For long-time slurpers and tentative first-timers, a guide to the best tapioca balls in town.
Adelaide’s best bubble tea
Once predominantly the domain of Asian-Australian millennials, bubble tea (AKA pearl milk tea or boba) is currently experiencing something of a crossover moment.
CityMag‘s bubble tea tips:
1. Never order 100% sugar.
Bubble tea starts sweet, so ask for 50% or even 30% sugar.
2. Always order half ice.
You’ll get more tea, plus your drink stays cold.
3. ‘Bubble tea’ is a blanket term.
While ‘bubble tea’ refers to the traditional pearl milk tea, you can just as easily order one without tapioca pearls (just know you’re missing out).
Thanks, no doubt, to the spotlight currently trained on Asian culture in film (hello Crazy Rich Asians) and in movements like the international K-pop boom, there has been a parallel rise in the number of bubble tea joints recently opened in the city.
Tracing the roots of the tapioca/tea hybrid transports us back to Taiwan – the birthplace of bubble tea. The exact location of the 1980s invention is disputed amongst various Taiwanese tearooms, each with their own claim on the ingenious recipe; however, the only thing universally agreed upon is its growing global popularity.
At its simplest, bubble tea is a marrying of cold milk tea, sugar, and tapioca pearls, but the beverage has since adapted to include a variation of milks, sweeteners and toppings.
The number of local shops is ever growing, so we’ve listed a few of our favourite Adelaide CBD bubble tea outlets below.
6-8 York St, Adelaide 5000
31-39 Gouger St, Adelaide 5000
62-68 Hindley Street, Adelaide 5000
Fun Tea takes bubble tea to a new level, marrying traditional with trendy via their signature fruit-based drinks. Owners Jason Duan and Catherine Zhou take regular trips to Taiwan and China to see the latest trends and look for inspiration. Fun Tea sources its tea from all over Asia and its fruit from local producers, offering an innovative approach to the popular drink. Particularly on-trend (and Instagram-worthy), is the ‘dirty tea’ – a brown-sugar-infusion drink currently sweeping Taiwan. And make sure to give their one-litre Fruit Party a whirl too. GH
79 Grote St, Adelaide 5000
36A Gouger Street, Adelaide 5000
12 Rundle Mall, Adelaide 5000
Since opening last year, HiTea has made a name for itself within Adelaide’s boba community for its cheese-foam-topped tea series. According to HiTea staff, when the cheese tea is sipped at a 45° angle, you’ll enjoy the supposed perfect combination of local Australian cheese and Asian tea in a creamy, sweet-saltiness. The tea leaves – variations of pu’er black tea, green tea, or oolong – are imported straight from Taiwan and China. CityMag‘s pick is HiTea’s Crème Brûlée Brown Sugar Tea (pictured), topped, of course, with their signature cheese foam. HiTea recently launched soft serves too, offered in both matcha and roasted oolong flavours. GH
4/21 Pulteney St, Adelaide 5000
Setting itself apart from the takeaway boba mindset is MomenTea. Tired of the same old-fashioned bubble tea concepts, co-owners Alvin Liu and Maggie Zhu sought to refresh the market with funky new drinks targeted to a younger audience. A short walk from the eastern campuses of the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, Alvin and Maggie picked their location to offer uni students somewhere not too far off campus to enjoy their breaks. The fit out is comfy and all dine-in drinks are served in sleek glasses, so there’s no reason not to stick around. Alvin and Maggie also recommend customers pair their bubble tea with MomenTea’s house-made French-inspired desserts. GH
Adelaide Railway Station Ramp, 15 North Terrace, Adelaide 5000
BIT burst into the bubble tea scene looking to provide a Western point of view on the Taiwanese treat. Founders Clark Spendelow, Matt Attanasio and Paul Attanasio charted the rise of boba in cities along the Australian east coast and took inspiration from “new-style” bubble tea shops in San Francisco, where less traditional flavours were being explored. In the Adelaide context, that translates into an array of nostalgic pearl milk tea flavour options: FruChocs, Farmers Union, Nutella, Milo and Tim Tam options. But they’ve also worked to provide healthier versions of bubble tea, in providing sugar alternatives, like honey, and milk alternatives. And there’s also a kombucha range (pictured above). JVE