Boba 101: What Bubble Tea Should I Get for the First Time?

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Walking into a bubble tea shop for the first time can be intimidating. There are many choices for milk teas, toppings, or additional flavors. But at the same time, all these possibilities mean that you can design a bubble tea to your liking. Find out more about bubble tea so you can confidently order your first one!

What Type of Boba Tea Is the Most Popular?

The most popular boba tea is brown sugar bubble tea, also called tiger milk tea. This bubble tea flavor was developed recently and was made famous by Tiger Sugar in Taiwan in 2017.

The distinguishing feature of brown sugar bubble tea is a thick, caramelized brown sugar syrup. This thick sugar syrup is drizzled into the serving glass, creating stripes that look like a tiger’s stripes; sweetened tapioca pearls, more sugar syrup, and strong black milk tea complete this sweet bubble tea.

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Tiger milk tea

Another popular flavor is black milk tea, also called Hong Kong milk tea. This classic milk tea started the bubble tea craze in the 1980s and is still widely served today. You really can’t go wrong with black milk tea. This bubble tea contains a layer of sweetened tapioca pearls, topped with sweetened condensed milk and brewed black tea. Black milk tea has a strong tea flavor that is nicely balanced with sweetened milk and tapioca pearls.

10 Common Bubble Tea Flavors

Bubble tea comes in a variety of flavors. Some use oolong, jasmine, or Assam tea, while others use green tea. Some bubble tea includes fruit puree or fruit syrup along with fruit tea. Most bubble tea is made from a cooled tea base, creating an iced tea; however, hot boba tea is possible.

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Popular boba flavors include those listed below, but your local boba shop likely has many other types of bubble tea.

How to Customize Your Boba Tea

Each bubble tea shop has a list of popular bubble tea flavor combinations, but it’s easy to customize your own. If you’re unsure what to order, start with the shop’s smallest size. This will give you a taste of one boba tea drink, and you can decide what you like or don’t like. Most boba shops sell in 16oz or 24oz sizes, but some may also have a 12oz size.

Choose your tea base. Green teas work well with fruit flavors. Green tea and white tea also have less caffeine, so choose one of these tea bases if you’re caffeine-sensitive. Fruit boba drinks are almost like a fruit slush and pair well with popping boba or jellies.

For creamy drinks, go with a black tea base and milk. Black tea pairs well with fruit, chocolate, or extra-sweet classic boba.

Decide if you want your boba tea cold or hot. Fruit boba generally tastes better cold, while lattes or classic milk teas taste delicious hot. If you like room-temperature drinks, ask for 25% or 50% ice.

Adjust the sweetener. If you don’t like sweet drinks, ask for 25% or 50% sugar. You can substitute classic chewy boba pearls with popping boba or grass jelly for a drink with fewer carbs.

If you are dairy sensitive, replace any pudding or ice cream topping with red beans or jellies. Also, make sure to ask for non-dairy milk such as coconut milk or non-dairy creamer. Tapioca pearls are naturally gluten-free, so they are safe for those avoiding gluten.

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Mango green tea with strawberry popping boba

Must Try Bubble Tea Flavor Combinations

  1. Classic Black Milk Tea with coffee jelly
  2. Green tea bubble tea with mango-flavored popping boba
  3. Lavender milk tea with tapioca pearls
  4. Lychee oolong tea with aloe vera
  5. Mango fruit tea with coconut jelly
  6. Matcha tea with strawberry pieces
  7. Oolong milk tea with peach popping boba
  8. Passion fruit bubble tea with aiyu jelly
  9. Strawberry milk tea with brown sugar tapioca pearls
  10. Taro milk tea with almond milk and fresh fruit
  11. Thai tea with almond jelly
  12. Winter melon green tea with rainbow jelly
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How to Decide Which Bubble Tea Shop to Visit

With the growing popularity of boba tea, many rural areas or smaller towns have more than one boba shop. Ask your family or friends about bubble tea shops in your area. Google any shops near you and read the reviews. Yelp and Facebook are great places to start seeing what your city offers regarding bubble tea shops.


Sarah loves indulging in bubble tea near her home in southern Indiana. She constantly experiments with flavor combinations, but her favorite flavor is passion fruit. She enjoys experimenting in her home kitchen and hopes to one day be a pro at making her own bubble tea.

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