A Connoisseur’s Guide to Bubble Tea in Chinatown
London’s Chinatown pioneered the introduction of bubble tea into the UK: discover the best places to drink it in its place of conception.
There is a change in the air. Only the most perceptive of Londoners have noticed it, so subtle is it in nature; so mysterious is it in construct. It began with the frappuccinos, or rather, the lack of them. Then there appeared to be something missing upon the grounds of parks and streets of the inner city. The dull throbbing anxiety in my core slowly melted away to a grim and shocking realisation that I could no longer see people walking on the street holding cups of frozen yoghurt. My very soul seemed to darken and it was only after weeks of therapy that I knew what was wrong: I no longer had a portable refreshing consumable item in my life. But the tapestry of life is woven in enigmatic ways. Life finds a way. During one of the regular bouts of rain in London I dashed through sodden streets, my tears of loss mingling with the surreptitiously grimy drops of rain pouring from the heavens, running with no clear direction or purpose when it happened. As I lowered my Topshop anorak hood and lifted my blurred eyes, I was greeted with a sight recognised only by weary travellers lost in the desert who had stumbled across a rejuvenating oasis. I had arrived in Chinatown. In a bubble tea bar. It changed my life. It can change yours as well.
Chatime is a sleekly designed new chain of bubble tea bars geared towards take aways. Their delivery service is a huge bonus to those working nearby who need a sweet treat to help the day go by faster. They use real, high quality taro as a base in many of their teas and quite possibly have the largest selection of drinks on this list. Usually there’s the option of milk tea, fruit tea or black tea, but Chatime goes above and beyond the call of duty by also offering mousse tea, tea lattes (a part tea, part coffee mixture that is very popular in Hong Kong), ice blends, and coolers.
3 Terrific Teas: brown rice green tea, matcha latte, chocolate mousse
11 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF
Cappacha now have a few different locations in London but it all started here. The large queues that can often be found outside are a testimony to what they have to offer. A favourite amongst those with lactic allergies, they have an excellent choice of dairy-free options. Their defining features are their generous portion of pearls and hot tea options.
3 Terrific Teas: lychee lemon ice blend, hot earl grey, mango passion fruit juice with lychee pearls
23 Newport Court, WC2H 7JS
Candy café is an adorable sit-down café that is ideal for anyone with a laptop and some work to do. They offer free Wi-Fi, a wonderful selection of deserts, and students get a 10% discount. With over 30 flavours of bubble tea to choose from, you can easily write a dissertation and not choose the same thing twice. The snow ice puddings drinks are particularly good as an alternative to the teas if you’d like to try something different.
3 Terrific Teas: mango snow pudding, malt tea bubble milk, honey peach yoghurt
First floor, 3 Macclesfield Street, W1D 6AU
HK Diner is a late-night Cantonese restaurant that also serves Hong Kong street food and, of course, bubble tea. Open till 4am, it’s a favourite of Cantonese students and tired transvestites. The super-late weekend experience is akin to getting a FroYo on the way back home, but with bonus noodles and a proper place to sit down and catch your breath.
3 Terrific Teas: classic sweet green tea, mango, aloe-vera
22 Wardour Street, W1D 6QQ
Boba Jam is a unique venue that offers an alternative to the nightlife in the rest of the area. Owned by the same team as Candy Café, they mix bubble tea with fantastic ice cream and tapioca pearl deserts, and throw karaoke in for good measure. The fruit jellies and waffles are a particular highlight. Dedicated to pleasing customers, they usually have promotions for but-one-get-one-free on their teas.
3 Terrific Teas: lychee green tea, layered soya milk with palm sugar and grass jelly, red bean smoothie with blended coconut milk and red bean and vanilla ice cream.
100-102 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EE
Biju Bubble Tea Room
Biju Bubble Tea Room is another trendy take-away bubble tea bar that also offers deliveries. Their emphasis is on low-fat, low-sugar options and have a large choice of toppings including chia seeds for the uber-healthy. The preferred haunt of local graphic designers.
3 Terrific Teas: chai milk tea with egg caramel pudding topping, coconut water, jasmine green milk tea
45 Old Compton Street, W1D 6HG