Bubbles and tea? You might be wondering how the two even go together. Bubble tea is another name for Boba Tea. Although it historically started as black tea with milk and tapioca balls, “bubble tea” has changed throughout the year due to the exceptional amount of options and customizations available.

Bubble tea originated from Taiwan in the 1980s and has became internationally popular. It comes in tons of different flavors and toppings, but the basic bubble tea, also known as milk tea, consists of tea, milk, and tapioca balls. The tapioca balls are what makes the “bubbles” in bubble tea. These drinks usually come in a clear plastic cup with a vacuum sealed cover. To drink it, you break the seal with a big straw. They’re purposely big so you can also get the chewy tapioca balls out when you drink it.  

Here’s a diagram of a basic bubble tea:

Black milk tea is the OG bubble tea that’s on every menu at every location. However, if you don’t like black tea, you can try other milk teas such as green tea, oolong, or jasmine. 

Maybe milk teas don’t interest you, or you’re lactose intolerant. No worries. Under the umbrella of bubble tea, there are fruit teas or mixed teas. You can think of them as different flavored iced tea. To list a few of them, there’s passion fruit green tea, mango green tea, and lemon black tea. People usually get them with jellies instead of tapioca balls.

Jellies? Yes, there are also other topping options besides tapioca balls!

Things can get confusing with so many options nowadays. However, it’s quite simple! You choose what type of tea you want, whether it’s milk tea or a mixed tea and you can add a topping — or two if you’re feeling adventurous. Some bubble tea places now offer even more customization — such as how much ice or sugar you’d like in your tea. And, to top it all off, you can also find hot milk tea, which makes bubble tea the perfect indulgence year round!

So, now that you understand what bubble tea is, where do you go for it? Well, once you step into Philadelphia’s Chinatown, you have tons of options for bubble tea! However, don’t assume they’re all the same. 

Here are a few Netplus favorites:

Kung Fu Tea

This is a bubble tea chain that has expanded nationally. I’ve gone to New Jersey, Maryland, and Chicago and have always found a Kung Fu Tea. They’re well known for their bubbles. If you go to other bubble tea shops, their bobas aren’t usually sweet, but at Kung Fu Tea, they always are! I’m not a huge fan of tapioca balls, so I’ll only get it if I’m going to Kung Fu.


A Cup of Tea

A Cup of Tea is a new, local bubble tea shop. It’s easy to miss as it’s quite hidden on the outskirts of Chinatown. I’ve tried the different types of bubble teas they have and love them all. However, what stood out to me is their fruit teas, which isn’t like any other tea I’ve tried. t’s green tea blended with the fruit. On the menu, there’s blueberry tea, strawberry tea, or pineapple tea. They don’t usually come with toppings but you can definitely add it if you would like.

Mr. Wish

They’re known to make the freshest fruit teas. As soon as you walk in, you know it’s really fresh. They are a popular chain that started in Taiwan, and is now an international international brand. Mr. Wish also offers unique drinks choices using carbonated water called “Sparkling Babo.” Definitely not your typical bubble tea.

 

Tea Do

Tea Do is more known for their mixed teas than their milk tea. They first opened in Philadelphia and are franchising. They have unique names for their mixed teas such as “The Hulk,” “Sunset,” or “Tropical Twister.” If you don’t like the toppings the drinks come with, don’t worry! You can always change or remove them.

 

How does one become a bubble tea expert? You just have to constantly try something new each time. You’ll eventually find your favorite place or your favorite tea. Netplus is located outside of Chinatown and we usually make bubble tea runs a few times a week. So, it makes it convenient to try something new each week. I can’t tell you where the best bubble tea is because we all have our preferences, but this list should give you a great place to start!