A Beginner’s Guide to Bubble Tea

A look into the best bubble tea around Philly

Article and photos by Yvette Bai

Bubble tea can be tricky business – it can be a never-ending quest to find the perfect milk tea that hits all the sweet spots. Find out how different milk teas in Philadelphia matchup against each other in terms of their tea fragrance, chewiness of those small black pearls and ambience of the shop all come into play to create your bubble tea experience.

1. Kung Fu Tea

Address: 1006 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107

Located in the heart of Chinatown, Kung Fu Tea is definitely a crowd pleaser for all boba lovers. Their long lines out of the door are worth it for a cup (or maybe two) of milk tea, complete with a topping of boba. They serve up chewy and flavourful tapioca pearls which enhances your whole bubble tea experience. Kung Fu Tea also makes their milk drinks with lactose-free milk, so the lactose intolerant can enjoy a cup without running to the toilet afterwards.

2. Tea Do

Address: 132 North 10 Street

For those who find the fragrance of tea too strong, consider Tea Do, a modern tea house situated in Chinatown. While Tea Do is not big on flavour, their pearls have a jelly-like consistency but still maintain their chewiness. If you’re feeling adventurous, try an interesting flavour, like Chocoberry and Cookies or give their Green Apple Tea a whirl. This is, however, not an ideal place to unwind with your friends due to its smaller shop space and the number of people that patronize Tea Do everyday.

3. Vivi Tea

Address: 145 North 10th Street, Philadelphia PA 19107

Walk into Vivi Tea and you will be greeted by the colour pink. You’ll notice a younger crowd at Vivi Tea, so go ahead and relive those high school days. The milk tea is slightly bland and definitely on the sweeter side so adjust your options to maximize your bubble tea experience. Don’t miss out on their tapioca pearls – they are chewy and it adds a touch of rose fragrance to your tea. Craving for some milk tea in the winter? Fear not, for they have a hot serve option as well, so get your boba fix during any season. Cozy up in their booths and while the afternoon away with a couple of homies.

4. Ochatto

Address: 3608 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

If traveling to the center city is too much of a hassle for you and you just want to have your boba now, give Ochatto a go. Conveniently, and might I say, strategically located along Chestnut Street, Ochatto serves up Asian fare, including bubble milk tea. They have the option of black tea and green tea for your bubble tea. I went the black tea route and personally, I found it slightly bitter, but it was fine after a few sips. For those who enjoy the chewy and soft texture of boba, you would not get that at Ochatto as their tapioca pearls are harder and less chewy.

5. Winterfell Dessert

Address: 32 South 40th Street, Philadelphia PA 19104

Fans may recognise the Game of Thrones reference when they see the shop name. Walk in and you’ll see GoT quotes plastered all over the walls. What’s charming about Winterfell is the sofas they have, which are perfect for lounging. The menu offers a wide variety, from fruit milk teas to shaved ice desserts. For an interesting spin on the traditional bubble tea, have their fruit milk tea! Skip the toppings to get the full fruit flavour. Be warned – the fruit milk teas are on the sweeter side, so you might want to ask for less sugar. The ambience of the place and the board games you can borrow makes Winterfell for a great place to hang out or study (depending on the kind of person you are).