Ben Borgers

Bubble Tea Snobbery

June 27, 2022

I used to not understand when people said that they preferred one store’s bubble tea over another. To me, there were two tiers: good and awful. The awful stuff was made by stores that weren’t bubble tea stores, and everything else was good.

Then I started having more bubble tea. For some reason, perhaps Trisha and I enabling each other, I’ve been getting a lot more bubble tea over the past year or so. I’m not complaining.

And now? I have opinions about bubble tea. Which places are better and which aren’t so good. Which places have better tapioca and which have better flavors. I legitimately feel like I care about differences now that I used to not notice. Maybe my taste palette has expanded in that department?

Perhaps trying something a lot turns you into a snob. I’ve heard of people actively trying not to turn themselves into a coffee snob by always getting the same mid-tier brand of coffee, and I kind of understand what they mean now.

I’m still figuring out my opinions on different bubble tea places. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going with what other people say and it’s a placebo. But with enough bubble tea, I can definitely figure out my own ranking.

I’ll leave you with my current non-comprehensive ranking (co-thought-through with Trisha):

  1. Tea-Do — fantastic tapioca that’s soft and chewy and great.
  2. LimeRed near Boston University — honestly a sleeper one-off hit. The ambiance is great and it’s very cute. The tea is good and they have unique flavors, and the kicker: pearls are included for no extra price (and they’re good pearls too). It’s like $5 for a large drink. The only con is that one time I couldn’t pierce the seal on the drink using one of their eco-friendly (meh…) straws but that was a one-off embarrassment.
  3. Kung Fu Tea — you can’t really beat their variety of flavors and options.
  4. Gong Cha — I think it’s pretty decent? I haven’t been there in a while but I remember it being good.
  5. OneZo — I’ve only had their taro pearls, but that was good! I wanna go back and try the normal pearls.
  6. CoCo in Lexington — in town, so it’s convenient as heck. But their tapioca isn’t great unless you choose the Lava Pearl Milk Tea, which has special pearls with brown sugar in them. Also it is possible to order just milk with pearls which I think demonstrates insufficient care put into their menu.
  7. Basho — they have (had?) bubble tea. It was not their core competency (their actual thing is food). However Trisha got it on her meal plan and she had extra money to spend, so it was free and free is good.
  8. Teatotaller in Concord, New Hampshire — I went there this weekend with Trisha. Good branding and great tea flavors with below-average tapioca. The price-to-drink-size ratio was good for this economy though.
  9. YumCha in Waltham — the pearls were hard? And the tea was not sweet? Double thumbs down.
  10. Sweet Thyme in Lexington — it’s just juice with pearls.