Occasionally, I like to ask my Instagram followers about their favorite places to eat in Phoenix in order to offer a new perspective in areas where I may not be well-versed. Take boba, or bubble tea, for example. It looks refreshing, whimsical, and fun, but it is not normally something I gravitate towards.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS BOBA TEA?
Bubble tea, aka boba tea, originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. The creation of bubble tea is attributed to Lin Hsiu Hui, a tea house owner in Taichung, Taiwan. Legend has it that she added sweetened condensed milk to her iced tea, creating a new and delicious beverage. Part of me has to say that only someone with 2% body fat would think this was a good idea. But I digress…
Later, in order to add a bit of fun and variety to the drink, she started shaking it in a cocktail shaker to produce bubbles and added chewy tapioca pearls. This combination of sweetened milk tea, ice, and chewy tapioca pearls became the foundation of bubble tea.
The term “bubble tea” is believed to refer to the frothy bubbles produced during the shaking process. The popularity of bubble tea quickly spread throughout Taiwan and eventually made its way to other parts of Asia and the rest of the world.
I have always asked, why tapioca? Is there something inherently Asian about tapioca? It is derived from the cassava plant, which is native to South America. However, the adaptability of cassava to different climates contributed to its successful cultivation in regions worldwide. Over time, tapioca has become a popular ingredient in desserts and sweet soups in Asian cuisine. It is also used to make gluten-free noodles and as a thickening agent in sauces and soups.
WHAT DID MY FOLLOWERS RECOMMEND?
(Drum roll please)
I start with ShareTea in Chandler, as it is my daughters (both of them) favorite and, therefore, the one I hear about most. ShareTea is a global bubble tea franchise that originated in Taiwan. It was established in 1992 and has since expanded internationally, with numerous locations worldwide. The menu typically includes a selection of tea bases, such as black tea, green tea, and oolong tea, combined with various milk options and flavored syrups. Customers can customize their drinks by choosing the sweetness level and adding different toppings, with tapioca pearls (boba) being popular. The connoisseurs in our household highly recommend Thai Tea, Passion Mango Tea, and Jasmine Milk Tea.
140 N Arizona Ave, Unit 107, Chandler
THE STREET BOBA
Located in Mesa, The Street Boba is an eclectic boba shop with a graffiti-walled interior that offers a diverse selection of beverages from traditional favorites – like Taro, Thai, and Chai – to unique blends such as Red Bean, Avocado, and Papaya. They get rave reviews for their milk tea smoothies (I love that they offer oat milk as a substitute, as I am dairy-free). How delicious does any of these sound: Coffee Boba Smoothie, Chocolate + Peanut Butter + Banana, or Taro + Coconut?? In addition to boba drinks, The Street offers ramen, diamond ice pops, mochi, and ice cream.
1116 S Dobson Rd, Ste 109, Mesa
POP N TEA BAR
Pop ‘N Tea Bar, established in 2018, is a locally owned and operated cafe that serves a unique blend of traditional and modern refreshments. With a commitment to sourcing artisan, hand-crafted organic teas, customers have a wide range of options, including classic milk teas and fruit-infused varieties. Reviews cite Jasmine Milk Tea, Matcha Milk Tea, Sun Devil Sweet Tea, Malibu’s Most Wanted Smoothie, and Simply Peach Tea. Many also note the Instagram-worthy Good Day wall and the all-natural gelato and sorbet diamond popsicles, creatively shaped using 3D printing technology.
550 W McDowell Rd, Phoenix
Miss Dessert opened in 2013 with the goal of introducing Mesa to Chinese, Vietnamese, and Malaysian sweets. The cafe is located near 1335 W Thomas Rd and is known for its variety of bubble teas, with a focus on boba. Miss Dessert offers a wide range of options for customers to personalize their drinks, such as adjusting sweetness and ice levels. The menu includes Classic Milk Tea, Brown Sugar Milk Tea, and other options like Lychee Oolong with cream cheese topping. Miss Dessert also provides unique choices like Milk Tea with purple sticky rice, a fan favorite. Miss Dessert serves desserts such as durian pancakes and mango sticky rice, emphasizing fresh ingredients.
1832 W Broadway Rd, Unit 105, Mesa
XING FU TANG
Xing Fu Tang was founded in 2018 in Taiwan and is known for its handcrafted caramelized brown sugar tapioca pearls. Their drinks and desserts are made to order using high-quality ingredients, locally fresh produce, and organic milk. The chain is known as the “Hermes of bubble tea” because of its unique drinks, such as Boba Milk with a gold foil topping. Xing Fu Tang also offers tapioca balls with edible gold leaf, diamond Q cups, and pearls with unique styles.
805 N Dobson Rd Ste 116 Mesa
MILK RUN PREMIUM ICE CREAM & BOBA
Milk Run, opened in 2017, offers a variety of flavors, including classic milk teas and specialty blends. They also offer boba floats topped with their own ice cream, such as Lucky Charms or Nutella Milk Tea. Many recommend eating at the Pho restaurant next door and then stopping here for the Thai Tea Float (“a taste of Bangkok in the desert”), the Taro Smoothie with boba and taro ice cream, the AZ Sunset with honey boba, or the Nutella Milk Tea. All drinks can be modified to be dairy-free, and vegan coconut ice cream is available.
1702 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix
KOKO BOBA TEA HOUSE
Koko Boba Tea House has two locations in Scottsdale, one on 90th Street and another on Greenway. Toppings available at this boba tea place include classic tapioca pearls, jelly, popping boba, aloe vera, and cheese cream. Customers recommend the Taro Stormy, Matcha Milk Tea, and Bubble Sodas. You can choose from oat, almond, and coconut milk replacements, and fresh smoothies such as mango and strawberry are also on the menu. Additionally, you can adjust the sweetness level according to your preference. Be sure to add a comment on their Post-It Note wall!
9393 N 90th St Ste 101 Scottsdale
6339 E Greenway Rd, Ste 107, Scottsdale,
Mochi Fresh has been serving boba tea since 2018 and is famous for their homemade boba, which boasts high quality and unique texture. The cafe’s main focus is bubble tea, with a menu that includes both classic and innovative flavors. The drinks are made using real milk and fresh fruits without artificial syrups. The Brown Sugar Boba and Mixed Fruit Tea are among the most popular choices, each offering a distinctive taste. Besides bubble tea, Mochi Fresh offers other drink options like smoothies, coffee milk tea, and various loose-leaf teas. Their menu includes a selection of flavored boba, such as mango and strawberry.
960 W University Dr, Tempe