Bubbling for boba

by Melinda Yung, Opinions Editor
graphic by Julie Wang

Remember the simpler times? When the school bell rang, students would race out of their classrooms to the field house, rummaging through their backpacks in search of crumpled dollar bills. Crowds formed, and people shoved to get their hands on a refreshing drink. 

Weeks prior, you’d find fliers on almost every wall in South promoting some club’s bubble tea fundraiser. Through these fundraisers, many students experienced drinking bubble tea for the first time, with some even making it a part of their daily lives. Arguably, its best quality is the many tea, boba, jelly and cream options, which can be overwhelming for some. 

As more bubble tea shops line the streets in Boston, it has become even harder to choose. Opinions editor Melinda Yung visited four bubble tea shops in the area and ranked them based on the following criteria: drink selection, price and distance from South. 

The bubble tea shop with the least total points has the top rank. For each criteria, 1 is best & 4 is worst

1. Kung Fu Tea

Drink Variety: 1

Affordability: 3

Proximity to South: 1

Overall Score: 5

From their classic milk teas to their sweet fruit slushes, Kung Fu Tea might have started the bubble tea craze in Massachusetts. Kung Fu Tea’s Cleveland Circle location is just a ten minute drive from South, so naturally, it is well-visited by students. From reasonable prices, with the classic drink of a medium milk tea with boba costing $4.95, to a wide selection of drinks, Kung Fu Tea is ideal for many. 

My personal favorite is their oolong milk tea with boba because it has the perfect ratio of rich milk tea to boba. Unlike the other three bubble tea shops, the label “consume within 2 hours” can be found on their cups which proves helpful. Despite the boba losing its freshness after two hours, the tea will remain excellent.

2. Gong Cha

Drink Variety: 2

Affordability: 1

Proximity to South: 4

Overall Score: 7

Gong Cha is by far one of the best bubble tea shops to go to due to their authentic drinks, including their green and oolong teas, originating from Taiwan. With its closest location to South in Allston, Gong Cha has a wide selection of drinks, one of their most popular being the brown sugar milk tea with boba and lemon ai-yu pearl. 

Gong Cha has a less unique milk tea taste compared to Royal Tea and Tiger Sugar as it is more watery, but their boba holds the right consistency of being both soft and chewy. A medium milk tea with boba at Gong Cha costs $3.75, the cheapest price out of the other ranked bubble tea shops. My personal favorite is their milk foam green tea with boba because the tea is sweet and fragrant, with the toppings adding the perfect contrast. Gong Cha is about 18 minutes away from South, but their teas are definitely worth the drive. 

3. Royal Tea

Drink Variety: 4

Affordability: 2

Proximity to South: 2

Overall Score: 8

If you are on the search for a floral-tasting milk tea, Royal Tea is the bubble tea shop for you. Their milk tea is both fragrant and strong in flavor, and their boba has just the right consistency — not too gooey or hard. Unlike Kung Fu Tea and Gong Cha, Royal Tea’s menu has fewer drink categories and does not include slushes or seasonal specials. 

A medium milk tea with boba costs $4.50, and the Brookline location is around a 14 minute drive from South. Royal Tea’s milk tea is definitely distinguishable from most bubble tea shops with its perfumed and sugary essence. Overall, I recommend trying their jade green tea with boba. 

4. Tiger Sugar

Drink Variety: 3

Affordability: 4

Proximity to South: 3

Overall Score: 10

Tiger Sugar’s brown sugar milk tea  — a creamy delight — draws lines around the block. Their boba is a perfect balance of soft and chewy and is even coated with a light layer of brown sugar syrup. The shop gives the option to have regular boba, mini pearls or both in a drink unlike most bubble tea shops. 

Tiger Sugar has the smallest selection of drinks, as all are variations of the brown sugar drink. A medium brown sugar milk tea with boba is $5.66, being the most expensive out of the four bubble tea shops, and it is a 16 minute drive from South. It is a small shop located in Allston, so if you plan to go, make sure to arrive early to skip the long lines.