New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Ranked: 10 boba flavors to try before you graduate

From mango to matcha, here’s the where, what and why of 10 popular boba flavors you can try near NYU.

As someone who was born and raised in Flushing, Queens, I consider boba to be one of my major food groups. 

Boba or bubble tea is a Taiwanese drink, though its name is actually borrowed from China. When most people think of boba, they are probably picturing the dark brown tapioca pearls which sit at the bottom of the drink. They are chewy, and get mixed into either milk-based teas or lighter fruity concoctions. Boba has ballooned in popularity since the 1990s, as coffee culture and cafes became trendy in the United States. 

I tried several different boba flavors near NYU, and ranked each flavor from worst to best, taking into consideration appearance, depth of flavor and the general vibe of each beverage.

10. Creme Brulee Milk Tea

The creme brulee milk tea is featured on Moge Tee’s menu, a boba chain that established roots in the United States in 2018. Intrigued by the drink’s charming looks, I gave it a try. However, I learned pretty quickly that sometimes a mystery should remain just that. None of the flavors of a traditional creme brulee came through in this drink. I was searching for any hint of vanilla, cream or sugar, but, after multiple sips, all I was left with was a mess of froth and whipped cream.

An illustration of a cup with creme brulee boba, a pink straw, placed in front of a brown and red gradient.
Creme Brulee Milk Tea. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

9. Coffee Milk Tea

Second to worst on the list is coffee milk tea. In between gulps of bitter coffee, you find solace in mouthfuls of tapioca. Let’s be real, if you’re ordering this boba, you’re probably just looking for a caffeine kick. My advice is to skip the boba and get a cup of black coffee instead. It’s the same effect that the original version of the drink would have, but easier to gulp down for a more effective intake of caffeine. If you still insist on ordering coffee milk tea, you can snag a cup at Lazy Sundaes.

An illustration of a cup of brown beverage with black boba at its bottom, a white straw, placed in front of dark purple background. There is a small circle with two coffee beans at the corner of the drink.
Coffee Milk Tea. (Illustration by Shiva Kansagara)

8. Classic Milk Tea

A classic milk tea is just that. It’s sweet and creamy, but beyond hitting the basic notes, it isn’t doing much. Still, what this drink lacks in depth of flavor and complexity, it makes up with reliability. No one is messing up an order of classic milk tea and almost every boba shop has it. It’s a dependable introductory drink, but not anything to reorder, especially when there are other more flavorful milk teas. You can get it at any boba shop or chain, like Wanpo Tea Shop or Gong Cha, but since the flavor is basic, maybe experiment with a different tea base, like oolong or green tea.

An illustration of a cup of cream colored drink, with black boba at its bottom, a white straw, a white lid, a white label with black handwriting, placed in front of a gray background.
Classic Milk Tea. (Illustration by Ana Cristerna)

7. Mango Green Tea

Mango green tea is a slightly elevated version of an already underwhelming flavor. Green tea by itself isn’t super exciting — neither the color nor flavor is particularly compelling to me. But, with a splash of mango juice, this drink takes on a new dimension. Despite its range of flavors, I don’t see myself ordering it again. But if you’re stuck in a boba rut and want to try something new, this flavor will challenge your taste buds. Yaya Tea makes the best fruity boba, but Wanpo Tea Shop is also a great contender. 

An illustration of a cup of yellow beverage, with black boba at its bottom, blocks of ice floating at its top, placed in front of a sky blue backgroundwith white bubbles all around.
Mango Green Tea. (Illustration by Kayla An)

6. Matcha Milk Tea

It’s the drink that leaves you wanting more. Matcha is Japanese green tea powder made from finely ground dried tea leaves. If the natural health benefits of matcha don’t draw you in, its vibrant green color might. However, matcha can be a divisive flavor. Some say matcha can taste grassy or earthy, but when paired with a subtle sweetener, the flavor evens out. Still, it can sometimes taste too healthy and I’d prefer something more indulgent. If you are committed to ordering matcha, CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice and Kung Fu Tea make it the best. 

An illustration of a cup of green and white beverage, with black boba at its bottom and a pink straw, placed in front of a blue background.
Matcha Milk Tea. (Illustration by Samantha Esmé Williams)

5. Thai Tea

If you’re unfamiliar with Thai tea, it has a lot going on, but in the best way possible. Thai tea is generally made from strongly brewed black tea which is then spiced with star anise, crushed tamarind, cardamom and occasionally other warm spices. If you’re feeling the autumnal spirit, there’s no better way to ring in the season than with a Thai milk tea. You can find this flavor at any chain boba store, but I enjoy it at Debutea or Moge Tee, both of which have locations near NYU’s Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses.

An illustration of a cup of brown beverage with black boba at its bottom and a yellow straw placed on a light blue background.
Thai Tea. (Illustration by Samantha Esmé Williams)

4. Jasmine Milk Tea

This is an order that will always satisfy your boba cravings. In my experience, it doesn’t matter which boba store you frequent — jasmine milk tea strikes the right balance between sweet and creamy. The subtle floral undertones round out this culinary symphony perfectly. If you’re new to bubble tea and want a foolproof order, it’s this one. Get this drink at Yaya Tea and grab one of its onigiri, or Japanese rice balls, while you’re there!

An illustration of a cup of white beverage with black boba at its bottom, a yellow straw, placed in front of light yellow background.
Jasmine Milk Tea. (Illustration by Candice Yao)

3. Brown Sugar Boba

In 2017, the boba shop Tiger Sugar created brown sugar boba and it has swept the boba market off its feet ever since. It even became a viral sensation in 2019 with its signature tiger stripes of caramel syrup around the inside of the cup being instantly recognizable. Like other milk teas, this drink is both creamy and satisfying. With its rich molasses flavor, it is the ideal boba order for a sweet treat pick-me-up between classes. While you can get the flavor at Tiger Sugar, it is also now available at almost any boba store including Kung Fu Tea, Xing Fu Tang and ViVi Bubble Tea. 

An illustration of a plastic cup with brown colored drink, black boba balls on the bottom, a pink straw, placed in front of a yellow gradient background.
Brown Sugar Boba. (Illustration by Victoria Liu)

2. Taro Milk Tea

Taro milk tea comes from taro root, a starchy vegetable that has a sweet, nutty flavor. When combined with sugar, taro also has a creamy vanilla undertone, making the drink light but still indulgent. Plus, the drink has a pretty lavender color worthy of a picture. For any die-hard milk tea drinkers looking for a subtle earthy kick, taro milk tea is the boba for you. Taro is also a widely accessible flavor, available at any chain boba store, but I recommend Chihiro Tea and Mi Tea which are both near Washington Square! 

An illustration of a cup of light purple drink, with blocks of ice at its surface, dark purple boba at its bottom, and a white transparent straw, placed in front of a light pink background.
Taro Milk Tea. (Illustration by Candice Yao)

1. Mango Yakult

Ask anyone with taste and they’ll tell you mango is a top-tier flavor, but combined with a shot of Yakult, this drink really can’t go wrong. It is sweet and fruity from the mango syrup, and slightly tangy thanks to the Japanese Yakult. Unsurprisingly addictive and refreshingly light, this is the perfect drink to bring you back to sunny stress-free summer days. Get yourself a cup at CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice or Kung Fu Tea.

An illustration of a cup of brown beverage, with black boba at its bottom, blocks of ice floating at its top, a white straw, and a small “Yakult” icon on the cup, placed in front of a light red background with a beige stripe slashed through the middle.
Mango Yakult. (Illustration by Quinn Sental)

I hope I haven’t angered my fellow boba drinkers, but I think we can all agree that whether you’re sticking with an old reliable or trying out something funky and new, you can’t beat a great bubble tea.

Contact Teresa Mettela at [email protected].

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