Whether you call it bubble tea, boba tea or pearl tea, the sweet, creamy drink is refreshing and delicious. It’s often flavored with fresh fruit along with a surprise: chewy, plump tapioca balls. It’s a yummy treat, especially on a warm day. Here are the top places in Chicago and the suburbs to indulge.
Disclaimer: Be careful with little ones and these kind of tapioca drinks; they do require chewing and could take a child by surprise.
Must try: Cheese foam green tea with coffee jello bubbles
This restaurant’s diversity shines through in its cuisine and drinks. The first to offer Taiwanese-style bubble teas, it was also the first to combine South Asian fruit freezes with tapioca balls. This uniquely popular idea of a smoothie with tapioca has since spread to other cafes.
Where: 2171 S. China Place, Chicago
Must try: Handcrafted garden milk tea
Currently in the phase of a soft opening, this unicorn-themed bubble tea experience favors quality service and ingredients. Guests are welcome to take a picture with the unicorn mascot outside of the shop.
Where: 2215 N. Halsted St., Chicago
Must try: Mango bubble smoothie
Recently having its grand opening, this cafe includes freshly squeezed juices, fusions, frappes, bubble smoothies and bubble teas. And what goes better with tea than rolled ice cream? With fresh fruit flavors, the smoothies can be topped with tapioca, jelly, or whipped cream.
Must try: Lava milk
Having recently closed the Uptown location, Bingo Tea is now only available in Chinatown. With layered milk, honey, and fruit drinks, you can satisfy any tea craving you might have in the best way.
Must try: Coffee Avocado or Banana Almond Boba
This quaint cafe situated across the street from the Arlington Heights train station serves up more than 14+ blended boba drinks. They also have a rotating seasonal menu to keep an eye on too. Not that I’m saying kids aren’t allowed here, but honestly, this is the perfect spot to have some “me time” while sipping on elevated fancy drinks.
Avalanche Bubble Tea
Must try: Fried Banana bubble shake
The menu is HUUUUUUUUUUGE. Signature namesake drinks are made with ice cream, making them extra indulgent and creamy. Avalanche is also known for its extremely fast service. Sip on your sweet treat and relax in their cozy little cafe.
Where: 1825 Waukegan Road, Glenview
Must try: Caramel Cream Boba Freeze
The teas are great, but so is the atmosphere at this Northern Suburb hot spot. Pre-COVID, the Boba Club arranged K-Pop and Halloween events, as well as fun gatherings around the holidays. In addition to a tea, check out the Brown Sugar Boba Tea-flavored Popcorn and Unicorn Cotton Candy.
Where: 7955 Golf Road, Morton Grove
Must try: Honey Milk Tea with honey bubbles
Voted one of the most authentic bubble tea spots in the northern suburbs, Cafe Koco Bowl offers a wide variety of milk teas, fruit teas and smoothies, as well as hot and cold coffee and teas. There are also delicious sweets to try, such as rice waffle cakes, macaroons, bingsu and honeybread. The teas are served with a fun emoji tops that are almost too cute to puncture with a straw.
Must try: Oreoberry Cheesecake
This born-in-Chicagoland company has locations all along the Western and Northern suburbs, and can’t be missed on any bubble tea itinerary. In addition to real fruit and imported teas, you can create your own concoction or order off the menu.
Where: 5237 Golf Road, Skokie
Must try: Lemon Rose cold fruit tea with peach poppers (It’s a bursting tapioca ball!)
This is the most adorable little cafe. Clearly a play on words, this place is adorned with dinosaurs everywhere. Even the logo is a cute cartoon T. rex (hand drawn by the owner). It’s perfect for little ones. They offer cold or warm fruit and milk teas, fruity ice blended drinks, frappes, coffee, tea and dessert waffles.
Where: 5404 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn
Must try: Tiramisu Milk Tea
The menu for this south suburban shop is extensive and includes two bubble teas – Earl Grey and Oolong – that require waits of 15 minutes or more (but so worth it)! Kids will love to try a taste of the Pocky (cookie sticks), stocked in six flavors.
Must try: Strawberry matcha milk
This aesthetically pleasing tea house offers a variety of teas, smoothies, and milks in hot, cold, and sometimes spicy flavors. With adorable cups with a girl in a panda hat, you’ll find yourself becoming one of those people who can’t help but take pictures of their food and drinks.
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This story originally published on ChicagoParent.com on April 23, 2018. It has been updated with the most recent information.