London's best bubble teas
Where to find the best bubble teas in the capital
Bubble teas originated in Taiwan in the 1980s, then became popular in Hong Kong and across the Far East. They can be milky (like a light milkshake), or based on tea, coffee or fruit-based soft drinks. Globes of starch – tapioca-like taro or sago pearls, for example – nestle at the bottom of the plastic cup, adding some novel chewiness to these thirst-quenching drinks.
The best bubble teas in London
49 Rupert St, W1D 7PF (020 7494 4231).
This new bubble tea shop is gimmicked to the hilt with bubbling chemistry sets in the window and gnomic slogans on the plastic cups. We found the vanilla tea almost sickly sweet; the passionfruit was better. But the 'bubbles' are a cut above, with just the right amount of bounce and chew. Prices are average: £3.25 for a medium drink, £3.75 for large.
102 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EJ (no phone).
More takeaway than café – there are only a few seats at the window – this Candy Café (see below) spin-off is nonetheless a dependable option. Fruit- and milk-based bubble teas are available, and there’s an option to add bits to your cup, such as nata de coco (fermented coconut water). The passionfruit green tea is refreshing.
47-49 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0AN (020 7534 9898).
The upstairs tables with windows overlooking Charing Cross Road are the best spots for slurping bubble tea (we love the slightly bittersweet, nutty black sesame version) and people-watching. A watermelon juice with tapioca pearls wasn’t quite the thirst-quencher we expected, though.
3 Macclesfield St, W1D 6AU (020 7434 4581).
This reminds us of tiny, independent 'upstairs cafés' in Hong Kong, where ground-floor spaces are at a premium. Find the steps next to Leong's Legends and you're halfway there. Along with bubble tea (we like the coconut-infused milk tea) you can enjoy food such as thick toast spread with kaya (coconut jam). Students receive a 10 per cent discount from noon-5pm weekdays.
8 East Yard, Camden Lock, NW1 8AL (020 7267 4719).
This tiny shop fits right into its quirky Camden surroundings, with modish design, bright colours and cheerful staff. It's good for novices, as the various types of bubble tea (milk or fruit based, or an icy version they call 'crush') and even the ratios used for each are clearly explained. The fruit flavours use a base of either green or oolong tea, and guava and honeydew are among the options.
22 Wardour Street, W1D 6QQ (020 7434 9544).
With its menu of noodle soups, large one-plate meals and bubble teas, HK Diner is a favourite of Cantonese students. Usefully, it's open until the wee hours (4am) for late-night bubble cravings. Try a yin-yang variety: a coffee and tea mix popular in Hong Kong. The traditional milk tea with pearls (thick with evaporated milk) is authentic Hong Kong, too.