It’s delicious, sweet, and addicting. No, it’s not champagne—it’s bubble tea.
Originating in Taichung, Taiwan during the 80s, bubble tea has become one of the world’s trendiest, most instagrammable drink.
The drink is a tea-based mixture mixed with fruits or milk, complemented by chewy boba “bubbles” or “pearls". In many shops, boba is made fresh every couple of hours from tapioca starch and brown sugar.
Luckily for Penn students, countless of restaurants around campus offer bubble tea with a variety of ingredients and flavors. Here are a couple of favorite spots:
Game of Thrones enthusiasts will love this establishment. Milky and crisp, Winterfell’s milk has a very distinct taste, known for its unique specialty ingredients and potent sweetness. There was a bitter aftertaste after each sip, almost as if the tea was burnt. Winterfell offers a friendly customizable environment, with a menu filled with bubble tea, shaved ice, and rolled ice cream options. The price was standard for a medium sized drink. It’s a good place for bubble tea beginners.
Price: Around $3-5
Address: 32 S 40th Street
TeaDo has unique drink combinations and names. "The Hulk” and “O Jazz” are among the crowd favorites. Compared to Winterfell, this milk tea sampling was actually more bitter, but left a more subtle aftertaste. Tea Do milk tea tastes more like your typical milk tea. The bubbles in the Tea Do milk tea were, on average, smaller and chewier.
Address: 3900 Sansom Street
Kung Fu Tea is in the heart of Drexel’s campus. Their version of milk tea boasts non-dairy milk and fresh tea in a Taiwanese style. Its flavors are bold yet subtle, without the traditional sweetness of milk tea found in many other stores and restaurants. The tapioca is perfectly sweet and chewy and the tea is silky, creamy, and smooth. Kung Fu Tea, like Winterfell, Ochatto, and Tea Do, offers a wide variety of smoothies, milk teas, and fruit teas that are customizable upon request.
Address: 3175 John F Kennedy Boulevard
Known more for its food than its beverage, Xi’an Sizzling Woks is also a spot for bubble tea. There are only six options for premade flavored teas including Taro, Mango, and Strawberry. The boba was too chewy and the tea felt grainy. There seemed to be little chunks floating around with each sip. When compared to the silkiness and creaminess of other teas, Xi’an Sizzling Woks’s teas couldn’t hold their own.
Address: 4000 Chestnut Street
Ochatto’s tea has plenty of tapioca, filling up almost half the cup. Also, since Ochatto’s tea had no ice cubes, it didn’t become watered down like the other teas we tried. The drink was extremely milky—it didn’t really even taste like tea. The tapioca was rather large but still remained chewy and easy to eat. Ochatto’s milk tea was average, but given its convenient location and competitive price, it’s a great option for Penn’s students.
Address: 3608 Chestnut Street
This list is a great place to start for your first foray into milk boba tea. However, if you are milk-averse, you can order fruit tea at most of these shops and ask for the baristas to add boba. Your fun and trendy tea will surely look better than the sea of iced coffees around you.