BOBA (or bubble tea- depending on which coast you're on- I'm FROM NYC so I generally call it BBT) is my FUEL. It's the sunshine after the rain. The only thing that can light up my day.... an awesome, well-brewed cup of tea with milk. It's safe to say that I've tried every kind of bubble tea (original) flavor in all of Flushing, Queens and have extensive training drinking it in Taiwan and Hong Kong... so I'm an expert. Friends of mine are constantly asking me where is the best place to get bubble tea... so I decided to create this list. A comprehensive blog post summarizing my favorites, thoughts and opinions to help some of you navigate the murky waters of boba and hopefully get yourself out of drinking the crappiest forms of it.
I have been meaning to write this piece for ages but honestly haven't had the time to do it-- but since moving into my new office space and being totally horrified by the "best dumplings of flushing" video via "Thrillist"- I felt an obligation to do Flushing a solid and help my community out, LOL. Hopefully I will also get a chance to write one for dumplings in the near future...
Other possible useless information: there's a difference between REAL milk tea and POWDERED milk tea. A lot of places tend to use powder- that's how they can make so much so quickly (haha who gets this joke) - and the taste just doesn't live up to the kind of milk tea that Taiwanese people intended... so just keep that in mind when you're drinking milk tea. I always try to get real milk tea. There are also a lot of places that use COFFEE MATE creamer instead of REAL MILK which can change your outlook on whether or not you'd want to put so much of this chemical junk into your body. I'm not 100% sure which spots use what... so if you know, give me a heads up. Thanks!
Also FYI: This list is for BASIC MILK TEA WITH TAPIOCA (which is actually my favorite - I don't really enjoy all those weird exotic mixes)
1. SHINY TEA
Address: 136-19 38th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
My order: Pu-erh Milk Tea with 50% Sugar, 50% Ice, Less Tapioca
Tips: Get the STAMP card (comes in handy, 1 free drink after 10)
Currently my TOP contender for BEST BOBA in ALL OF NEW YORK CITY. (YES I'M DRAMATIC BUT THIS IS LEGIT) These guys make their boba with real tea and apparently they say their tea is "authorized by Mr. Tsung-Ho Tu, the inventor of Taiwan's Tapioca Milk Tea". I don't care, whether they're lying or it's true, whatever the case is- this stuff is GOOD. Their teas are phenomenal. So good that there are times where I will get black tea straight up! They brew many different kinds of tea, but my top favs are: 1) Oolong 2) Pu-er 3) Tie Guan Yin. Aside from their tea, their tapioca is totally up to par as well. Soft, chewy and just the right amount of sweet. They also offer the black tapioca AND the white small pearl tapioca (which basically tastes the same but a smaller version) ... so if you like variety in your mouth- here you go! I personally am not a fan of the smaller ones, so again, I stick to my basic milk tea with black tapioca.
2. TEN REN
Address: 135-18 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
My order: Black Milk Tea with Less Tapioca
Tips: Get the STAMP card (comes in handy, 1 free drink after 10)
My second favorite (or probably the same amount of love) goes to Ten Ren. They also brew their teas and are known famously FOR their tea leaves. They began their humble beginnings as a tea leaves shop and then decided to also offer milk tea... smart move! I LOVE their tea and their tapioca balls are BOMB. I actually think their tapioca balls taste better than the ones at Shiny Tea... as why these two shops are both my top favorites. Ten Ren's tea has a very specific taste as well and a slight bitterness for a kick- which I love! Their milk tea is smooth and delicious and generally gives me a sense of homey comfort when I drink it. Is that weird... ?
3. CHINESE BAKERies: Taipan & FayDa
Price: $2.50 - $3.25
Taipan: 3725 Main St. Flushing, NY 11354
Fay Da: 136-18 39th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
My order: Milk tea with less sugar (I never get tapioca at the bakeries)
Don't know if you guys know, you can also always get milk tea with Tapioca from any Chinese bakery in Flushing. What I love about Chinese bakeries is how delicious their milk tea is- they generally brew real tea to use in their milk tea AND use REAL milk- so that wins a lot of extra points with me. Generally their tapioca is a bit lame and watery- very lackluster in my opinion-so that's where it falls short. My husband LOVES it though- he think's the tasteless tapioca is a good offset for the sweet milk tea. But if you're sometimes looking for just a simple good ol' iced milk tea (with no tapioca) - I'd recommend going over to the Chinese bakeries. Side note: They also have amazing Yin-Yurn, a cantonese drink that mixes coffee and milk tea together! I know it may sound gross- but I grew up with it, and I LOVE it!!
Address: 136-49 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 (They have 3 locations in Flushing)
My order: Black Milk Tea, 50% sugar, 50% ice and less tapioca
Coco is by far the best milk tea CHAIN shop. Whatever they're doing- it is definitely one of the contenders out there to be as close to real tea as possible. This is my go-to bubble tea when it's super late at night and I've just finished an amazing savory meal and want to cap it off something sweet, like boba.... this is it. I don't think their tapioca is all that bad either. This is safe bet when you just want something quick and easy- convenient even... since they have 3-4 locations in Flushing...! The only issue with them is that they do use some sort of powder, either it's creamer or powder milk tea mixed with some real tea- but whatever it is, I'm sure it's not the most "organic" choice. Side note: If you're looking to try a different drink, I would actually recommend their two ladies drink- which is grass jelly and pudding as the toppings instead of tapioca!
5. KUNG FU TEA
Address: 41-11 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY 11355 (they have three locations)
My order: Black Milk tea, 50% sugar, 50% ice, less tapioca or WOW Milk - NO sugar, and Red bean
Kung Fu Tea ranks second best of milk tea chains. Their milk teas aren't bad- but they aren't spectacular either. I believe the thing that allows KFT to stand out is that they use lactaid instead of real milk. Apparently a lot of us Asians are Lactose-Intolerant... so I guess this would be a really great selling point for a lot of people. Their milk tea has a rougher taste to it, so it also gives it a kick which is more than I can say for other places. I'm also not sure how KFT makes their ingredients, their website states that they use all fresh teas brewed every 3 hours or something, something.... but there is some sort of mixing of powder going on back there. *shrug. Side note: I do think their "WOW-MILK" drink is really good - which is basically fresh milk (lactaid) with red bean. (Another childhood cantonese thing...)
6. Vivi Bubble Tea
Address: 41-42 Main St, Flushing, NY 11355
My order: Black Milk Tea with 50% sugar and less ice.
Vivi is pretty new to the Flushing bubble tea scene. I think they only opened about 6 months ago. Their marketing and design is pretty cute. Skulls and cute little characters- but other than that, their milk tea is just..... okay. It actually tastes EXACTLY like Kung Fu Tea... they must buy their stuff from the same wholesaler or something, heh. I literally tried each one back to back and swear that they taste EXACTLY the same! So I guess Vivi is a good option if KFT is too far to walk to and you really just want milk tea.
7. GONG CHA
Address: 136-20 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354 (They have 2 locations in Flushing)
My order: Foam Black Milk Tea with Tapioca, 50% sugar, less ice
Their motto is, "Tea Fit for Royalty" - YEAH OK, it's fit for royalty because you're charging an arm and a leg for mediocre milk tea. I honestly really dislike this place the MOST. Their gimmicky "foam milk tea" tastes like salty milk tea and the actual milk tea itself tastes watery and thin. To be honest, I'd rather drink gourmet coffee than blow $5 on this stuff. Maybe it's just a preference but it's not somewhere I'd like to go. It's actually the closest to my apartment, yet I'd still rather walk a little more just to get something I can actually drink or choose NOT to drink boba if this is my only option.
And there you have it, my boba ranking for specifically Flushing, Queens. There are a lot of great boba places popping up all over New York City that I'd recommend as well. Boba Guys do a fantastic job keeping the recipe pure- so kudos to them. It's really great to see the growth of this dessert drink. I remember back when I was 21 years old, bringing this stuff into my first office and everyone was either horrified or confused as to what this "drink" was. Now basically everyone on the street KNOWS what boba is, so, that makes me happy.
There are CONSTANTLY places being opened then shut down due to the high turnover of restaurants/drink places in Flushing. These places have closed down over the years (due to so much competition!!) but have special places in my heart:
QUICKLY - Pretty much THE OG for bubble tea in Flushing. They had 3 locations at their peak and offered student discounts. Their clutch item was their fired (fried) taiwanese popcorn chicken and their milk tea. Miss them!
CHA TIME - Open/closed relatively quick- opened for 2 years? They offered a lot of buy 1 get one 1 free bubble teas. Their milk tea was watery and meh. Their old shop is still a Pokemon Stop.
COME BUY - Was open for a pretty long time back in the day, shared a space with a shoe shop. Their specialty was also having little pearl tapiocas along with the large black ones.
Newer spots I have yet to try:
Momo Ashi (they took over Cha-time's old spot and now sell "waffles" accompanied with Milk Tea. I did not review because I didn't feel like their milk tea would be anything spectacular since their main focus is on the waffles.
Mr. Wish - Opened in one of those tunnel malls, I also did not try because I honestly don't think they will stand the test of time.
Happy Lemon - I have had their milk tea before, and it's all right. Nothing memorable. I also feel like this spot is for their lemon-y drinks... hence their store name.
That's pretty much all the good stuff you can get in Flushing! Hope you enjoyed this post! PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY SO WE CAN ALL BE A LITTLE MORE EDUCATED ON OUR BUBBLE TEA CHOICES! HAHA
PS: If you guys have any recommendations/comments/suggestions or do not agree to what I've posted in this list, feel free to send me an email/dm/msg whatever to chat more about it! I'm open to change and trying new things !!