door that isn’t really great at displaying what’s on the other side of the door. I used Yelp reviews to convince me I was in the right place.
- Ambiance – how does the shop feel inside? Is it quiet or lively? How crowded is it?
The shop is in the basement food court, so it’s not that nice. There’s definitely nice mall food courts, and there’s not nice ones – this is one of the not nice ones. It reminded me a lot of Hong Kong, but the more run-down parts and not the gleaming mall courts.
It was pretty crowded when we went around midday, but there were plenty of tables to sit around at. There were a lot of other food places. I didn’t see anyone who looked like they were lingering and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any Wi-Fi.
- Friendliness – are the staff polite and helpful?
The girl who took our order seemed friendly enough, but it didn’t seem like she was very comfortable in English. She didn’t understand when I asked about if the drink used non-dairy creamer or real milk. Luckily, I had Lactaid available!
- Other information – does the shop have a credit card minimum or other payment considerations?
There was a credit card minimum of $5.
I ordered the Golden Oolong Milk Tea (per Lynn’s request) at regular ice and sweetness. I wasn’t able to tell if the drink was lactose free. It didn’t taste like it, from my experience.
- Texture – is the drink thicker or thinner? How does it feel in the mouth?
This drink had a pretty thin texture. It was close to water’s consistency. This was pretty nice, since it went down easily. It seemed like it was a bit on the warmer side for a drink. There wasn’t much ice, which was definitely a good choice, since it would have made the drink even more watery tasting.
- Flavor – is the drink more milk forward or tea forward? Is there a good balance? Is it a powder-based drink? Any interesting flavor notes?
The flavor of the drink was surprising for how watery the texture was. It was very strong and very tea-forward. It also wasn’t too sweet at the regular sweetness level. I was surprised at the mixture of the light feel in the mouth and the strong flavor – good balance that you don’t find often.
- Boba quality – what size are the boba? Are they well-cooked? How chewy are they? Are they flavored with honey or any other sweeteners? Is the flavor good?
The boba at this shop were definitely a standout as well. I thought they were delicious – perfectly cooked, nice and chewy, and a great and strong honey flavor. Honey boba are hard to get right, and they definitely did a good job here. I thought the boba were one of the best parts of the drink.
- Drink-to-boba ratio – is there enough boba for the size of the drink?
I was left with a few boba at the bottom of the drink, which for me is perfect. There was also very little ice in the drink when I got it, which was nice because it left more tea space.
- Appearance – is the drink nice looking? How is the packaging?
The packaging was probably the only low point of the experience for me. The cup was super flimsy and felt like you could break it if you squeezed too hard. The cap was the traditional boba sealed cap. The cup was custom printed, though, which is always a nice touch.
I thought Hello Jasmine was actually a really good shop. Location aside (which is a pretty decent demerit) the drink was really tasty and demonstrated good command of the things that make boba really good – the pearls and the flavor of the tea versus the milk. I imagine another location might solve most of my problems with it. They also serve food, which is good!
Overall Rating: A