Since her recent move to London, Zsófi has been doing her research to bring you the best spots for great bubble tea in London. Whether you’re looking for the perfect brown sugar milk tea or a grass jelly dessert, all of these bubble tea shops have something special in store. The most important of which: they’ve all been tried and tested by Zsófi!
If you’re searching for your first Bubble Tea shop, check out her article on How to Order Your First Bubble Tea!
What is Bubble Tea?
Bubble tea, otherwise known as boba tea, is a popular sweet drink, originally from Taiwan. The authentic bubble drink was first made by mixing together black tea, milk, brown sugar, and the famous chewable tapioca pearls. This is now known as a Classic Milk Tea, often
often consumed cold with plenty of ice but to make sure you don’t go without, even during the winter months, you can drink it hot.
As years passed and people discovered just how tasty bubble tea really is, more and more variations and drinks came to be prepared. Fruit teas started making an appearance, which usually have a fruit or a green tea base and for toppings, either tapioca as usual, or coconut jelly or popping boba. As options grew, bubble tea became more and more customisable and now, well ,you’ve got plenty of options to create your perfect drink! Choose from either a black, green, or fruit tea base, pick a flavour (fruity or maybe milky?), and get a topping on there or two like tapioca pearls, jelly, or popping boba. Don’t forget to adjust your sweetness and ice levels, depending on how much of a sweet tooth you have, and once it’s all done, use an extreme amount of force to have the straw pierce through the plastic film on top of the cup (or ask somebody else to do it, there’s no shame). Mix and enjoy!
Read more from Zsófi:
London’s Bubble Tea Scene
Yes, we are back! This is officially the second instalment of what I have now arbitrarily decided is my new series: giving you the ultimate rundown of the best bubble tea places in all the cities I have lived in. Over the summer, I spent my two-month sojourn in Budapest walking from bubble tea store to bubble tea store all so you wouldn’t have to suffer through drinking sips of straight ground brown sugar (yes, this really actually happened to me, yes, I am still not over it), or tapioca balls that are just unchewably hard and the total wrong consistency.
Encouraged by the popularity of the Budapest article, and by the fact that this is actually a great excuse for me to spend most of my freetime in bubble tea shops, I am now turning all my attention to the considerably older and more expensive big sister of Budapest: my new home, London.
London is a tad bigger than Budapest (just a tad), so I will admit even a bubble tea enthusiast like me finds it an overwhelming and impossible task to try all the bubble tea shops it has to offer, so instead, I have focussed my efforts on ones in areas easily accessible to visitors, tourists, and locals from all areas of London alike due to their central(ish) location.
Below is a list of five bubble tea shops in London that are guaranteed to bring a sugary smile to your faces and make not too huge a dent in your monthly budgets.
Read more about London…
The Best Bubble Tea Places in London
If you’ve read my guide to London’s Chinatown, you will have already become familiar with the Candy Cafe – or at least my utter love for it. As is detailed in that article, this small dessert place hidden on the first floor of an unassuming building on Macclesfield Street offers an amazing selection of sweet treats from shaved ice desserts reminiscent of East Asia to the more locally traditional Belgian waffles and crèpes.
What I didn’t mention, however, is the extensive bubble tea menu you are presented upon entry. Their bubble teas include milky and fruity options, and if I may make a recommendation, their Kiwi Green Tea with Pearls is an absolute winner. All bubble drink prices start from four pounds and come with one kind of free topping. Delicious, cheap, and in the heart of the beautiful Chinatown – what more do you need?
A Filipino bubble tea place in Northwest London, Inoman opened its doors in a grand opening in August of this year. Their name, Inoman, is derived from the Tagalog word ‘inuman’, used to refer to a drinking session. Although the traditional ritual of a drinking session most often involves alcohol consumption, Inoman is reinventing the word to denote a more family-friendly bubble tea session in their friendly and colourful shop.
The shop is located on an unbusy road with a humble exterior that opens into a welcoming space with a menu that is guaranteed to make you laugh with its creative fantasy names attributed to classic bubble tea drinks. With orders such as ‘The I’m Only Drinking One’ or ‘The Flirtatious One’, you can experiment with new and unknown flavours in a lighthearted way, without the pressure of overcomplicated orders and decision fatigue after choosing the right kind of tea base, and flavour, and ice, and sweetness level.
I would highly recommend ‘The Occasional Drinker’, a Taro Mud Flip drink with a sweet taro and brown sugar mix that I paired with some tapioca pearls and soya milk. In addition to bubble teas, they also have some fantastic-looking Inoman originals that include some Filipino desserts the likes of the much spoken about (by me) Halo-Halo. If you’re ever in Northwest London, Inoman is an absolute must.
Located just at the edge of London’s Chinatown, Hey Tea is never not packed with people marvelling at their extensive menu, making orders, or waiting for their bubble tea. Their small space is suitable only for takeaway options, but with Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross so close, who wouldn’t want to wander around looking at Christmas lights while sipping their sugary drinks anyway?
The popularity of the store is not accidental. Hey Tea prides itself on being the pioneer of cheese tea, their signature drink, being the first ones to pair together a cream cheese foam and a sweet bubble tea (and by priding themselves, I mean this fact is written in bright neon lights on their counter immediately opposite to the entrance). Having multiple locations across Asia, Hey Tea decided only this year to bring their fantastic classic and original cheesy drinks outside of the continent and happened to choose London’s Soho as the perfect location for their European debut. True to themselves, they sell many cheese varieties of popular drinks, but for those – like myself, I must admit – who aren’t the biggest fans of cheese and tea together, they of course offer a great selection of fruity and classic milk teas. In fact, their seasonal Green Grape Tea left very little to be desired so everyone, go and grab it while you can!
Kissaten I Fuyu
Just a few minutes from Hey Tea on Brewer Street is where you will find Kissaten I Fuyu – a contradictory place if you’ve ever seen one. Its mysterious exteriors painted pitch black reveal a colourful modern interior in which upon entrance your eyes have no place to rest: there are colourful bubble drinks, skincare products (yes, skincare products), and tiny figurines and Japanese toys to keep you entertained while you wait for your order. Most of these items are also up for sale though, so be careful, you might end up spending more than you think!
The teas themselves are fantastic, and I would recommend you try their homemade Honey Sugar Tapioca drink which was fantastically sweet but not overly sugary. Getting a bubble tea from Kissaten is not only a delicious but also a surprising experience that I would recommend to all, but mostly to those who don’t mind their drinks being a bit pricier.
Standing very yellow on Newport Court, Happy Lemon provides a little happiness from underneath the gloomy scaffolding it has been forced under. A worldwide chain, Happy Lemon has over 500 locations and one of them just happens to be in London’s Chinatown – aren’t we lucky?
Happy Lemon has a wide range of bubble teas for you to try, and their best ones (in my opinion) are their fruit teas. Their Grape Tea with Tapioca Pearls or Passion Fruit Tea with Lychee Jelly have both brightened my gloomy rainy London days before and I guarantee they will do the same for you. And if you want to go real authentic, try their fresh lemon teas – the secret is in the name, their lemon teas are out of this world.