There’s nothing quite like your first time drinking bubble tea. Otherwise known as ‘boba’, there’s speculation about the origin of bubble tea, but it’s generally considered to hail from a teahouse in Taichung, Taiwan.
The Chun Shui Tang teahouse specialised in high mountain oolong tea and experimented with serving the drink cold and milky after the owner tasted cold coffee in Japan.
Since then, the bubble tea craze has travelled across continents with shops occupying corners of Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, China, America and Australia’s foodie capital—Melbourne. And it doesn’t seem like this particular bubble is bursting anytime soon.
If you’re looking to get your hands around some of the best chewable tea, in no particular order, here are the best places to get boba in Melbourne.
Gong Cha Tea
CBD & Richmond
Founded in Taiwan, Gong Cha is the act of offering the finest tea in the kingdom to the Chinese Emperor. Milky sweet bubble tea might not be what the emperor had in mind, but Gong Cha must be doing something pretty fine with 600 stores across Taiwan, America, Australia and other continents.
Hot tip: Try the Milk Foam Green Tea or Royal Pearl Milk Tea.
Box Hill & Ringwood
Founded in Australia by a trio of boba-dedicated fans, Tastea is brewed with natural tea leaves and there are no added preservatives. They are located in Box Hill and Ringwood, so you might have to grab a train towards the suburbs (it’s absolutely worth it).
Hot tip: Try the Mango Smoothie or Four Seasons Green Tea.
One of the most aesthetically-pleasing bubble tea stores in Melbourne, Gotcha tea’s gold accents, pastel pinks shades and Scandi-style interior marbling makes it look more like an upmarket Northside café than a takeaway boba store.
Hot tip: Try the Black Sugar Fresh Milk or Double Pearl Milk Tea.
CoCo Fresh Tea
CBD & Box Hill
If you can drink it, you can probably get it at CoCo. Tea choices include fresh tea, milk tea, fruit tea, yoghurt drinks, coffee and Slurpees.
Hot tip: Try the Taro Milk Tea with Sago or 2 Ladies.
A hole-in-the-wall, boutique tea store tucked onto Elizabeth Street, King Tea specialises in cheese foam-topped boba and brulee drinks. The slightly salted, creamy foam contrasts with sugary sweet milk in every addictive slurp.
Hot tip: Try the Uji Matcha Cheese Foam Milk Tea.
Handmade, premium tapioca pearls are what distinguish One Zo from other boba places in Melbourne. Tapioca dough is kneaded and infused with raw juices, caramel and a range of other mouth-watering ingredients.
Hot tip: Try the Green Milk Tea with white jade or caramel pearls.
Ori Tea is making a strong case for the best-looking boba in Melbourne. Bright, pastel-coloured milky tea is layered with picture-perfect foams and finished with a heart-shaped decorative.
Hot tip: Try the Cheesy Dragon Fruit Milk Tea.
Nestled in the bright lights of the Emporium, Tmix serves up boba alongside pillow soft doughnuts, so it’s pretty much as close to heaven as you’re going to get in the CBD.
Hot tip: Try the Yuzu Mojito or Hong Kong Milk Tea.
If you follow the trail of neon-coloured bubble tea, eventually you’ll find Sharetea—one of America’s most popular boba chains. They also serve a small range of tapioca pearl-inspired desserts.
Hot Tip: Try the Tiger Milk Boba or Strawberry Ice Blended with Lychee Jelly and Ice-Cream.
CBD & Maribyrnong
The team at The Alley make their own sugar cane syrup and handcrafted tapioca, resulting in a more delicately sweet drink.
Hot Tip: Try the Brown Sugar Deerioca & Fresh Milk.
Hailing from Shanghai, Happy Lemon serves simple bubble teas topped with tapioca pearls, pudding and jelly.
Hot Tip: Try the Green Tea with Salted Cheese.
One of the first bubble tea brands to hit Melbourne, Bubble Cup serves up milk teas, yoghurt-based drinks fruit juices, ice blends and smoothies.
Hot Tip: Try the Caramel Milk Tea.
Loosely translated to “tea time”, Chatime has one of the most extensive boba menus on some of the busiest streets in Melbourne.
Hot Tip: Close your eyes and point to something new on the menu.
Image credit: Gotcha