By: Sarah Ansong, Loyola Senior and Erin Flaviano, Loyola Junior
Boba, originally named bubble tea, has become a growing trend across the U.S. and especially on college campuses. The Edgewater and Rogers Park area is no exception, and there are many growing stores that specialize in making bubble tea.
Bubble tea originated in the early 1980’s in Taiwan. Milk tea was actually already quite popular in Taiwan due to the tea drinking culture within East Asia.
Tapioca balls and shaved ice were a very popular and common dessert during this time. It was during a hot summer in the city of Taipei, when a food stall owner combined the tapioca balls, shaved ice and milk tea to create the legendary bubble tea we all know today.
We ventured out to the Rogers Park and Edgewater area to try four extremely popular Boba Tea based shops: TBaar, Tai Chi Bubble Tea, Tao Tea, and Kung Fu Tea.
We will be giving our honest review on each place to determine which Boba Tea place sells the best tea. With our personal favorite flavors being sweeter, dessert-like boba, we focused our orders revolving around the sweet and savory milk tea options.
The local boba shop, TBaar, is closest to Loyola’s LakeShore campus located on 1223 W Devon Ave and is already well-known amongst the students. As popular as it is already, we believe it isn’t the best of the best around here. Erin was able to try their brown sugar matcha milk tea, while I had the regular brown sugar milk tea.
Erin gave it a 3 out of 5 stars since the two flavorful tastes are best separate and on their own. Sarah gave her brown sugar milk tea a 3.5 out of 5 stars because, while the flavor was very good, it does become too sugary after a couple sips. It consists of black tea with brown sugar syrup and tapioca balls.
Next up, at the Argyle stop on the CTA Redline, we stopped at Tao Tea located at 5002 N Broadway. With this shop being in a well-known Asian based market area, we had good hopes for this place. Erin tried the Flan Brown Sugar Milk Tea, a flavor combo she would never think of. To her surprise, it was odd, but still as good as expected.
Giving the drink a 4 out of 5 stars, she was uncertain about it first because of the chunks of flan that were included in the drink. After a few sips, the flan eventually blended in with the texture of the tapioca pearls at the bottom, leaving you with a filling dessert in a cup.
Sarah ordered a White Winter, which consisted of premium jasmine tea with winter melon, aloe vera, and crystal boba. The jasmine tea flavor was very subtle, but still sweet. The winter melon is a new flavor that I decided to try and it was very mild. It has a grassy, refreshing flavor quite similar to that of a cucumber.
The crystal boba and aloe vera both had the perfect chewy texture. The crystal boba’s texture is chewy, but not as gelatinous as tapioca balls. The unique part about crystal boba is they can be infused in any flavor or coloring. I did not infuse the crystal boba in my tea with any flavoring, so I can fairly judge the taste of the tea.
In comparison to the previous boba talked about, this is the best bubble tea so far because all the flavors are balanced. The jasmine tea flavor is very subtle, but still there. The sweetness of the tea is mellowed out by the winter melon, aloe vera, and crystal boba. I will rate the tea a perfect 5 out of 5 stars.
Kung Fu Tea is located right across Tao Tea on 4925 N Broadway. Again, this shop is in the heart of Argyle which has many Asian centered shops. Kung Fu originated in New York in 2009, and moved its business to Chicago. Clearly their business was so good that it had to be expanded.
Erin enjoyed one of her long time favorites, Honey Oolong Tea with Kung Fu’s famous Milk Cap. Their milk cap is equivalent to the more common, boba cheese topping. Giving it a 5 out of 5 stars, since it’s been one of her favorites for a few months.
The honey with milk cap truly adds a sweet and savory flavor you don’t expect, resulting in a delicious blend of honey milk tea and the tiniest hint of salty cream. The classic tapioca pearls were the perfect size with just the right amount of chewiness.
Sarah ordered a plain almond milk tea with tapioca balls. Despite how simple the tea was, it was surprisingly very delicious. My second favorite out of all the teas I have tried. The almond flavor was very strong, but also very sweet. It was creamy, milky, and cool.
The tapioca was very chewy which I loved. It is a 4 out of 5 since the taste did not surprise me and was very much expected.
Lastly, we went to Tai Chi. Located at 6800 N Sheridan Rd, Tai Chi might be more well-known amongst Loyola students due to its location once again, so it had to be on the list for us to try.
Erin ordered the classic Taro Milk Tea, a simple yet popular flavor within the bubble tea culture. With a 3.5 out of 5 stars, the Taro Milk Tea has a rich creamy flavor. Some may already know it as the purple sweet potato, or similar to the Filipino yam called ube.
Tai Chi added a bit too much tapioca for Erin’s liking, but it doesn’t take away from the flavorful taro. It was a basic flavor, so Tai Chi definitely met her expectations, but nothing extravagant.
On the other hand, Sarah ordered a Matcha Red Bean Milk Tea. The matcha has a very bitter taste which I personally love with a hint of sweetness. The red azuki beans was an attempt at trying something new on the menu.
The red beans honestly were my least favorite part of the boba tea. They were mushy and had a weird aftertaste. If I had ordered the same drink with tapioca balls, it would have been a whopping 5 out of 5, but the beans brought it down to a 3.5 out of 5.
After trying many flavors from a number of places across Rogers Park and Edgewater, Sarah and Erin believe there was a tough tie between Kung Fu Tea and Tao Tea. Both places had many varieties of flavors with combinations you aren’t used to.
With Erin’s favorites being the Flan Brown Sugar and Honey Oolong Milk Cap, and Sarah loving the White Winter and Almond Milk, trying out Kung Fu Tea and Tao Tea should definitely be on your Chicago boba bucket list.