Three bubble teas
Photograph: Stephanie-Bowie Liew

The best bubble tea in Melbourne

From farm-fresh milk teas to dairy-free alternatives, plus all the toppings under the sun, the possibilities for adventure are endless at these top boba spots

Contributor: Lauren Dinse
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We have no doubt you've drunk plenty of the stuff, but how much do you really know about bubble tea? Tapioca is a variable and versatile ingredient thanks to its high starch content, which gives it a delightfully chewy texture when cooked. It’s used in many forms across many countries, in dishes such as Brazilian pão de queijo and Malaysian kuih, but one of its greatest applications is to make the soft, springy pearls found in your bubble tea.

Invented in Taiwan in the 1980s, bubble tea has rapidly evolved from a trend to one of the globe’s most popular non-alcoholic beverages. Several decades since its inception, the bubble tea boom continues with more and more shops popping up in Melbourne each year, from international chains to locally owned iterations. The beauty of bubble tea is that each experience is different – at most stores, every step of the process can be customised from choosing your tea base and toppings to selecting sugar and ice levels. From chewy grass jelly to thick, cheese-flavoured foam and chunks of taro, options go far beyond your basic boba pearls, though they’re always a safe option. 

No matter how you take your tea, you can’t go wrong with these top spots.

Prefer a brew? These are Melbourne's top spots for a coffee in the CBD. And if you need something to eat on the run, try out the best cheap eats in Melbourne

Melbourne's top nine bubble teas

Choulee Tea House

Most of Melbourne’s best bubble tea shops are international chains but Choulee is one of the few that started locally. Each cup is branded with its adorable koala mascot, also depicted on the wall of the sleek white CBD shop. Choose from milk or fruit tea, plus several varieties of boba and jelly. If you’re less conventional, add some Oreo cookie crumbs or tiramisu foam to create your own drinkable dessert.

Order: the mango cheese tea. 

Widely considered one of Melbourne’s best boba joints, Xing Fu Tang stands apart from the crowd for one main reason: they stir-fry the boba pearls in brown sugar syrup, giving them a rich caramelisation and slightly nutty flavour profile. Experts suggest pairing them with a fresh milk base to let the boba shine, but you can also choose from strawberry, chocolate or taro milk, fruit tea or even soda if your heart so desires.

Order: the signature brown sugar boba milk. 

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This Werribee gem's Google business page is packed with glowing reviews, "hands down the best tea place in Melbourne" comments and we can't disagree. With a wide variety of Malaysian, Japanese and traditional bubble tea varieties, simply choose a milk or fruity base and go wild with toppings! The spacious bubble tea shop has a luxurious feel, perfect for sipping on a sweet drinkable treat of your choice. They also use A2 milk here, which is easier on some folks' digestion. Fantastic customer service and delish cakes are simply the cherries (or in this case, cheese foam) on top! 

Order: the hojicha.

  • Cafés
  • Melbourne

Gotcha is one of Melbourne’s biggest bubble tea brands, but it maintains quality control by farming its own tea in the Alishan Mountains of Taiwan. Its flavour combos are more intriguing than you may find elsewhere – think bamboo charcoal milk tea, barley green tea with cheese foam and even a creamy strawberry collagen drink that’s touted for skin health. If you’re keen for a taste, you can find Gotcha locations scattered around the CBD and in most major shopping centres.

Order: the black sugar fresh milk.

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With a vast range of toppings and bases, from brown sugar ginger milk tea to frozen Oreo cocoa slush, the Alley’s got lots to offer across its five Melbourne locations. The 'deerioca' pearls don’t taste much different to standard boba pearls, but the name is cute and the drinks follow suit – marbled or even sparkle-spiked drinks are a key part of the repertoire, ideal for those who eat with their eyes.

Order: the brown sugar deerioca and crème brulée fresh milk. 

Founded in 2016 in Melbourne, Australia, this delightful boba shop is a favourite for city-dwellers in need of a sweet tea fix. Their cheese tea range is adored for its unique taste, and each innovative flavour is rigorously researched and taste-tested before launching to the public. In 2018, Top Tea even set up its own baking research lab for creating beautiful desserts. Check it out the next time you're in the CBD!

Order: the Milk Green Tea with Chestnut Paste, Whipped Cream and Caramelised Pecans. 

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  • Cafés
  • Hawthorn

Yes, you'll find all your favourite milk, cream cheese and fruity bubble tea classics at this Taiwanese export, but what sets Machi Machi truly apart is its signature bubble tea flask bottles and the famous Black Milk Tea Crème Brulee flavour – a Machi Machi invention. Machi Machi have also just recently released a limited edition run of merch in collaboration with one of the most revolutionary artists of the '80s, Jean-Michel Basquiat. It sees the legendary Machi Machi flask bottle sporting iconic Basquiat insignia and logo – so cute! The collection is limited to only 2000 bottles so get your hands on one quick. 

Order: the Black Milk Tea Crème Brulee.

Don’t drink dairy? You can still get your bubble tea fix at Nuttea, Melbourne’s first and only vegan bubble tea store. The teas are crafted with a housemade nut mylk blend plus your choice of tea (think Earl Grey, oolong or matcha). You can even pour over coffee if that's your preference. An optional but strongly suggested addition is a dollop of traditional or chocolate nut cream, which is just as delicious by the spoonful as it is paired with your favourite tea.

Order: the Earl Grey tea with chocolate nut cream. 

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With walls lined with rectangular glass bottles of technicolour tea, Instea is one of the prettiest bubble tea shops around. The brand was founded in Malaysia and was warmly received when it launched its first international store in Melbourne in 2020. The menu is subtly inspired by its home country with flavours such as Ovaltine. As for boba, there are two different tapioca varieties as well as agar pearls and yogurt-filled popping pearls.

Order: the summer passion fruity. 

Milksha is an Australian take on the Taiwanese bubble tea brand, Milkshop, and as the name suggests, it’s all about dairy here. You can’t go wrong with the fresh milk range, which includes taro, hojicha and black sesame, though the coffee series (a collaboration with St Ali) is also well worth a try. Following the dairy trend, a scoop of thick pudding is the perfect way to top your drink. And don’t forget the honey boba pearls, which are cooked fresh in-store each day.

Order: the honey pearl milk.

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  • Cafés
  • Melbourne

Gong Cha was one of the first major bubble tea shops in Melbourne and it’s still going strong. The menu is broken up into categories such as brewed tea, health tea and creative mix, which includes unique combos such as ​​grape green tea with basil seeds. Taro, matcha and classic milk tea are still the top sellers though, available with toppings ranging from black pearls and red bean to coffee jelly.

Order: the Earl Grey milk tea with 3Js. 

Still craving something sweet?

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