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WALKING THROUGH the crowded streets of Flushing, there’s a high possibility of spotting at least one bubble tea café on every block. These tea-based drinks, originating from Taiwan, involve a variety of sweet ingredients shaken together, with tapioca pearls on the bottom and ice on top. We decided to visit four popular locations to find the best of these drinks—CoCo, Gong Cha, Kung Fu Tea, and Ten Ren. Along with bubble tea, these cafés also provide a large range of fruit and milk teas that taste just as delicious.
The first stop was CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice. With so many locations, this particular shop has become synonymous with “bubble tea” for all Flushing frequenters. We visited one of the locations when CoCo was having a promotional offer.
Each customer was able to spin the “wheel of fortune” once with each purchase to win upgrades, additional toppings, and a buy-one-get-one offer. With the classic pearl milk tea ($3.00), although on the sweet side, you can’t go wrong. We then constructed a unique drink with taro milk tea, tapioca, and sago (free from the promotional offer). While tapioca seems to be a must-add ingredient, you may want to skip out on the sago; these smaller pearls add no further taste, only texture. The taro drink costs $3.75 ($3.25 for the taro tea, $0.50 for the tapioca) but on a normal day, it would have cost $4.25. Go to CoCo for a good milk tea, but skip it if you’re looking for something more special.
Another popular place for bubble tea fanatics is Kung Fu Tea. Its multiple locations always seem to be full of customers; in fact, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently made a stop here. Kung Fu Tea has a wide range of drinks that encompasses more than just tea.
You can also order coffee, punch, yogurt drinks, and their signature slush drinks. To start off, we bought the standard bubble milk tea, with red bean added ($3.50 + $0.50). This was not as sweet as CoCo’s version, and the red bean added a nice texture with more natural flavors.
With so many choices, it was hard for us to decide what drink to get next, but we eventually settled on the yogurt grapefruit juice ($3.75). Overall, the drink was very refreshing. However, we must warn you that the grapefruit leads to a lingering aftertaste; whether that is good or bad will depend on the person.
Our next location was Ten Ren. Unlike others, Ten Ren is known to makes its own bubble tea rather than powdered packaging. Normally a popular spot to sit and enjoy a natural taste, we found the shop close to empty on a Friday evening. Starting out simple, we ordered the Jasmine Green Milk Tea ($4.00).
The first sip gave us a refreshing feel, and the drink had just the right amount of sugar and texture. On top of that, it tasted completely of natural green tea, with no artificial sweeteners. However, the bitter aftertaste made it a little less favorable; even the bubbles seemed more bland than others.
The Thai Milk Tea ($4.50) gave a similar impression. This experience was a break from the average bubble tea shops, as not only were the drinks in Ten Ren natural and fresh, but also healthier in sugar level and taste. Known more for its fruit teas, yet still popular for its bubble tea, Gong Cha was the last stop we made. Surrounded by various restaurants in the food court of New World Mall, this shop always has a line. Because there was a limited variety of b u b b l e teas to c h o o s e f r o m , we dec ided o n th e original Pearl Milk Tea ($3.00), followed by the Caramel Milk Tea ($3.50). The Pearl Milk Tea was a relaxing blend between sweet (from the bubbles) and smooth (from the milk and tea). Compared to the original drinks from the other locations, this milk tea was sweeter, with a strong aftertaste. Nonetheless, it was one of the better drinks.
Next, we chose the Caramel Milk Tea, which stood out on the menu. Served with only ice and no tapioca, this drink reminded us of a caramel iced coffee. It was extremely sweet. This drink isn’t recommended if you’re craving tapioca. In general, this shop doesn’t provide many options for bubble tea; however, if you’re looking for various options of flavored tea, this is the place to go.
After much deliberating, we decided on this ranking for the four places we visited, from best to worst: Kung Fu Tea, CoCo, Ten Ren, and Gong Cha. Nevertheless, all four are good places for bubble tea, so give them a try the next time you find yourself in Flushing.