Jasmine Yamanaka/HIGHLANDER

Overall Satisfaction Scale:

Drinks 6/10
Ambience 6.5/10
Price $4-5 per drink


In September 2018, when Roasting Water opened its Riverside location on Chicago Avenue (about two miles away from campus), bottles of fruit-filled and creamy-colored beverages began popping up all around UCR students’ social media feeds faster than boba being delightfully sucked up through a straw. These bottles were adorned with charming drawings of animals and natural landscapes and filled with delicious, colorful drinks — bright strawberry teas with bits of strawberry and mango, decadent white chocolate frappes with swirls of tempting caramel.

Roasting Water’s stunning collection of bottles, which feature vastly different and changing artistic styles, mirrors the shop’s diverse menu: not only does Roasting Water offer teas but also coffee, lattes, lemonades, smoothies and milkshakes. However, what matters is what’s on the inside and not the outside, and Roasting Water’s refreshments did not taste as good as they presented themselves to be.

Seeing that their milk tea selection is still limited (black/green milk, plain black/green, black/green almond milk, Thai, oolong, oolong fresh cream, sea salt Jasmine and green tea macchiato), their focus seems to be on satisfying a large array of palates instead of the one specialty — boba — that many other college students like myself probably anticipated when trying out the store for the first time. Their milk teas did have a crisp tea taste, such as the classic milk tea flavor which instantly delivered a refreshing, coffee-like tang. Unfortunately, however, these drinks fell short by being too watery and not creamy enough. On the bright side, Roasting Water’s boba was slightly smaller than that from Boba Tea House and Tim Boba, which actually made it easier to suck up and therefore achieve a more even, satisfying boba-to-tea proportion.

Roasting Water had the best avocado smoothie I have ever tasted, which alone made the trip worth it and established Roasting Water as my go-to spot for such a treat. Their Avocuddle Buddy was creamy and velvety in every way that an avocado is, but featured a flavor completely its own — resembling caramel — with a delicate touch of sweetened condensed milk. Even though the smoothie was buttery and smooth, it still managed to not taste very rich, even less so than milk tea. The sweetness was deliberately balanced to allow the natural sugars to shine through while the condensed milk was merely there to enhance the consistency. The natural sweetness and flavor was clearly distinguishable because, as Roasting Water shares on its website, all of their drinks are made with real, organic ingredients.

This aspect of their production actually surprised me, for aside from their avocado smoothie, many of their other fruit drinks tasted syrupy and artificial. The Royal Mango fruit tea tasted watery and bland and it had an artificial mango taste with the only thing separating its flavor from that of an energy drink being the mango bits added in there. Even if the company does not use powder or syrups, the mango flavor was still unsatisfying.

Their Pure Strawberry smoothie, which is made with soy milk, had already started separating within a few minutes and, like the strawberry smoothie I tried at Tim Boba, tasted diluted and unmemorable. That is the case with many smoothies; they contain fruit and milk that will inevitably separate and lead to disappointing, brown mush. However, if you do enjoy that homemade, natural smoothie taste or are simply craving a smoothie, Roasting Water can fulfill that craving.

If you abide by the golden rule of food — to always make room for dessert — you will take great enjoyment in their dessert drinks. The dessert drinks, however, may only be for those who are looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, for the flavor largely depended on sweetness and the richness of the cream overwhelmed the opportunity to emphasize the individual flavors. For example, the Guilty Pleasure chocolate drink combined Ghirardelli chocolate, marshmallows and almonds. I barely tasted the almonds and didn’t even know the drink contained marshmallows until reading the description. All I tasted was the chocolate syrup and cream, making me believe it would have benefitted from just being an ice cream dish; if you’re looking for something that indulgent, you might as well just eat ice cream.

Along with having a wide variety of drinks, Roasting Water shows that it cares about the customer by also having soy and almond milk alternatives. The price range of the store is higher than that of most boba shops, with their tea drinks, for example, priced at $4.30. The higher price is justified because their gorgeous bottles, which all of their drinks come in, are at least very sturdy, do not easily spill (though I would be careful with turning it upside down because the lid is a cork) and are undeniably stunning. Roasting Water does have a discount of 10 cents off for reusing the bottle for drink orders, but this deal is not yet available in their Riverside location (they also have stores in Westminster, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley, Long Beach and Huntington Beach).

Roasting Water’s cute, intricately detailed ambience, filled with Rilakkuma collectibles, potted plants and geometric terrarium wall decorations, reflect the concept of pretty and aesthetically pleasing presentation also expressed by their bottles. However, the space was impractical for social time and studying as the tables were small and the space was slightly cramped. For the three hour duration I was at the store, no customers stayed any longer than thirty minutes, only coming and going for the beverage and the bottle, the appealing memento of a product that is otherwise hollow in quality.