12 Exceptional Places in the United States to Get Your Bubble Tea Fix

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12 Exceptional Places in the United States to Get Your Bubble Tea Fix
What started as a popular cup of black tea, condensed milk, and chewy tapioca pearls in 1980s Taiwan has since become a borderless indulgence that garners inspiration from all corners of the world. Tea shops today offer dozens—if not hundreds—of tea and juice flavors, ranging from the wild (cookie dough or sangria, anyone?) to the global classic (Thai iced tea with tapioca is a godsend on a hot day). Customization is also key at bubble tea shops nowadays, where drinkers can fill their cups with other toothsome toppings like aloe chunks, mango jellies, and chia seeds.

Haven’t tried the stuff yet? No worries. Here are 12 amazing places in the United States to take your first sip.
By Alina Polishuk, AFAR Contributor
Courtesy of TPUMPS/Facebook
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    California: TPUMPS
    When TPUMPS first opened its doors, it was more than just a tea shop—it was a P.O. box center and shipping store. Seriously. But as soon as lines started forming down the block of the tiny San Mateo storefront, the owners saw the opportunity for expansion. Today, while the P.O. boxes are long gone, bubble tea enthusiasts still flock to TPUMPS’s several Bay Area and L.A. locations for the customizable brews and wild flavors like Salted Caramel Cookie Dough Black Milk Tea and Passion Fruit Tangerine Guava.

    Book your trip: California
    Courtesy of TPUMPS/Facebook
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    San Francisco: Boba Guys
    Boba Guys started as just that—two guys who really loved boba tea (also known as bubble tea). But when their local tea haunt shut down in 2011, the friends decided to take matters into their own hands and learn the art of the perfect drink. After a successful pop-up location and rave reviews, Boba Guys opened its first storefront in 2013 in San Francisco’s Mission District and has since expanded across the country. The mission at Boba Guys is clear: Change the way the world drinks boba. Hand-brewed teas (no powders here!), homemade sweeteners (rather than artificial syrups), and local dairy products keep lines long and boba-lovers happy.

    Book your trip: San Francisco
    Courtesy of Boba Guys
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    Portland: Fat Straw
    This vegan bubble tea spot (because, Portland) serves up drinks so tasty, the missing animal products are barely noticeable. Fat Straw’s teas are made creamy with coconut milk and are available in traditional black and green tea flavors, as well as more daring varieties like Nutella, Salted Caramel, or Rose.

    Book your trip: Portland
    Courtesy of @fatstrawpdx
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    Seattle: Seattle Best Tea
    If the name weren’t indication enough, the emphasis at this Chinatown establishment is simple: the tea. Although Seattle Best Tea is far more unassuming than the average candy-colored boba shop, the drinks here are, well, some of the best. The Taiwanese couple who own the place welcome visitors at their tea table, where hand-picked samples sent from Taiwan are offered in abundance.

    Book your trip: Seattle
    Photo by @kuraitenshix
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    Los Angeles: Twinkle Brown Sugar
    The following at this Little Tokyo hot spot is massive, along with its multi-page menu filled with tea, coffee, smoothie, and topping options. For those who are overwhelmed by choices, Twinkle Brown Sugar’s most popular sips are the Brown Sugar Milk Tea, Honey Fluffy Green Tea (the “fluff” is an airy layer of frothed milk), and Sea Salt Thai Iced Tea. Twinkle Brown Sugar also has a much loved eco-friendly program; if customers bring back a used to-go cup, toppings are free.

    Book your trip: Los Angeles
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    Los Angeles: CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice
    CoCo Fresh isn’t exactly local to Los Angeles. The remarkably popular chain is headquartered in Taiwan and since 2010 has expanded to over 1,900 locations worldwide. Los Angeles alone has eight of them—it’s that good. But despite the wide reach, each CoCo Fresh shop tailors its menu to its customer base. The discerning palates of the L.A. crowd, for example, enjoy that all juices are freshly squeezed every morning. Favorite drinks include a refreshing Grapefruit Green Tea and a creamy Taro Slushy.

    Book your trip: Los Angeles
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    Austin: Teapioca Lounge
    Teapioca Lounge, an Austin-based franchise with stores throughout Texas and Oklahoma, entices customers with two things: the creamy and addictive blasTEAs and the board games. All locations pride themselves on their family-friendly amenities and wide range of drink options, like the ultra-bright Peppermint Green blasTEA for the adventurous and a Frappuccino-Bubble Tea hybrid for those who crave caffeine.

    Book your trip: Austin
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    Chicago: B.I. Tea
    For those hot Chicago summers, there are few drinks more refreshing than a cold bubble tea from this recently opened French Market stand, B.I. Tea. The sweet and tart Kumquat Lemon Tea is particularly popular, along with icy fruit blends in flavors like Honeydew, Matcha, and Taro.

    Book your trip: Chicago
    Courtesy of B.I. Tea/Facebook
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    New Orleans: Mr. Bubbles Sandwich House
    Locals love the uniquely Southeast Asian flavors that Mr. Bubbles Sandwich House café has on offer, especially the bahn mi advertised as a “Vietnamese Po Boy.” To ease the salt and spice of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches, diners can order a variety of fruity traditional teas and extra creamy smoothies in fresh flavors like avocado and taro, all with toppings of their choice.

    Book your trip: New Orleans
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    New York City: The Teapsy
    Although The Teapsy has happy hours, there are no adult beverages at this spot in Astoria. Instead, many of its creative concoctions are inspired by cocktails. The Sangria, for example, layers a mixer with Calpis yogurt, fresh mango juice, and Earl Grey tea, while the Mojito does the same with lime and orange juice. For those less into emulating alcohol and more into Instagramming, The Teapsy also offers a funky lightbulb-shaped glass to get ideas flowing and likes aplenty.

    Book your trip: New York City
    Courtesy of @theteapsynewyork
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    New York City: Tea and Milk
    The concept for Tea and Milk was created in 2014 when childhood best friends Mat, Wilson, and Kendy set out to make a better bubble tea. Instead of relying on juice concentrates, artificial syrups, and flavored powders, they decided Tea and Milk would use only freshly brewed teas, natural fruits and vegetables, and locally sourced milks. They started selling their wholesome products from a market stand to immediate success. Now, tea connoisseurs and boba-lovers alike can visit their Astoria storefront for a signature Taro Root Tea or get adventurous with options like Apple Chia Green Tea and Peppermint Cocoa Almond.

    Book your trip: New York City
    Courtesy of Tea and Milk
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    Philadelphia: Teassert Bar
    Deciding exactly what to order at Philly’s Teassert Bar can be difficult. It has Thai ice cream rolls in a mind-boggling array of flavors, a toppings bar to rival the biggest froyo chains, and Hong Kong–style waffles that are almost too pretty to eat. But for those looking for a simpler indulgence, the milk teas are a classic and creamy way to do dessert. Teassert Bar prides itself on not using powder, fructose, and artificial flavoring, so customers can sip with minimal amounts of guilt.

    Book your trip: Philadelphia
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