Bubble Tea has been taking the world by storm. The popular drink originated in Taiwan and has recently become a massive trend in the US. “Bubble tea”, or “boba”, is classically a mix of brewed tea, milk, and tapioca pearls, also called boba. Most bubble tea places also have smoothies and fruit teas on their menus along with a wide variety of toppings including fruity popping boba, jellies and creams.
While bubble tea has more recently become a trend, I’ve been drinking it my whole life. Growing up as an Asian-American kid, getting bubble tea was a staple of my childhood. After big events or on hot days I always looked forward to the refreshing treat. I’m so happy that more and more people have discovered the world of bubble tea and become boba lovers.
Evanston has become home to a number of bubble tea shops, so as a self-proclaimed boba expert, I took one for the team and took on the responsibility of visiting them. I will forewarn you that the most unpopular opinion I hold is that adding in jelly to the drink is better than tapioca. I promise you, it’s worth it. But if you do love tapioca then for all the drinks the suggested jelly add-in topping can be replaced with tapioca. Whether you’ve never tried boba before or you’re a boba fanatic, go get some boba! Enjoy!
Kung Fu Tea 726 Clark St, Evanston, IL
Kung Fu Tea (KFT) is a bubble tea classic. With over 350 locations nationwide, this chain is conveniently everywhere. I order the Kung Fu Milk Tea with 50% sugar and mango jelly. The jelly is the most perfect texture. It really brings a subtle fruity taste to the sweet tea. Kung Fu Tea allows you to pick how much sugar is in the drink. Usually, I get 50% sugar, but the tea is super sweet so I definitely recommend getting 50% or lower. The great thing about KFT is that you can get it all over the country so if you find what you like, you can get it anywhere. The shop is also conveniently located just off Sherman so I suggest taking your tea to-go and walking around campus or sitting in the park across the street.
Order suggestions: Kung Fu Milk Tea with Mango Jelly
Joy Yee 533 Davis St, Evanston, IL
Joy Yee is an Illinois staple and my personal childhood favorite. Before all of the newer places arrived, Joy Yee was the main place to go for bubble tea. I grew up drinking delicious frozen fruit drinks. I order the Mango Lychee freeze with mango jelly. Somehow the fruit is always perfectly ripe and they use real fruit instead of powdered fruit flavors which some other bubble tea places use. While Joy Yee is on the pricier side, the amount of drink you get is significantly more than at other places. I always have a hard time finishing my fruit freezes, but it is so refreshing! While their drinks are heavenly and also quite fulfilling, Joy Yee also is a fully run restaurant so I would definitely try out some of their dishes while you’re there. Ultimately for the boba, I would recommend picking out your favorite fruit and getting a fruit freeze with the topping of your choice.
Order suggestions: Mango Lychee Freeze with Mango Jelly
Happy Lemon 726 Clark St, Evanston, IL
Happy Lemon just recently opened and every time I’m in there business is booming. When you first walk in you’re treated to the aroma of homemade waffles. I find bubble tea to be quite fulfilling so I usually don’t get food with it, but Happy Lemon’s chocolate bubble waffles are the exception. While they usually do take a while to be made, I would definitely recommend trying out a bubble waffle to accompany your drink. For my drink, I get the Classic Milk Tea with Mango Crystal Balls. Although the tea isn’t the strongest flavor, the mango balls bring in a tapioca-like shape and texture but with a subtle fruity taste. I would also recommend trying the Fresh Squeeze Lemon Honey Green Tea because it’s the perfect mix of sweet and sour. At Happy Lemon, the drinks are larger than at other places but still cost around the same, and you can receive a 10% off student discount. The seating is pretty limited but the shop is squarely located for a walk downtown or down by the lake.
Order suggestions: Milk Tea with 50% sugar with Mango Crystal Balls, Fresh Squeeze Lemon Honey Green Tea, Chocolate Bubble Waffle
Tealicious is best if you are thirsty for fruit tea. Their menu has a wide selection of fruit teas which I would, of course, recommend you get with any kind of fruit jelly. It’s really refreshing on a hot day and conveniently located right by fountain square downtown. If you’re looking for a milk tea, I would suggest the Taiwan Milk Tea with Mango Jelly. The tea flavor itself is super strong and tasty, and the jelly adds a nice texture. The drink itself is super aesthetic as the dark brown tea mixes with the milk. Tealicious also has lots of indoor seating and is a great place to meet a friend. Another plus is the massive wall of Squishmellows near the entrance.
Order suggestions: Taiwan Milk Tea with Mango Jelly
Tea Rex 1565 Sherman Ave, Evanston, IL
Tea-Rex is actually located in Skokie, right by Old Orchard, but they offer a unique drink no other place does so I had to include it. I order the mango boba milk with mango jelly. If you’re new to bubble tea and aren’t a huge tea lover, this drink is for you. It nicely combines the fruit and milk flavors and overall has a subtle sweet mango taste. The drink is perfectly accompanied by the textured mango jelly, so I would definitely recommend going with the jelly on this one. They don’t have any seating but the parking lot is really big and you can go shopping at the mall with your drink in hand.
Order suggestions: Mango Boba Milk with Mango Jelly
5237 Golf Rd, Skokie, IL