What’s poppin’? This season’s six must-try bubble tea drinks

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By Catherine Fang, Cate Nguyen, Daffny Cardoso

Despite the restrictions that have been imposed by the pandemic, boba shops have continued to grow in  popularity this year, especially within the Townsend Community. When thinking of the most popular flavors, milk tea is usually the first that comes to mind, but there are many more hidden “pearls” that are sold in these tea shops. From syrupy themed drinks to even a cheese foam tea, boba shops have diversified their menus to offer much more than plain milk tea. With a variety of flavors, customizations, and add-ins available on boba shop menus, it can be hard to choose just one drink. Here are a few fan-tested favorites and where you can find them!


  • Brown Sugar Pearl Milk Tea


 This drink has everything from aesthetics to flavor. The brown sugar syrup running down the insides of the cup makes it a picture-perfect drink for Instagram. But don’t worry, beyond the aesthetic, the five dollars spent on this drink goes towards a deliciously rich and creamy drink. Some popular shops that sell brown sugar bubble tea include Momo Ashi, Gong Cha, Tiger Sugar, and Xing Fu Tang, which are all located in various parts of Queens, New York.

Sophomore Arietta Xylas shared that the brown sugar pearl tea at Flushing’s popular dessert chain Momo Ashi “doesn’t have [that overpowering tea taste] at all. [Brown sugar pearl tea is] warm, sweet, but also refreshing.” 


  • Taro Milk Tea


Taro milk tea, or variations of it, is another delectable tea that is offered at many boba chains. Taro milk tea is both nutty and creamy, and many chains offer their own variation of the classic drink, adding different amounts of coconut powder and even milk. Taro milk tea is popular among fall drinks at both boba shops and among the THHS community thanks to its distinct taste. 

Sophomore Annie Lei said, “The taro adds a unique taste [to the bubble tea]… it makes the bubble tea creamy and taste a bit like vanilla.” Boba shops that offer taro milk tea include Coco’s, Kung Fu Tea, and ChaTime.


  • Green Tea Latte and Matcha Smoothie


 Regarding flavor, the drink can taste bitter depending on the individual drink. However, to others the drink is tastier, and to some the nutritious values override flavor and taste! You can find green tea lattes at different chains, and once again play around with the way you personally want the drink, hot or cold, and with which specific variants. 

This drink contains many beneficial ingredients, including many types of minerals and vitamins. Many researchers have come to the conclusion that green tea has many elements that make it antiviral and able to fight against viruses.  Additionally, green tea contains many antioxidants and is known to lower blood cholesterol and improve blood flow. A matcha smoothie can give you consistent, long-lasting energy to focus during slow mornings, without the brief energy spike from and bitterness of coffee. 

Freshman Sophia Shi commented that the matcha smoothie is a nice “wake-up drink to have in the morning.”


  • Mango Green Tea (and other Fruit Teas)


Many bubble tea shops, such as Gong Cha and ViVi Bubble Tea, offer this drink year-round, unlike Kung Fu Tea’s Pumpkin Oolong Milk Tea. Mango green tea has the perfect twist of sweet mango and the chewy texture of tapioca pearls. Coconut jelly and pearls make the perfect addition to this drink. Other fruit teas feature a colorful arrangement of fresh fruit that add a bright pop to the drink’s look. The constant availability of fruit teas has led to its popularity throughout the seasons and this fall is no exception. We feel that less ice and regular sugar are the best choices, whether the weather is cold or hot; however, ice and sugar levels are customizable. 

In case you aren’t a fan of mangoes, other fresh fruit teas are readily available for purchase. Sophomore Emily Lu recommended the peach oolong or strawberry green tea boba from ChaTime. She added that these drinks “are really good, fruity, and refreshing!”


  • Cheese Foam Earl Grey Tea


Cheese Foam Earl Grey Tea doesn’t consist of the traditional cheese you would

find in savory foods. The cheese foam that tops this drink is a thick mixture of cheese powder, milk, whipping cream, with a pinch of salt. Oolong tea by itself doesn’t have much sugar and has more of an herbal aftertaste when compared to the other drinks on this list. However, after a quick mix of cheese into tea, you get a milky blend of freshly-brewed tea and creamy cheese foam. The satisfying contrast between the textures of frothy cheese foam and smooth earl grey tea makes for a unique fall beverage. 

In order to complement the cheese foam in this drink, regular ice is recommended to bring the full flavor of the cheese foam out. Möge Tee, located in Flushing and other areas of the city, is known for their cheese foam drinks and they do a quick and exemplary job of getting you through the door.


  • Adding Flavor to the Classic Bubble Milk Tea


If you visit bubble tea shops frequently, you will know that this drink is a classic and must try. Almost every tea shop sells bubble milk tea with tapioca pearls, the classic “bread-and-butter” of boba shops.  In this drink, a mixture of tea and milk is poured on top of freshly cooked tapioca pearls.   Although it’s not the fanciest drink, bubble milk tea is still a very popular choice that offers an assortment of flavorful twists. This drink can be made both hot and cold, so you can drink it in any season.

If you go to a boba shop where they allow you to change the sugar level, we recommend you order 50% sugar, as this level of sugar is sweet but not overpowering. In the humid weather, iced bubble milk tea is refreshing and a sweet way to quench your thirst. In the colder weather, we recommend asking for less ice but not ordering it hot, as we find that the texture and flavor of the tapioca pearls aren’t as satisfying in hot milk tea.

Students at Townsend Harris regularly enjoy bubble tea, going to and from nearby boba shops after school. Teachers have even incorporated the student body’s boba craving into an incentive for hard work. Townsend Harris’s Orchestra Director Chris Lee rewards his students with bubble tea after major concerts and performances. He believes that bubble tea is special to Harrisites because it is “something that continues to evolve… Besides the sippable, chew, sugary, comfort of the classic Boba, it’s always exciting to be able to try new combinations of textures and flavors.” 

Though these drinks aren’t exclusively seasonal, tea shops continue to offer new, innovative drinks, more toppings, and new flavors on their menus. When you need something new and refreshing in your life, try a boba shop! With flavorful beverages for every food palette, a new world of flavors awaits with bubble tea. The options are less overwhelming than they seem, and bubble tea never fails to impress. Take the first step to a new palace of flavors by tasting our recommendations for yourself!

Photo by Jason Bacalla, Photographer