Battle of the Boba

Which of these four Crescent spots has the best bubble tea?


85°C Bakery Cafe (Photo by John Anderson)

Of the four Asian restaurants and one food court grocer in the Crescent, four of them offer bubble tea. Which bubble tea reigns supreme? In the interest of public service, I visited all four shops and ordered milk tea, a classic bubble tea flavor, and the one menu item that they all had in common. When offered the choice, I got it 50% sweet, and ordered a size regular or medium. With those standardizations in place, I was able to evaluate the teas based on flavor, texture of the boba (chewy is good, mushy is less-good), and price.

My first stop was to 85°C Bakery Cafe, which doesn't have a ton of bubble tea options as their sea salt line, from coffee to fruit smoothies, anchors the beverage menu. The milk tea here has an almost nutty flavor, reminiscent of cereal milk but not too sweet. The boba were firm and chewy, but not too chewy. This one was my favorite, flavor-wise, and was also among the least expensive at $3.75 before tax.

Next up was 101 by Teahaus. The milk tea was one of two nonalcoholic bubble teas on the menu and had a stronger, more sophisticated tea flavor (which may be attributed to the 50% sweetness level I requested). The boba were a bit mushy, unfortunately. This drink was the cheapest, at $3.65, and was also the largest of the drinks. I'm not sure this one would be at the top of my list for a return engagement, but I am curious about the boozy boba drinks on offer for another day when I'm off-duty as kid chauffeur.

Fruitealicious, based out of Carrollton, Texas, and anchoring the 99 Ranch grocery store, has the deepest and most diverse menu, unsurprising given that it is exclusively dedicated to beverages. The chain's top seller is the Black Sugar Tri-Fecta, a potent (and dentist-horrifyingly sweet) concoction with a black sugar milk tea base stocked with boba, flan, and grass jelly. Other unique mixes include the HorCha Cha Cha, which spikes spiced rice milk with flan and boba. My iced milk tea with boba, which I ordered at 50% sweet, was kind of nondescript, and the boba were fairly mushy. My medium drink was $3.65, with a 50 cent upcharge for boba. While I wouldn't order this particular drink again, I do look forward to trying that horchata situation, as well as their cookies & cream taro milk slushie.

Finally, bubble teas aren't the anchor of the menu at Snowy Village Dessert Cafe and it shows. There are about eight to 10 flavors available, including espresso, taro, and watermelon, but they're all made from powdered mixes. My milk tea was steamed with water, then poured over a mountain of ice and topped with more milk with the boba added at the end. The boba was appropriately firm and chewy, and the black tea was almost floral in flavor, which made it unique among the others I tried that day. It was also the most expensive of the lot at $4.95. I'll stick to the bingsu here.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Melanie Haupt
Staying Hospitable During Our Nation's Division
Staying Hospitable During Our Nation's Division
Local restaurateurs discuss civility at the table

Nov. 9, 2018

Pie Squared
Pie Squared

Oct. 26, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

bubble tea, boba, the Crescent

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle