Boba, or bubble tea, originally came from Taiwan in the 1980s. Classic bubble tea is made with tea, powdered milk, and tapioca balls. These balls are also called boba, which gives the beverage its nickname. Rather than reaching for a coffee at midday, many Taiwanese people take a boba break instead.
Bubble tea is known for being incredibly sweet. You can still get a classic three-ingredient bubble tea, but modern ones have endless options. There are ones soaked in fruit, mixed in with brown sugar, or laden with cream cheese foam. Boba is sweet, creamy, and refreshing, so it’s no surprise to see the uptake in several parts of the world.
In New York City, boba, or bubble tea, has arguably never been more popular. Bubble tea houses previously only existed in NYC’s few Chinatowns. Now they are cropping up everywhere, from Main Street to Broadway. As there are many shops to choose from, it can be difficult to know which ones offer good bubble tea.
To make this choice a little easier, we’ve put together a list of the best boba houses in New York City. Whether you like your boba laden with extra goodies or prefer a no-frills recipe, you’re sure to find a shop you’ll love below.
101 Macdougal St
Mi Tea originally started in Hangzhou, China, but it’s made its way to the West Village. Mi Tea’s specialty is bubble tea laden with a hearty cream cheese topping. You’ll also find a huge variety of fruit teas that taste as good as they look.
Mi Tea also creates limited mystery drinks every season, which are sure to keep your tastebuds entertained. With options like Rose Oolong Milk Tea with Cheese Foam, or their packed with antioxidants Matcha Latte, there’s something for everyone at Mi Tea.
If your tongue prefers straightforward flavors, then you’ve got to try Shiny Tea. Head to Broadway to find boba that goes back to its traditional recipe. Their menu offers strong tea that isn’t overpowering.
Other than boba, they also have a selection of iced herbal teas from around the world. If you prefer a little more variety, you can get these mixed in with milk, jelly, fruit vinegar, or honey. If endless options of boba confuse you, or you just want standard bubble tea, Shiny Tea is the place for you.
197 Canal Street
A very popular chain in Asia, Tiger Sugar headed to Queens for their first U.S location. Claiming to be the originators of brown sugar boba, Tiger Sugar’s namesake derives from the way sugar syrup, tea, and milk create tiger-like stripes. However, their brown sugar boba contains no tea.
Their tapioca pearls, or boba, soak up all of the brown sugar flavors while they’re heated together. The sweet, smoky drink is then topped up with cold milk, which looks fantastic as the colors blend. Tiger Sugar also offers refreshing iced teas and milkshakes, but we’d recommend trying their brown sugar tea at least once!
36-09 Main St
If you want to relax in a nice environment while having some boba, Motea Gardens is the place to be. The store is filled with flowers and delicate furniture, giving it a beautiful ambiance.
They specialize in floral and fruit drinks, ranging from classic strawberry to unique jasmine blossom. This place is very popular, but if you can get a seat, this is a great place to sit and enjoy boba. You’ll love the gorgeous aesthetics and the refreshing drinks on offer.
135-18 Roosevelt Ave
Ten Ren Tea is a tea retailer that originated in Taiwan. The brand is known for its strong tea and soft boba. These values cross over to its bubble tea house in New York. Located in Flushing, this store is helpful, clean, and organized. One counter sells Ten Ren products, like loose leaf teas and herb roots, while another part of the store sells to-go drinks to its customers.
Their drinks are available in classic flavors, such as peach, green tea, or jasmine milk tea. These aren’t as sweet as ones from newer stores, but they are still light and refreshing.
44-68 21st St
Yi Fang’s founder’s great-grandmother originally had a pineapple farm with her husband. Her husband would often work long days in extreme heat. To keep him cool, she made pineapple jam, then mixed it with water to create a fruit tea.
Now, Yi Fang developed her recipe into a successful bubble tea house.
Their special fruit tea is made out of fresh fruit, including orange, apple, passionfruit, and pineapple. Their brown sugar pearl toppings are so popular, they’re only sold after 1 pm until they run out. Born out of a beautiful story, Yi Fang’s bubble tea is fresh, all-natural, and full of flavor.
925 Lexington Ave
It can be hard to find good bubble tea in the Upper East Side, but Gong Cha doesn’t disappoint. They have a smaller menu than most boba houses, but their tea more than makes up for it. Gong Cha carries teas that are packed with flavor.
You can opt for standard fruit ones or go even sweeter with caramel chocolate. They have amazing toppings, carrying everything from white pearls to red beans. Customers can also customize the ice and sugar level, so Gong Cha is a great option if you’re watching your sugar intake.
217 Thompson St
There’s no shortage of options at Debutea. You can stay traditional with fruit or milk teas, or go for something different, like cream cheese or brown sugar boba. Some drinks have creative names, like Golden Phoenix and Snow Mountain White, that promise to taste as good as they sound. Debutea also offers a food menu, so you can enjoy a poke bowl or sashimi alongside your boba.
The store is small on the inside, but customers can sit at the many tables outside. You can enjoy their appetizing menu in two of NYC’s boroughs, as Debutea has houses in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.
33-17 30th Ave
The Teapsy offers many flavors of their bubble tea, from pumpkin spice to toffee nut. They also have their own spin on a frappuccino, calling their version a Frapputeano. These are a frozen version of bubble tea that’s perfect in both cold and hot weather.
Several boba enthusiasts have raved about The Teapsy’s fresh boba pearls. Popular drinks include Rose Cheesecake Tea, Brown Sugar Frapputeano, and their Peach Yoghurt Green Tea. The Teapsy has a variety of different flavors, so you’re sure to find one you love here.
189 Bleecker St
Formerly known as KOI Thé, FIftyLan is one of Taiwan’s popular bubble tea houses that has made its way to New York City. Head to Manhattan to find a simple, but flavorful menu that satisfies all taste buds. You can customize your drink to your desired ice and sugar level.
If you prefer, you can also choose from several caffeine-free teas or opt for chewier tapioca pearls. FIftyLan always gives a nice amount of pearls with their drinks, and offers a few vegan options to choose from. Try their special Golden Bubble Milk Tea for a caramel-like flavor, which has lots of chewy pearls to enjoy.
208 Grand St
Truedan is a brown sugar bubble tea brand that originates from Taiwan. They’ve made their way to Little Italy, giving NYC customers the same sweet and creamy taste. At just 0.85cm in size and cooked in tasty brown sugar, Truedan claims to have created the perfect bubble.
They use these pearls in their specialty drink, the Brown Sugar Bubble with Milk. Completely free of preservatives or colors, their drinks are light and refreshing, without losing any creaminess. Truedan also offers seasonal drinks, so whether it’s summer, Halloween, or Christmas, you’ll have a new drink to look forward to trying.
Teado Tea Shop
145D Hester St
This shop may be small, but it has several milk teas, toppings, and both hot and cold drinks on offer. Other than this large selection of beverages, they also have savory options, so it’s a great place to go if you fancy a change from regular boba.
Teado’s fabulous feature is that they let customers sample their drink beforehand, so that you can adjust it to your liking. They also only use Lactaid milk, so lactose-intolerant individuals can enjoy all of their drinks. For great customer service, head to the Lower East Side to check out Teado.
44th St & 43rd St
Vivi Bubble Tea has houses all over New York. Its Midtown store is always busy, but the staff are great at prepping every order. They have the creamiest bubble tea on offer, with enticing signature drinks like Dragon Fruit Cream Float, or Oreo Creme Brulee. Vivi also specializes in drinks made with Yakult. The yogurt base is sweet with an underlying tang and is available in three fruit flavors.
Customers can customize their drink’s sugar level and ice level too, so this is a great place to try if you prefer less sweet drinks. You can spend a little extra to add several fun toppings, including popping boba and coffee jelly.
51 Chrystie St
Yaya Tea’s Chinatown store is not only known for its bubble tea. It’s also known for its delicious savory snacks. They specialize in onigiri, which are Japanese rice balls filled with meat or vegan options. Their tea drinks have fun names, such as My First Car, The Hulk, or I Love Yaya.
Yay Tea’s most popular drinks include their traditional black milk tea and their Mango & Lychee fruit tea. You can further customize your drink by adding more flavors to it. This is a great place to sit and enjoy a delicious snack alongside your boba.
37 E 8th St
Just a few minutes from Washington Square Park is Wanpo Tea Shop. A popular place, they offer fresh pearls that are soft, supple, and pop delightfully in the mouth. This small house is known for its high-quality tea and several delicious options on offer. Their signature drink is their Red Bean Jelly Milk, a sweet blend of red beans, yellow jelly, and brown sugar mixed in with milk.
These are creamy and sweet, though you can reduce the sweetness if you prefer. Customers have raved about the grass jelly topping, which adds a firm yet supple texture. They don’t have places to sit down, but if you’re looking for a quick drink to-go, you have to try Wanpo Tea Shop.
15 W 32nd St
A short walk away from the Empire State Building lies Tea Makers, a busy boba house with an extensive menu on offer. Don’t be put off by the long lines, these move very quickly thanks to the quick and helpful staff. Their drinks are cased within cute packaging, with strong lids that are ideal for traveling. Tea Makers specializes in original leaf tea along with fresh farm-picked fruit.
Their most popular drink is their signature milk tea, a roasted tea steeped in milk topped with grass jelly. The jelly adds a nice texture to the velvety smooth drink. Another popular option is their cheesecake milk tea, an aesthetically pleasing pink drink perfect for both hot and cold days. The next time you’re in Koreatown, head to Tea Makers for delicious drinks that don’t disappoint.
Kung Fu Tea has several branches across NYC. Their Upper Manhattan house interestingly displays the calorie content on their menus, so this is a great place to try if you’re on a diet. They have a huge selection of beverages, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Standard toppings include herbal jelly and red bean, though you can pay a little more for aloe jelly and popping bubbles.
Kung Fu Tea also offers seasonal drinks, so you’ll always have a new drink to look forward to every season. Other than bubble tea, they also offer slushies and yogurt drinks, which are smooth and refreshing on the tongue.