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Bubble tea, or boba tea, is a Taiwanese treat that made it’s way to the states, causing instant fanfare. The bubble tea basics are that it generally contains a combination of the following: tea (green or black), milk (usually soy-based), flavoring (powder or liquid), and a solid (tapioca pearls, fruit chunks, or coconut beads).
The flavor choices alone are confounding, and every time I go to a bubble tea shop, I nearly have an anxiety attack just looking at the menu. The first time I ordered it, I had no clue what to say and ended up shouting “Lychee!” at the counter-person. I was then handed one of the most bizarre yet intriguing drinks I’d ever seen. It was large, cold, off white-ish, and it had a family of black balls at the bottom. I jabbed the cute plastic top with a fat straw and sucked up four balls. Bizarre and vaguely disturbing, but fun and delicious. I was amazed that I enjoyed chewing on a beverage—but I did, a lot—those slimy tapioca balls are amazing!
I love bubble tea. Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, I feel as if there are so many great places. My move to Portland had me searching for some of the best in town. I found plenty of places that make this tasty bev from scratch. (Yep! No powders and artificial sweeteners, and dairy-free, too.) So, if you’re in the mood for a spot of bubble tea with flavors and chewy pearls as unique as Portland itself? Check out the seven best bubble tea spots in Portland.
Tea Bar is the trending bubble tea shop brewing up some of the best tea in town. Unlike traditional boba, the ones here are made without syrups and powders, brewed in-house and aren’t overly sweet. And, the best part is all the unique flavors like Lavender and Rose.
Looking for a lot of flavor options? Try Best Baguette where you’ll find plenty to pick from, along with unique flavors like Jackfruit, Durian, and Soursop. The bubbles themselves are just the right amount of chewy. For a refreshing refreshment, try the Lychee! It’s the perfect amount of sweet and perfect on a warm day.
Tea Chai Te was the first to serve this authentic Taiwanese refreshing beverage. They use green tea, a non-dairy creamer, which can be swapped out for your milk of choice. Try the Sweet Vanilla Mint, coconut or rose flavored bubble tea, these are game changers!
A place where the bubble tea is fresh, served cold OR hot, and the tapioca pearls are sweet and al dente, Townshend’s Teahouse does it right. Sip on your bubble tea in a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, ambient lighting while savoring each and every sip. Try the raspberry vanilla bubble tea with lychee at one of Townshend’s many locations around town.
Located in Portland’s Alphabet District, Fat Straw is pouring some tasty bubble tea. The bubble teas here are super tasty and you have plenty of tea flavors to pick from. Bonus points for them being vegan by using coconut milk which tastes pretty amazing. Fat Straw, 806 NW 23rd Ave (Alphabet District); www.fatstrawpdx.com
Red Robe Tea House & Cafe
At Red Robe Tea House they use fresh fruit in their bubble teas, and the tapioca balls are cooked to perfection. Although, if you’re looking for the copious amount of flavors to select from, you won’t find that here. It’s a purist bubble tea, no flavor, just a really good black tea base with perfectly cooked boba pearls.
Karma Cafe maybe not the most exciting atmosphere or food, but definitely some of the best bubble tea. The bubble tea here is very authentic, and they aren’t made into a smoothie/slushy like many places around town. Try the coconut milk tea with lychee jellies for something sweet. The Green Tea with Boba and Lychee is another must-try. The only regret you’ll have is not ordering a large!
I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.