The Boba Bubble Is About To Explode In Boston
What a time to be alive! There are now several boba spots open and thriving around Boston. We've mapped out our favorites to encourage you to get out and try this global phenomenon.
Most of us don't even know what bubble tea is. So let's start there.
Bubble tea — or boba — is a sweet Taiwanese drink of flavored tea mixed with milk, fruit, and toppings. You can order yours without dairy, if you prefer, or sub in a range of flavored syrups like passion fruit, matcha (green tea) and taro. And your topping options are endless; pudding, herbal jelly, fruit. However, the chewy tapioca pearls that are sucked up through an extra large straw are the classic way to enjoy the tea-based drink.
That experience, combined with being able to pick and choose your favorite flavor combinations, and toppings, make bubble tea an endlessly customizable, and refreshing drink to have in the summer.
And the shops are popping up all over Boston right now. We mapped out some of our favorites below.
Let's start with the franchises:
Kung Fu Tea
New to the boba bubble trend? Kung Fu Tea is a great place to start.
The franchise started in 2009 when three friends from Taiwan wanted to replicate the taste of their favorite childhood drink, bubble tea, in the U.S.. Now there are over 100 locations, and Boston is home to six of them: Chinatown, Symphony (on the Green line, Boston), Allston, Davis Square (Somerville), Malden, and Cleveland Circle.
Kung Fu Tea categorizes their drinks using different belt levels to help you choose what options are best for you based on your experience with the drink. For the beginners, or white belt drinkers, they recommend their original KF (Kung Fu) milk tea; a classic black tea made with non-dairy milk. You'll choose from options like coconut and almond instead, which add a unique flavor profile. For black belt masters, the herbal jelly WOW milk is recommended. It's made with brown sugar and whole milk (Lactose free. Kung Fu Tea prefers it that way.), and topped with tapioca balls and herbal jelly which adds a slightly bitter note to the normally sweet drink.
Various locations, kungfutea.com
Chatime is one of the fastest growing bubble tea franchises in the world, with over 1,000 shops in 30 different countries. They have four locations alone in Boston; two in Chinatown, one near Northeastern University, and one in Allston.
If you're feeling adventurous, we recommend ordering their flavored milk tea. There are several flavors you can choose from including: coconut, almond, strawberry, rose, and caramel. And you choose your own toppings to compliment. We also like the refreshing lemon ice tea with bubbles; red bean, herbal jelly, and aloe are just a few of our favorite options.
Various locations, chatimeboston.com
Vivi Bubble Tea
Vivi Bubble Tea is our place to-go place for yakult drinks; a tangy bubble tea made from fermented probiotic milk from Japan. They're citrusy, but also sweet and very refreshing. We recommend the passionfruit yakult to help cool down the warmer summertime days.
Vivi also has a great selection of food. Our favorites are the spicy popcorn chicken, tonkotsu ramen, sweet macaroons, and the tornado potato; a spiraled, fried potato, served on a stick. It's unbelievably delicious and will make a plate of curly fries look bad.
Note, Vivi is a franchise, although there's only one location in the Boston area.
389 Hancock St., Quincy, 617.770.0088, vivibubbletea.com
Lollicup is one of the oldest bubble tea players to bring the drink to the U.S. market. They began as a single shop in the San Gabriel Valley. Today the company distributes 70% of all the boba — and boba-related products — in the U.S.. Although a franchise, Lollicup has been in a part of our community since 2002, located in the Super 88 food court at Packard’s Corner.
Lollicup uses powders to flavor their milk teas, which makes them sweeter and a little thicker. Not your thing? Go for their fruit tea instead. They always have a variety of fresh fruit on hand including: watermelon, strawberry, mango, banana, avocado, pineapple, and papaya.
1095 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617.782.2622, facebook.com/lollicupboston
Now the local favorites:
Monkey King Tea
If you live in Malden, you know Monkey King Tea. They're a local legend, and known for their snack and tea options.
We like their jasmine green tea; a popular but traditional classic that pairs well with musubi; also a popular and somewhat traditional Japanese snack of egg, Spam and rice wrapped in nori seaweed. It's Spam sushi! So good.
In addition to your boba, you can also get an egg puff waffle or “puffle cone” served with ice cream and toppings like churros and fruity pebbles. These are a Hong Kong-style snack that are becoming another trend to watch out for around these parts.
We like the “Strawberry Festival” puffle cone; made with vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries, and topped with homemade whipped cream, a chocolate drizzle, and strawberry pocky.
249 Highland Ave., Malden, 781.321.5464, facebook.com/monkeykingtea
Tea Dó is one of our favorite stops in Chinatown to grab a boba and chat with friends. The tea house has limited seating, but if you manage to grab a spot, you can play Jenga and card games which are a bonus and provide a friendly atmosphere.
Our favorite drink — Zen’s Awakening — is a great option for coffee (and chocolate) lovers. Mocha coffee (a specially made coffee), chocolate, and condensed milk, are topped with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle. It's an indulgent treat.
We also recommend the Thai ice tea with boba; a strong sweet tea, spiced with star anise and orange blossom water, that has a signature bright orange color.
8 Tyler St., Boston, 617.988.8002, kenshinteado.com
Although new to the neighborhood, Nextdoor Café is having no problem keeping up with the growing bubble tea trend in Allston. Their tea offerings are unique, and come with a flavored milk foam (Nutella, honey, matcha, caramel, or condensed milk for your options). It's a creamy, frothy topping that you mix into your tea for additional flavor.
Or you can eat off the top, like we like to do.
We recommend their Galaxy drink; a macchiato-like color changing concoction that layers in several different flavors like mango, peach, lychee, and strawberry. It's delicious and fun to drink!
On top of all this, you can order your boba in a light bulb! We saved ours for a crafty #DIY projects with mini string lights.
110 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617.254.1122, facebook.com/nextdoorcafeallston
Lavender milk tea, honey grapefruit tea, and strawberry green tea — these are just some of Dolphin Bay’s offerings. Their boba menu is huge and full of unique pairings, so don't be afraid to try something new. We recommend the sea salt creme with green tea and boba. It's a frothy specialty drink that balances sweet and tart perfectly, and is served with a friendly powdered dolphin that will certainly make you smile.
Dolphin Bay also brings authentic Taiwanese food to Brighton. If you're hungry, try the beef noodle soup, and the fresh pork rice. They're both favorites among the restaurants regular patrons.
72 Brighton Ave., Boston, 617.562.1668, facebook.com/dolphinbayboston
Located near Fields Corner, FunTea Café is offering up their boba smack dab in the middle of one of Boston's booming food neighborhoods. And they have one of the largest toppings menus around; regular and premium to choose from. You can get various jellies, puddings, and even ice cream! We like their jasmine milk tea topped with coffee jelly and milk pudding. It's a tasty explosion of a variety of flavoris and textures.
Also, the staff and owner are very friendly and will offer you recommendations on the best drinks to order per your taste, so don't be afraid to ask!
1472 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617.288.8882, facebook.com/funteacafe
With plenty of seating, Tealosophy is a great place to grab a boba and get some work done (or just people watch). We also love their shaved ice — or snow ice — a Chinese dessert that is very popular during the summer months. Ice is shaved down until it has a fluffy, cloud-like consistency, and then sweetened with condensed milk and flavored with a variety of traditional boba toppings that'll melt in your mouth. The Mango Mania our favorite; it comes with mango shaved ice, mango, mango jelly, and mango popping boba — quadruple the mango!
Tealosophy has $2 "drink of the week specials" that you can check out on their Facebook page every week.
3 N. Beacon St., Allston, 617.903.3496, tealosophyusa.com