March 18, 2018 | ° F

New Brunswick’s best bubble tea vendors

Photo by Shirley Yu |

I’s Cafe is the first bubble tea shop ever to open in New Brunswick. Iris Chang, the owner of the cafe, screens her products for unapproved additives and posts certifications inside and outside of her shop.

There’s something strangely addictive about bubble tea. It’s a drink like no other: the combination of a toothsome tea base with chewy tapioca pearls makes for a truly unique beverage.

Hot or cold, fruit or milk, liquid or slush, there are so many options. Perhaps the tea drink’s versatility and one-of-a-kind texture are responsible for its popularity around campus.

This week, I ventured down Easton Avenue to experience four of the most popular bubble tea shops. My purpose was to find the one bubble tea shop on Easton that surpassed the others in terms of quality and service.

At each location, I purchased the black milk tea, a beverage widely considered a standard in bubble tea shops.

My first stop was Truly Yogurt at 38 Easton Ave., a frozen yogurt shop that offers a wide range of flavors. In addition to their yogurt, Truly Yogurt serves shaved ice, frozen yogurt floats, slushies, smoothies, hot beverages and of course, bubble tea.

With additional seating found in the neighboring room shared with Paulie’s Pizza, Truly Yogurt is a great place for larger groups to sit down with some bubble tea.

The black milk tea, which cost $3.75 at Truly Yogurt, featured a strong tea taste with a pleasant, controlled sweetness. Although the beverage seemed a bit sweeter than average, it was not overwhelmingly sweet as some bubble teas can be. The bubbles at the bottom of the drink were sufficiently chewy, yet noticeably softer than usual.

Next, I visited Hokkaido at 45 Easton Ave. The quaint bubble tea shop features an adorable bubble tea-themed interior and offers slushies, shakes, smoothies, coffee, teas and cold or warm bubble teas.

Unfortunately, the shop offers little seating for customers due to its small size, but what it lacks in capacity, it makes up for with friendly and personalized service.

Mandy, a clerk at Hokkaido, kindly explained to me that the perfect bubble tea is completely subjective, and relies largely upon the customer’s personal preferences.

“You have to actually get to know the customer better to know what they feel like,” Mandy said. “Every customer has a different preference. If you know them better and ask them more questions about what they need, then you can make the perfect bubble tea for them, because each person has a different preference.”

The flavor of Hokkaido’s black milk tea, with a small costing $3.25, and a large, $3.50, seemed to possess a more floral tea taste compared to other black milk teas I have experienced in the past. This provided the bubble tea with a deeper complexity of flavor. Though some customers might not enjoy this floral aspect, I found that it added a more refined intricacy to the beverage.

Sadly, the bubbles in the black milk tea did not give in to the bite, as good bubbles should. They seemed to lack the essential elasticity that tapioca pearls must possess.

Noodle Gourmet, at 43 Easton Ave., is a full-fledged Chinese restaurant that specializes in Hong Kong-style noodle dishes. In addition to their extensive food menu, Noodle Gourmet offers a variety of different bubble tea beverages.

Though Noodle Gourmet’s restaurant atmosphere provides for a comfortable and spacious environment to sit down and enjoy a bubble tea, my past experiences have found the staff unaccommodating of large parties wishing to order solely bubble tea. Furthermore, the restaurant can become quite crowded throughout the day, particularly during lunch and dinner time.

The sweetness of Noodle Gourmet’s black milk tea, which cost $2.77 for a small, and $3.45 for a large, seemed more subtle in comparison to the tea flavor, yet the tea flavor didn’t seem as vibrant as others I’ve experienced. The bubbles in the beverage were notably chewy, providing more resistance to the bite than usual.

My final destination was I’s Cafe at 42 Easton Ave. — the first bubble tea shop ever opened in the city of New Brunswick. In addition to their bubble teas, I’s Cafe also specializes in macaroons, with flavors such as matcha green tea, almond taro and sesame white chocolate.

I’s Cafe stands out for its extreme devotion to quality and customer satisfaction. The shop’s intense dedication to producing high-quality bubble tea is evident when talking to Iris Chang, the amiable and bubbly owner of I’s Cafe.

In May of this year, numerous brands of tapioca pearls manufactured in Taiwan were found to contain traces of maleic acid, an additive that has not been approved for use in food production. Bubble tea drinkers worldwide were urged to consume the drinks with caution, as many shops purchase their tapioca straight from Taiwan.

For Chang, this was not an issue. Even before the maleic acid incident, she made sure her products were screened for unapproved additives. Certifications of quality are posted both inside and outside of the shop.

“I wanted to make sure that I am always selling the best quality, the highest and the most authentic, original bubble teas,” Chang said. “I have my products tested every year.”

The black milk tea, which cost $3.50 at I’s Cafe, was polished and well balanced. Pleasantly sweet, the beverage was neither excessively saccharine nor too strongly tea flavored. Texturally, the tapioca pearls were neither too chewy nor too soft. Thus, the black milk tea at I’s Cafe seems like a delectable middle ground between two extremes of bubble tea flavor and texture.

After experiencing four of the most popular bubble tea spots in New Brunswick, I expected a single shop to emerge as the clear victor. Truthfully, each bubble tea shop has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the differences between them are too subtle to declare one superior. Therefore, students should try out each bubble tea shop to discover their favorite. Each person will find his or her preference.

Though my quest to discover the best bubble tea shop was fruitless, I’ve learned one thing: you can never have too much bubble tea.

By Matthew Mikolay

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