“That’s not the good stuff,” she said. I was confused. It’s just sugar water with little balls of starch. It turns out, shortly after I moved out of the Bay Area in 2009, bubble tea went artisanal. Bubble tea shops like San Francisco-based Boba Guys (which launched in 2011 and was finally featured in Vogue in 2017), Gong Cha, and Teaspoon (one of my sister’s after-school go-tos) use fresh ingredients, trendy non-dairy milks, organic fruits, and heirloom teas. You can get dark-roasted oolong tea with organic cream, or an almond milk matcha latte with tapioca pearls. The run-of-the-mill bubble tea I grew up with were made with artificial flavors, cloying syrups, and powdered milks. And they just don’t cut it anymore.

Recently, while visiting home, I had a craving for Teaspoon’s Grasshopper drink, a lychee green tea topped with fresh cucumber juice. I invited my sister, who was still in her pajamas with unbrushed teeth, to join me. “No,” she replied again. “Why turn me down this time?” I asked. I had suggested a respectable brand, after all. “Because everyone I know from school will be there,” she explained. “They can’t see me like this.” If you want to know what you’ll be drinking—and Instagramming—next year, just ask a Silicon Valley teen what they’re doing after class.

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