Houston is a city with seemingly endless choices for bubble tea, the Taiwanese drink in which brewed tea is mixed with milk or fruit juices and served with tapioca balls or fruit jellies. But even with the abundance of shops already in town, new bubble tea shops continue to open. Even Rice University has its own, student-run supplier of bubble tea, East-West Tea, which launched earlier this year. So while you won’t wrong with standbys such as The Teahouse , I Heart Boba or Star Snow Ice, there are new and youngish places worth checking out.
Summer welcomed several new bubble tea shops. The first Houston location of the Taiwanese chain Gong Cha opened its doors in July 2016 in Chinatown. The shop touts the freshness of its teas and tapioca pearls, which are made fresh every four hours. We skipped the traditional milk tea to taste one of their milk foam teas (earl grey to be exact) -- freshly brewed tea topped with a smooth, almost meringue-like layer of slightly salted cream -- and can see why the rich combo is a favorite among customers.
TEAholic opened in June 2016 also along Bellaire Blvd. in Chinatown. The shop offers three different vessels to drink your boba tea out of: a regular cup, a light bulb and a split cup. While the light bulb seems like more novelty than necessity (think of the Instagram photos!), we can appreciate the split cup for those who want to try more than one flavor on the same visit.
Around Greenway, Boba Cha opened this summer in a space formerly occupied by Bambu tea shop. The no-frills tea shop serves a smaller menu of tea drinks, including milk teas, fruit teas and slushies. While not as flashy as the other new shops, it’s an option if you’re in the area when the craving for boba tea hits.
Not exactly brand new but still relatively young, Sharetea, another Taiwanese franchise, opened in summer of 2015 in the same plaza as Gong Cha. Its expansive menu includes fruit teas, milk teas, and slushies, as well as limited edition drinks like their recent cereal slushies. Think choco crisps mixed into your tea drink. Kung Fu Tea, an international bubble tea chain, brought more of its Taiwanese drinks -- including mung bean, red bean, taro -- inside the loop when it opened its second location in Montrose in early 2015.
Infuzion Tea Bar, along FM 1960, opened in summer of 2015 serving milk teas in a variety of flavors, from pistachio to the more traditional Thai milk tea, and fun smoothies from peach and taro to coconut avocado. In true Houston spirit, the shop serves Venezuelan empanadas along with your milk tea. And a bit further, Hello Tealicious started serving a simple menu of fruit smoothies, milk teas, and ice teas and coffees in Clear Lake this past summer.
Will the bubble tea shops keep coming? We can’t tell for sure but it seems that Houston has plenty of room for more. What’s your favorite?