Bubble tea in Hong Kong is still as popular as ever. And these days, it's no longer limited to your run-of-the-mill milk tea. The classic Taiwanese drink has now expanded to a plethora of flavours and mixtures, including the cheese milk cap tea and the oh-so Instagrammable brown sugar milk tea. It’s almost impossible to try them all. With more Taiwanese tea stores popping up all over the city, including the likes of Gong Cha, Sharetea and Heytea, all of which have gained a cult-like following in Hong Kong, trying to find your favourite can be a pretty overwhelming experience. So we’re here to make things easier by picking the best places to go to get your bubble tea fix. By Elaine Lok and Cara Hung
Hong Kong’s best bubble tea
Hailing from Taiwan, the founders of Bubble Tea Work are experts when it comes to bubble milk tea and are best known for their unique handmade pearls. If milk tea isn’t your cup of tea, you can enjoy your tea with flavours such as taro, osmanthus, mango, cherry blossom and matcha. Other must-haves include the brown sugar latte with pearls ($28), the cheese mango drink ($35) and osmanthus green tea with milk and pearls ($20). To top it off, they’re all so Instagrammable.
Cha Long isn't just popular for its milk teas. The tea shop's trendy packaging is loved by many, too. Queues are to be expected at their Central outlets, where locals all vie to get their hands on the fresh fruit and jasmine green tea ($36), fresh fruit and sugar cane tea ($38) and the roasted oolong tea ($22). Don't miss their desserts, either, like the oolong-flavoured cakes ($22) and pudding cup ($26).
Originating in mainland China, Charles Tea Bar has been rising in popularity amongst locals in this city. Long queues are a common sight thanks to specialty drinks like milk tea with white pearls ($20) and oolong tea with sea salt ($26). Unlike other teashops, Charles Tea Bar uses cold brewing methods to brew up all eight of its tea flavours, including oolong tea and cherry blossom tea. Bonus points for no added sugar in the boba.
For a taste of traditional Taiwanese bubble tea, head down to Chun Shui Tang Culture Tea House. Brought to Hong Kong by the 'original creators' of bubble tea, the shop has an overwhelming selection of Taiwanese teas and snacks to choose from. The quality of the tea does not disappoint either, featuring only tea leaves and sugar cane imported from the owners' farms in Taiwan, not to mention handmade pearls. Every beverage is handled with care. You can really taste the difference.
Yes, that is the name of this quirky Taiwanese-style tea shop located on Lyndhurst Terrace. Founded by Taiwanese celebrity Yako Chan, this store has adopted a silver-grey tone in its décor, giving customers a calm and cool atmosphere. To add to its unique branding, Taiwanese-based illustrator Norman Normal has helped design a distinct and trendy look for the products. Best-sellers here include the winter melon honey chrysanthemum tea ($18) and the berries and roselle sparkling water ($26). Try adding white pearls or sweet potato and taro pearls ($6) for extra texture – no yelling required.
A household name in the bubble tea community, Heeretea’s signature concoctions like the cheese berries tea ($42) and cheese pitaya tea are particularly vibrant in colour due to big chunks of fruit that come with each cup. Heytea and Heeretea share very similar menus with items such as cheese milk cap tea and fruit teas, but a must-have here is the cheese oolong tea ($35).
Building on the trend of hand-shaken teas in Taiwan, mainland China-based Heytea has taken Hong Kong by storm. Originally founded in the 90s, the tea specialist is now notorious for its cheese foam-topped drinks. It’s so popular that patrons are willing to queue up for hours just for a taste of the fruit tea ($36-$39) and signature bubble tea – or, as this shop calls it, bobo tea ($28). Don’t miss out on Heytea’s mango ($28) and bobo ($22) ice cream while you’re there too.
With more than 130 years of history in Hong Kong, Ying Kee is keeping up with the times by launching its first concept store, iTea, in Tsim Sha Tsui. Pricing its drinks at an almost exortionate rate of $100 per drink, iTea is certainly one of Hong Kong’s most expensive places to get your bubble tea. Have a go at the fresh fruit and cheese milk cap tea, Chinese-style pu’er tea with red beans and the pu’er tea and lemon latte. If you’re a fan of foam on your tea, take heart: this place is known for its rose foam and orange-peel foam.
The attention to detail is what makes Jen Ju Dan appealing to bubble tea lovers. If you’re particular about the pearls in your drink, you'll be happy to know that Jen Ju Dan is renowned for its meticulous process of cooking its pearls first in brown sugar, providing a natural sweetness to its most popular drinks. Crowd favourite orders include the fresh milk with brown sugar and pudding ($28), the oolong latte ($26), the Thai milk tea ($32) and the honey lemon chrysanthemum tea ($28).
Those who prefer their bubble tea milky should make a beeline for Milksha. The beverages here are served with fresh milk procured from Milksha's own pastures in Taiwan. One downside is that the portions here aren’t too large – cups are about the size of your palm – but the flavour of the drink makes up for it. We recommend going for the taro milk tea ($32), pu'er bubble milk tea ($28) and the brown sugar milk tea ($28), all of which are perfectly creamy and mildly sweet.