And that’s the (bubble) tea, sis

No, there aren’t any bubbles in bubble tea. There isn’t always tea either… Yet, the drink is traditionally made from tea, milk and tapioca “boba” pearls. Bubble tea, or boba, originated in Taiwan, but has expanded due to its increasing popularity. In this article, I will be reviewing six different bubble tea places around St. Louis. It is worth noting that I have tried the standard milk tea with boba at all of these locations, but solely for the sake of review (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise); I wanted to try a variety of drinks notable from the menus. Make sure to watch the complementary vlog to see my friends and me try to justify consuming an unhealthy amount of bubble tea.

Scoring guide

Each brand can earn up to 50 points, and each category was judged out of 10 points.

Distance from school – How long does it take from the school? How available or convenient is it to grab bubble tea from this place?

Decoration – What’s the vibe of the location? Is it dirty? How does it feel to sit here and drink bubble tea?

Variety – How diverse is the menu? Is there only milk tea? Slushies? Hot? Cold?

Taste – Overall, how tasty is it? Does it leave you wanting more? Would you drink it again?

Price – How economically feasible is one drink? Will this place leave you broke? Is it worth the price?

HITEA

Nayeon Ryu
Senior Jon Ma tries Hitea for the first time.

Distance from school: 7/10

Decoration: 10/10

Variety: 8/10

Taste: 7/10

Price: 6/10

Total: 38/50

Just 15 minutes up Olive Boulevard and priced decently fairly, this establishment will not break your bank. Walking in, you’ll notice the walls painted in a delicate baby pink and shelves adorned with mini plants, making for a very homey and comforting vibe. The employee that was working when I first tested Hitea was very friendly and well-informed of the menu and gave great recommendations that made the first time worthwhile. The tea was pleasant and tasted real, not powdered. The only questionable thing was the drink’s warm temperature––unusual from a typical bubble tea’s coldness––but that might be right up your alley. Hitea also allows you to customize a lot of your ingredients, making for a satisfactory experience regardless of your past record with bubble tea. 

KUNG FU TEA

Distance from school: 3/10

Nayeon Ryu
Seniors Charlize Chiu, Umeera Farooq, Ashley Chai, Angie Jia and Nayeon Ryu visit Kung Fu Tea during spring break.

Decoration: 6/10

Variety: 7/10

Taste: 9/10

Price: 8/10

Total: 33/50

The score may seem a little low, but don’t let that scare you. Kung Fu Tea’s only downside is its long drive from school: 23-29 minutes according to Google Maps. But up until recently, the closest Kung Fu was located in Kansas City, so the drive to Delmar Loop is nothing. Kung Fu Tea feels authentically Asian and not too artificially sweet––a line that some bubble tea houses can cross. The boba balls are also perfectly chewy and flavorful, an ideal complement to the chain’s variety of milk teas. The menu is not as diverse as other locations’ menus, but I credit that to its still relatively new launch here. Though this place may not be as ornately decorated as Hitea, its simplistic and comfortable inside makes for a calming place to just sit with friends, chill and observe the bustling streets of Delmar Loop. Oh, and there’s free Wi-Fi.

ST. LOUIS BUBBLE TEA HOUSE

Angie Jia
After a basketball game, seniors Ashley Chai and Nayeon Ryu enjoy St. Louis Bubble Tea.

Distance from school: 8/10

Decoration: 6/10

Variety: 10/10

Taste: 8/10

Price: 7/10

Total: 39/50

St. Louis Bubble Tea House is my “OG boba place.” Before I really got into trying new boba places, this ‘house’ was my only supplier of the sweet and refreshing classic Black Milk Tea or Taro Milk Tea, or if I was feeling adventurous, the Matcha Snow or pudding tea. The menu includes over 100 different flavors––some unconventional but still delicious––and appetizers to accompany the drinks. There are two locations: one on Olive; the other, Delmar Loop. The Olive location is the closest to school, making this house the most accessible and the “go-to” for when you are really craving bubble tea. I, personally, crave it way too often. This place is decorated very simply, but it’s comfortable enough to sit inside and relax. Due to its relatively cheap price, quick drive, diverse menu and free Wi-Fi, St. Louis Bubble Tea House never fails to disappoint.

SHARE SWEET

Nayeon Ryu
Seniors Nayeon Ryu and Angie Jia pose with their bubble teas from Share Sweet.

Distance from school: 5/10

Decoration: 8/10

Variety: 5/10

Taste: 5/10

Price: 6/10

Total: 29/50

Eh. That’s the best description for how I feel about Share Sweet. The decoration is super cute, but that just isn’t adequate enough to save the score. I’ve probably tasted all of the bubble milk teas on the menu in one trip (this is why you should always go with a group of friends), and not a single one convinced me to come back. Some drinks were too sweet, others weren’t sweet enough. And the Oreo Milk Tea was bitter. Oreos aren’t supposed to be bitter. Luckily, the Passion Fruit Black Tea and surplus of other fruit teas and desserts somewhat saves the disappointment that was their milk teas. Everyone has different opinions, so don’t let this review scare you away from Share Sweet. It probably has some redeeming qualities, but in my bubble-milk-tea-enthusiast opinion, Share Sweet ain’t the move.

CUBE TEA STUDIO

Distance from school: 6/10

Jon Ma
Seniors Nayeon Ryu and Jon Ma pose with their drinks from Cube Tea Studio.

Decoration: 2/10

Variety: 8/10

Taste: 9/10

Price: 7/10

Total: 32/50

Like the majority of these six locations, Cube Tea’s menu is diverse, but while the other menus share many of the same drinks, Cube Tea’s menu is definitely the most unique and peculiar-sounding. The sweet-but-not-too-sweet taste and thick-but-not-too-thick consistency of the Salted Cream Cheese Uji Matcha Tea is worth the mouthful to order. My friend’s Winter Melon Milk Tea and its piercingly cool flavor was wintry. The boba is the ultimate gelatinous texture and just sticky enough. I’m not going to lie; my first experience at Cube Tea was nothing special. The most classic flavor of bubble tea you can get (Milk Tea with boba, of course) was just whatever. But after branching out with more eccentric orders, Cube Tea Studio is quickly bumping up in my rankings and is a must-go for when you’re feeling adventurous.

CORNER 17

Nayeon Ryu
Seniors Ashley Chai and Charlize Chiu celebrate Chiu’s birthday with Corner 17.

Distance from school: 3/10

Decoration: 4/10

Variety: 7/10

Taste: 3/10

Price: 7/10

Total: 24/50

I’m feeling a little nice today! I’ll blame Corner 17’s glaringly green interior on my queasiness drinking its bubble tea. Don’t get me wrong, the restaurant’s Chinese food is delicious; it makes sense why it is always packed and busy. But when you’re asked to order a drink, stick to water, iced tea, soda––anything but their bubble tea. Considering Corner 17 is an Asian restaurant, its boba menu doesn’t feel Asian; there are more fruit-based options than the “typical Asian flavors.” There’s nothing wrong with that, except for that these fruit-flavored drinks aren’t even well made. The Watermelon Milk Tea is a strange mix of artificial watermelon and an unsavory, too-milky consistency that leaves a tangy taste in my mouth. The relatively long drive to Delmar Loop for some Corner 17 food makes sense, but for the boba? I recommend going somewhere else. 

I get bubble tea isn’t for everyone, but try one before you judge. If you want to dip your toes into the world of boba, go to St. Louis Bubble Tea and try the classic Black Milk Tea, but don’t be afraid to branch out. Some of the most weird-sounding drinks turn out to be the best. Taste test pudding tea or popping boba; you might regret it, but at least you tried. Any of these six locations will make your experience with bubble tea satisfactory, and if none of the drinks sound appealing to you, you can always order a slushie.