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Best Bubble Tea (aka Boba/Pearl/Tapioca Tea)

Noodle fanatic Jun 21, 2010 07:14 PM

Who makes the best bubble tea in Manhattan? I'm talking about tapioca at the perfect chewy consistency and tea that tastes like tea and is not overpowered by syrup. (Sure you can ask for less sugar, but you know what I mean).

Most bubble-tea drinkers go to Saint's Alp, Quickly, or Ten Ren, but is there a place that blows all of them out of the water? I was extremely impressed by T-Kettle when it first opened a few years ago when it took a lot of care with brewing its tea and used real pieces (not canned) of lychee and longan, but alas, it seems they've done a 180 and now makes certain flavors from *gasp* powder. Its longan oolong tea is still pretty good, but is nowhere near the high quality it was at before (tip: ask for less sugar if you prefer the purer tea taste like I do, but avoid the flavors made from powder).

Which is your favorite place to get bubble tea, and which flavors does it most excel in?

  1. ChiefHDB Jun 21, 2010 08:20 PM

    Yeah T-Kettle has been my go-to, but it wasn't as good the last time I went. I like the one on Bayard with the Homer Simpson statue outside as well. I usually get straight black milk tea anyway, so they're less likely to use powder.

    10 Replies
    1. re: ChiefHDB
      Chandavkl Jun 22, 2010 11:30 AM

      That would be Vivi Bubble Tea at 49 Bayard. Pearls are nice and chewy, but the popcorn chicken is the main attraction there.

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      Vivi Bubble Tea
      49 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

      1. re: ChiefHDB
        Noodle fanatic Jun 22, 2010 04:49 PM

        ChiefHDB - I checked out some photos online and it looks like the place with the Simpson statue is Vivi. Will give it a try and report back.

        1. re: Noodle fanatic
          squid kun Jun 22, 2010 05:17 PM

          Say "Vivi" ... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4925...

          1. re: squid kun
            ChiefHDB Jun 22, 2010 05:22 PM

            Yeah, it's good...not too sweet with firm tapioca. I will be checking out the popcorn chicken next time I go, thanks for the rec Chandavki.

            1. re: ChiefHDB
              Noodle fanatic Jun 25, 2010 11:39 AM

              Just tried Vivi yesterday. Had the green tea bubble tea (w/o milk). Really liked the tea, but was a little disappointed with the tapioca, which was a bit too soft for me personally. Also, the size of the tapioca balls were just a teensy bit smaller than what I'd like (maybe 0.05% smaller?). Will try Teado soon and report back.

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              Teado
              145 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

              1. re: Noodle fanatic
                ChiefHDB Jun 25, 2010 11:53 AM

                Sorry you were disappointed, I also like them chewier. At the risk of sounding weird, I think TKettle and Ten Ren have the best balls I've tried. I want to check out Teado now too.

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                Teado
                145 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

                1. re: ChiefHDB
                  Noodle fanatic Jun 25, 2010 01:36 PM

                  Agree that TKettle has the best balls. I don't go to Ten Ren enough to remember the consistency of its balls. ChiefHDB, nothing could be weirder to me than the name Boba Tea (or 波霸奶茶, bo1 ba4 nai3 cha2). For those of you who don't speak Chinese or know the origin of the term, the word "boba" in Chinese is a slang term for big breasts ;)

                  1. re: Noodle fanatic
                    ChiefHDB Jun 26, 2010 04:38 PM

                    Went to Teado today while I was picking up some groceries. Good tea (had the black milk), not too sweet, but the balls were small and chewier than I'm used to.

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                    Teado
                    145 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

                    1. re: ChiefHDB
                      Noodle fanatic Jun 26, 2010 06:35 PM

                      Even smaller than Vivi's balls?

                      1. re: Noodle fanatic
                        ChiefHDB Jun 27, 2010 05:05 AM

                        Smallest. Balls. Ever.

      2. teresa Jun 22, 2010 08:04 PM

        My friends who like bubble/boba enjoy Quickly. There are two in Chinatown and one in Flushing. The other one is on Pell Street right by Joe's Shanghai. I took my Taiwanese friends to Vivi and they were not impressed. :( That used to be my go-to place as well!

        1. w
          wadawada Jun 22, 2010 08:37 PM

          Teado on Hester Street is my go-to in Chinatown now. They have a nice selection of tea flavors, polite service, and reasonable prices. Quickly is very mass market and artificial tasting, Ten Ren is still OK, and St Alps, while good, is currently closed for renovations until July.

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          Teado
          145 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

          2 Replies
          1. re: wadawada
            e
            ellabella Jun 23, 2010 01:38 PM

            second teado -- "tea that tastes like tea" for sure.

            1. re: wadawada
              teresa Jun 26, 2010 08:00 PM

              I went to Teado per your recommendation tonight. It was really good. I asked for half sugar for my passionf fruit green tea and the female employee let me try a little bit to make sure it was sweet enough. My friend got the Wind's Special and she picked mango soda with tapioca balls. My other friend got the starfruit slush with litchi jellies. The service was really good! I'll be back soon.

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              Teado
              145 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

            2. w
              williamsonoma Jun 25, 2010 12:09 PM

              My bubble to go place is Saint Alp.
              I think they just renovated the place.

              1. bolletje Jun 25, 2010 01:03 PM

                What about Teariffic, or whatever that place on Mott Street is called? I like their mocha milk tea. The tapioca is good there.

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                Teariffic
                51 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                2 Replies
                1. re: bolletje
                  Noodle fanatic Jun 25, 2010 01:34 PM

                  Teariffic has changed its name so many times over the years. Not sure if it's been run by the same people all along, but I remember it being basically the same as Saint's Alp back in the days when it had a rabbit logo (forgot the name but it was part of some Hong Kong chain). Not sure if it's changed since then.

                  1. re: bolletje
                    w
                    wadawada Jun 25, 2010 08:06 PM

                    Tearrific is also pretty good. Their Verdant Green special drink is excellent -- very refreshing.

                  2. thesu Jun 28, 2010 09:22 PM

                    It's a little pricier, but the bubble tea at Spot Dessert Bar is the best I've had in the city. I just had a black milk tea and there was something about it... I think it's $2 or $3 more than T-Kettle (which I still like).

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                    Spot Dessert Bar
                    13 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: thesu
                      Noodle fanatic Jun 28, 2010 11:01 PM

                      Just looked at Spot's website, it says the bubble teas are $4.25-$4.75, which is not as expensive as you made it out to be ;) How are their other desserts by the way? Is it worth the price? $7-$9 for "dessert tapas" seems a bit much...

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