01 Dec Bubble Tea Addiction: Best Bubble Tea Shops in Taiwan
Okay, I have something to confess: I am a legit bubble tea addict. I’ll admit, it’s not the healthiest thing to drink in the world (it’s quite the contrary really), especially with its high fat and sugar content. During my clean eating times, I have made every effort to cut it out of my life, but I would always cave in to this awful cease & relapse period where I would eventually just go on a binge. Now I’ve learned to embrace my love for bubble tea, but consuming it in moderation as an occasional treat only. Hey, I’m Asian after all, right?
Bubble tea/Boba Milk Tea(珍珠奶茶) originated in Taiwan from the city of Taichung, dating all the way back to the 1980s when this drink was first invented. Bubble tea is now a fairly international drink that can be found in plenty of urban cities where there’s a decent Asian population size. I’ve personally tried bubble tea in numerous North American and Asian countries, and the quality and authenticity differ significantly between each location. Needless to say, the best bubble tea I have ever had is still from its motherland, Taiwan. Over my three months stay in Taiwan, I had officially become a bubble tea snob – seriously, the authentic bubble tea here kicks ass!
What makes a difference in the quality of the bubble tea really comes down to the tea leaves they use, the milk, the sugar and the pearl/jelly add-ons. Here I’m going to introduce to you some of my favorite bubble tea shops in Taiwan that really excel in delivering exceptional quality.
All of the shops introduced below have numerous branches across Taiwan. Simply input the Chinese names below into your Google Maps and perform a search to find the nearest location.
1. Wanzuo Shicha (丸作食茶)
Rationale: Home-made pearls
Wanzuo Shicha is probably one of my most visited bubble tea shop in Taiwan. Where they really get you is their flavored specialty pearls, freshly made in-house. Sometimes they get real creative and make adorable themed pearls like the Pokemon pearls below. Not gonna lie, their creativity was what first attracted me to this bubble tea shop.
Their pearls aren’t just for looks, though. Once you try them, you simply can’t go back to all those stale pearls they sell elsewhere. I’ve tried pearls from countless bubble tea shops by now and I have never had pearls so chewy in texture and fresh in quality. Each pearl is consistently plump and distinctly separated, never too mushy nor too hard. The lightly sweetened natural flavors combined with the perfectly bouncy texture taste like a party in your mouth. They come in a few different flavors: Original, Cactus, Caramel and Black Sesame. If you are an indecisive individual like me, you can also get a blend of three kinds of pearls to try them out for the first time (The blend includes the original, cactus and caramel flavors).
I recommend getting a “Green Tea Latte” with your selection of pearls, which is really just green tea with fresh milk instead of non-dairy creamer. I also get my bubble tea with slight sugar and slight ice, just enhancing the flavors lightly without overly sweetening it or watering it down.
2. Cha Tang Hui (茶湯會)
Rationale: Aromatic tea leaves
Cha Tang Hui is another one of my favorite franchised bubble tea shops. They have quite a market presence across Taiwan and it’s rather convenient to drop by the nearest store whenever you have cravings. Cha Tang Hui’s competitive edge definitely revolves around the delicacy of its tea leaves. The distinctive and unique aroma presented in their tea lattes is truly memorable and addicting to the taste buds.
I highly recommend trying Cha Tang Hui’s signature drink: Tieguanyin Tea Latte with pearls. For those of you who haven’t tried Tieguanyin before, it is a premium Chinese Oolong tea. Oolong tea is a fairly diverse tea type where the strength and taste can range from refreshing and light to complex and strong, and Tieguanyin generally falls somewhere in the middle. The tea leaves they use here at Cha Tang Hui give off an almost floral aroma (somewhat similar to that of green tea), but with a more distinct and complex taste.
I usually get their Tieguanyin Latte with pearls, slight sugar and slight ice. Their pearls are very different from the ones from Wanzuo Shicha. They are much smaller in size, chewy but not overpowering. The texture is rather smooth and complements the aromatic tea flavors very well.
3. Chun Shui Tang (春水堂)
Rationale: Inventor of first bubble tea
If you have ever wondered where the origin of bubble tea is, Chun Shui Tang may just be the answer. Chun Shui Tang is believed to be the inventor of the very first pearl milk tea.
(Photo by: Randy Yang)
Chun Shui Tang has been around since 1983. Being one of the oldest bubble tea shops in Taiwan, they really excel in delivering authentic quality and passing down the traditional tea culture in Taiwan. Chun Shui Tang started as a tea shop so needless to say that the quality of their tea is of an exceptional standard. The tea tastes very aromatic and flavorful yet surprisingly light and refreshing. They use small chewy pearls with crushed ice in their drinks, creating a very smooth consistency. The only downside to their drinks is that the price is a bit on the higher end.
4. Coco Fresh Tea & Juice (都可)
Rationale: Thirsty quenching fruit tea
Coco is actually a very popular franchised bubble tea shop all across the world – you can even find it in numerous North American countries. What I did realize upon arriving Taiwan was that the Coco tea menu was actually drastically different here in Asia.
I was a big Coco fan when I was back in Canada and I used to drink their milk tea all the time. In Taiwan, I don’t find their milk tea the most outstanding item on the menu, mostly due to the fierce competition from the other local tea shops. Also, their milk to tea proportion is not quite on the refreshing side, which isn’t ideal for Taiwan’s hot and humid weather. Now, where Coco does excel is in delivering thirst-quenching fruit tea, which is something many other local bubble tea shops don’t offer. My all-time favorite summer-time items are the Strawberry Fruit Tea and Fresh Apple & Passion Fruit Juice, truly refreshing and thirst-quenching. Also, it’s worth noting that Coco’s drinks are noticeably cheaper than other bubble tea shop. So why have one when you can have two? Haha.
5. 50 Lan (50嵐)
Rationale: Consistent quality control
50 Lan is a bubble tea shop that’s been around for a while now. It had a big market share until all the newer tea shops started to pop up left and right. It’s still a well-known bubble tea shop now, and they have maintained its high standard for using quality tea and pearls.
I recommend trying 50 Lan’s Si Ji Chun Tea/Milk Tea or the Black Tea Latte.
6. 兔子兔子 (Rabbit Rabbit Tea)
Rationale: International tea menu
Rabbit Rabbit Tea is a fairly new addition to Taiwan’s bubble tea shop scene. They have created an internationally inspired menu that includes a wide array of milk tea selections, such as English earl gray and blue lady, Thai tea, Italian tiramisu tea, Japanese buckwheat, and traditional Chinese tea such as Oolong and Tieguanyin.
If you like a strong and complex flavor, the Earl Grey Tea Latte would be the drink for you. If you like black tea but prefer a less overpowering taste, then the Blue lady Grey Tea Latte would be the right choice. It is infused with a citrusy aroma from orange and lemon zest and the taste becomes much more refreshing and light. If you like a traditional Chinese tea, I would suggest getting the Tieguanyin Tea Latte. I personally think the Tieguanyin Tea Latte here is a little bit more bitter than the ones from Cha Tang Hui. The tea is still very aromatic, though.
7. Milk Shop (迷客夏)
Rationale: Locally produced fresh milk
Milk Shop is very popular bubble tea shop favored by many Instagrammers, bloggers and young people in general. I have not personally tried this as the store locations were a little far from where I lived. I’ve included Milk Shop in this blog post mostly because it is highly recommended to me by the locals.
Milk Shop uses fresh milk delivered from a local farm to make all of their milk-based drinks, hence you can expect high-quality ingredients and also support a good cause. If you ever get to try their drinks, let me know your thoughts!
As I spent the majority of my time in Taipei, there are a lot of local tea shops located in other parts of Taiwan I have not yet tried. I would love some recommendations if you have any and I will pay a visit next time I’m in town!