Taiwan’s bubble tea is a local favourite gaining worldwide fans thanks to cafes opening across Asia, the US and Europe. Here, we take it back to its roots, tracing the best spots to taste the real deal back home in Taiwan.
Should you find yourself standing outside a café with a queue winding round the block in Taiwan, the chances are you’re outside an establishment that serves bubble milk tea, also known as pearl milk tea or, more popularly, ‘Boba’. A cult favourite in its hometown, this distinctive drink has now made international waves, with speciality cafes cropping up in cities all around the world.
The Boba that make up this distinctive drink are actually tapioca balls, small, chewy black spheres made from a gluten-free starch extracted from the root of a cassava plant. They’re served up in a milky black tea and come in all sorts of flavours from oolong to green tea, with toppings from grass jelly to taro. You can even find them with a thin layer of rich, cream cheese on top, or in beautiful gradient shades of swirling blues and purples. Below are our picks of the 5 best traditional Boba cafes you can find in Taiwan – places to check out for the original bubble tea.
Chun Shui Tang 春水堂
With its traditional Chinese architecture and long history, Chun Shui Tang is one of two Boba chains in Taiwan that claim to have invented the original Boba. Doubling as a sit-down restaurant, Chun Shui Tang is a great place to visit if you want to sample some local delicacies along with your traditional Boba.
Chen San Ding 陳三鼎
Lauded as one of the best Boba joints in the city, Chen San Ding is a local favourite in Taipei famed for their tapioca balls simmered in brown sugar; their lines are often intimidatingly long, stretching till the end of the street. But fear not! Due to their astounding efficiency, it’s never a long wait to get a cup of sweet deliciousness of your own.
Milk Shop 迷客夏
Established by a Taiwanese dairy farmer, Milk Shop is the only Boba spot in Taiwan that has its own dedicated ranch, and they pride themselves on using all-natural ingredients in every drink. On top of their popular milk-based options, they are also one of the only places that offers soy alternatives.
Jen Chu Dan 珍煮丹
Originally a humble stall in Shilin Night Market, Jen Chu Dan has shot to fame in the past few years with its delicious combination of brown sugar tapioca balls and fresh milk and have now expanded with shops all over Taiwan and an opening in Hong Kong due in late July. With a menu boasting more than 70 kinds of bubble tea, here’s your place to try something new.
[Image by 4foodie]
OneZo Tea 丸作茶食
If you are looking to add more colour in your Boba, then OneZo Tea is the shop for you. Their specialty? Five flavours of tapioca balls including bamboo charcoal and pink cactus, each with a distinct colour and taste that are made freshly in store every day.
Tucked away in an alley in the bustling Eastern district, this new addition to the Taipei Boba scene is making its mark as a tea shop deeply rooted in traditional Taiwanese culture. Jiate, which means drink tea in Taiwanese, is a phrase friends would call out to each other in times gone by to communicate love and care. With this heritage in mind, the tea leaves used in the store are all sourced locally, and their poetic drink names inspire a sense of nostalgic warmth.