Header image courtesy of @foodiejacie (via Instagram)
Originally published by Sarah Moran. Last updated by Beverly Ngai.
Bubble tea has gained a cult-like following in Hong Kong, with new shops selling the famous Taiwanese tea-based drink with sweet, chewy tapioca balls popping up in every corner of every neighbourhood almost routinely. Besides being delicious, fun, and ever-so-trendy, they are also infinitely customisable. From traditional favourites to playful creations, here are a few of the best spots for bubble tea in Hong Kong.
You know this place takes their tea-making seriously when there’s an impressive row of giant, cylindrical “Teapresso” machines displayed on the wall behind the counter. Combining high-quality loose-leaf teas with an exclusive espresso-style pressure-brewing technology, Comebuytea delivers full-bodied flavours and aromas with each made-to-order drink. In addition to their expertly-crafted teas, this bubble tea chain is known for serving their beverages with mini taro and yam balls, which lend an addictively chewy bite and a subtle nutty flavour that keep customers coming back for more.
The highly-sought-after Taiwan-based bubble tea franchise graced Hong Kong with its house-made tapioca pearls and carefully brewed tea when it opened on Sai Yeung Choi Street back in 2017. The adorable deer-themed branding has made The Alley one of the most Instagrammed bubble tea spots. But it’s got top-notch beverages to back up the hype, too. Customers fawn over their signature brown sugar Deerioca series, which pairs slow-cooked tapioca pearls soaked in rich black sugar syrup with a variety of creamy milk and tea bases. Go for the brown sugar Deerioca milk ($28) to best experience the smoky, caramelised flavour of the brown sugar, or try the brown sugar Deerioca crème brûlée milk ($36) for an uber-indulgent and creamy slurp!
Bubble Lee prides itself on using only fresh, premium ingredients and stir-frying their brown sugar tapioca pearls in-house. Among the must-try drinks on the menu, the brown sugar bubble with fresh milk 2.0 ($33)—made with 30 percent more milk—stands out with its exceptionally rich milk flavour and velvety mouthfeel, which contrast beautifully with the plump, bouncy brown sugar-infused pearls. Looking for a lighter option? Their sweet white gourd drink with fresh lemon juice ($22) packs a refreshing and citrusy punch that makes for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
Bubble Lee, G/F, 38 Pilkem Street, Jordan | (+852) 6436 9999
Packaged in exquisitely designed floral cups bearing beautiful illustrations, the teas at Chun Fun How are as much Instagram fodder as they are mouth-watering beverages. You can expect to find all manner of flavoured teas on the inventive menu of this Taiwanese bubble tea chain, including their bestselling lychee four season tea with aloe vera ($36), sweet potato fresh milk tea with bubbles ($38), and purple sweet potato green tea latte with bubbles ($38). The tapioca bubbles here are particularly noteworthy, striking the right balance between chewy and tender, and layered generously on the bottom of your drink. Feeling extra peckish? Add a freshly toasted Taiwanese crispy pocket ($25) to your order and make it a meal.
Chun Fun How, G/F, Lap Fai Building, 6 Pottinger Street, Central | (+852) 3168 1683
As the self-proclaimed pioneer of the delicious and wildly-popular cheese-cap tea trend, Hey Tea offers high-quality tea topped with rich, salty cheese in an ingenious way. The mega-chain first gained widespread popularity on the Mainland and has since spread to four different locations around Hong Kong, with people queueing for hours just for a sip of their addictive cheese-cap tea, refreshing fruit tea, or bubble teas. Try the signature Mango Cheezo ($45) or Very Grape Cheezo ($49) to get a taste of what the hype is all about.
Hey Tea, Shop B216, B/F, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay | (+852) 3106 2996
Cha Long, literally translating to Tea Wolf, uses innovative brewing techniques and only the best tea leaves from Asia. They are best known for their handcrafted artisanal tea blends, and their popular fresh fruit cha comes in eight refreshing flavours for you to choose from. If you prefer something sweeter and more savoury, go for their sea salted cream cheese milk cap cha ($30).
Treat your tastebuds to a wide variety of Taiwanese teas at one of Hong Kong’s hottest tea vendors, Charles Tea Bar. Order the standard bubble milk tea with sweet potato and taro pearls, or try pairing the different pears with fruity milk instead. The brand’s refreshing floral bottled cold brews are also a must-try.
The bubble tea craze hit new peaks when black sugar milk tea hit Hong Kong, and you need only look at the insane queues at tea shops such as Tiger Sugar for proof. Best known for their black sugar boba milk ($30), Tiger Sugar is the pioneer of that tiger-stripe effect in brown sugar milk teas. The rich and sweet caramel is smeared on the sides of the cup, then the light milk tea is poured in, creating that Instagram-worthy effect.
With over 2,000 stores around the world and sixty years of history, TenRen is one of Hong Kong’s most well-known bubble tea destinations. The most traditional one out of the bunch, TenRen offers a wide variety of tea-based beverages for you to choose from, without compromising the tea quality. The 913 king’s oolong tea latte ($22) and the green tea latte with pearls ($21) are fine demonstrations of the classics done right.