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Xing Fu Tang bubble tea
Photographs: Xing Fu Tang. Composite: Steve Beech

The best places to try bubble tea in London

This sweet, chewy, and endlessly-customisable drink is taking the city by storm.

Written by
Alice Saville
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A decade ago, you'd be hard pressed to find a bubble tea shop outside Chinatown. But now, Londoners are rarely more than a few minutes away from bubble tea shops that offer a thrilling variety of options. Classic milk tea, popping pearls, cheese, cornflakes... if you can suck it through an extra-wide straw, you can probably find it topping a bubble tea somewhere in this city. 

Bubble tea was invented by an enterprising tea shop in Taiwan's Taichung City, where a cafe owner had the idea of adding chewy tapioca 'pearls' to his signature drink. So it's unsurprising that many of London's bubble tea shops are branches of Taiwan-based chains like Yi Fang or Ding Tea. But there are plenty of smaller outfits serving up creative takes on this fun beverage, alongside snacks like wheelcakes or pork buns. Here's our pick of the very best.

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Where to try bubble tea in London

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Hammersmith

This whimsically named little Hammersmith spot has built up a cult following for its seriously good bubble tea, based on sophisticated, not-too-sweet flavours. Cream cloud tea is a particular speciality; worship at the altar of dairy with jasmine green tea topped with pink salt cream, or a lavish crème brulée tea crowned with burned brown sugar. And there's also a choice selection of fashionable Taiwanese snacks, including wheelcakes, katsu burgers, and basil fried chicken. 

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Trafalgar Square

If you want to see how the 'pearls' in bubble tea are actually made, head to Xing Fu Tang, which whips up hourly batches in a huge cauldron. This premium Taiwanese chain prides itself on steering clear of artificial flavours and preservatives, instead favouring natural flavours and real tea. The house special is a brown sugar milk that comes topped with freshly blowtorched sugar, crème brulee style.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Soho

This Japanese-style bubble tea shop in Soho is pricier than most, but it's worth it for flavours and toppings you just won't find anywhere else. These include their standout housemade honey tapioca pearls, yoghurt popping pearls, plus a range of matcha-flavoured brews. Order via a screen, and find out why this spot regularly attracts long queues.

  • Restaurants
  • Bubble tea
  • Herne Hill

This classy Herne Hill café offers more places to sit and linger than your average bubble tea spot, with perches arranged around a giant money tree plant. The focus here is on proper freshly brewed tea: the rose bubble tea is a highlight, with real rose petals lurking in its depths. And there are also luscious cheese crown options, perfect for lovers of all things creamy. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Soho

This high-end bubble tea purveyor boasts of using organic milk only (no powder) and loose leaf teas that are freshly brewed to order (rather than being made in batches). This purist approach pays off in drinks with an enjoyably sophisticated flavour, including Earl Grey and Rooibos options, as well as a strong range of matcha-based flavours.  

  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

When it opened back in 2011, Bubbleology was London's first bubble tea shop, tasked with introducing this city to the chewy, bouncy joys of tapioca pearls. These days, their USP is that they're pretty much the only place around that serves boozy bubbles. Head to their Soho bar and you can enjoy alcohol-laced drinks including the Bailey's caramel kiss. Or stick to daytime options like the banoffee pie: either way, these are extravagant drinks for those with a serious sweet tooth.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Leyton

This Leyton joint serves up seriously creative bubble teas with a South Asian flavour: its owners blend their heritage with Taiwanese techniques to create kulfi, karak and rose-flavoured offerings. A kinda-cool, kinda-terrifying boba mural seals this place's status as a bubble tea spot that stands out from the crowd. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Chinatown

Pretty much any day of the week, you'll see a long line of thirsty punters outside Chinatown's Cuppa Cha, which has been serving up bubble teas for nearly a decade. The tiny shop definitely isn't a place to linger, but it does serve up plenty of drinks you'd struggle to find elsewhere. Their butterfly pea ombré drinks have to be the prettiest offerings on the menu, offering sunset-like colour combos that are made for the gram. And there are also supersweet, crowdpleasing specials, like the Oreo-topped series.  

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