The Bubble Tea of Manhattan

Over the past few decades, bubble tea has become a favorite amongst the people of New York, including the students here at Bronx Science. After reaching out to students, I went across Manhattan and tried some of Bronx Science’s favorite bubble tea. Join me as I review eight bubble tea shops across Manhattan.


Susan Markens

Here is the author looking fabulous while drinking bubble tea.

Have you ever had the urge to dip a treat into your drink? Most of us have probably tried dipping a french fry into a milkshake, and it’s common practice to dunk one’s cookie into a nice glass of milk. Sometimes you just have that innate urge to play with your food. About 40 years ago, someone in Taiwan had the same desire. 

In the 1980s, tapioca balls were a common Southeast Asian dessert. Then came the idea to put the chewy balls into a cup of tea. The drink soon gained popularity and was named ‘boba,’ slang for ‘breasts’ in Chinese, in reference to the pearls’ spherical shape. The beverage became a staple in Taiwanese late night markets, and as Taiwanese immigrants moved to the United States, they brought the drink with them. Entering California, bubble tea gained popularity and spread across the country, eventually reaching the East Coast. 

The small tapioca balls have now gained recognition, being referred to as ‘bubble’ or ‘pearl’ tea. The bubble tea industry in New York is constantly growing, with no shortage of places to try the addictive beverage. People everywhere, including our own Bronx Science students, have fallen in love with the bubble tea sensation. Kate Hankin ‘24 said, “When I’m feeling sad, I always joke that I need bubble tea in an IV.” In the spirit of Kate’s enthusiasm, I embarked on a journey all around Manhattan to try some of Bronx Science’s favorite bubble tea stores. 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert on the commodity nor have I tried authentic Taiwanese bubble tea. I am simply an avid bubble tea lover and consumer, having tried it across six different countries. My go to orders are either a black milk tea or a passionfruit green tea, both with boba, 50% sugar and ‘less’ ice, so I elected to try them in as many shops as I could. These are my experiences and opinions of eight different bubble tea shops, recommended by Bronx Science’s own students, in the order in which I reviewed them. 

Yaya Tea

Yaya Tea is a chain with several locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, in addition to some located throughout the Northeast. Their website specifies that they specialize in “freshly brewed tea through a purifier filtration system” and stands out by selling handmade Onigiri (rice balls). The store also has an array of Japanese snacks available for purchase. 

Here is the inside of Yaya Tea’s Gramercy location, featuring an abundance of Japanese snacks for purchase. (Sophia Markens)

Out of their three downtown Manhattan stores, I visited the location on 22nd and 3rd Ave, near Gramercy Park. While they offer the standard milk teas, such as black, thai, jasmine, and oolong, the fruit teas are unique concoctions, found only at their locations. Offering both green and white fruit teas, Yaya serves mixes of various combined flavors such as peach and mango, and pineapple, strawberry and lychee. 

Along with my classic black milk tea with boba, since they didn’t serve classic passionfruit I ordered the ‘Ace of Spades,’ a mango, passionfruit and pineapple white tea which I decided to pair with mango popping boba, which are small pearls that burst in your mouth, filled with fruity flavors.

The black tea had a rich taste that reminds me of some of the more authentic and high quality teas I have had. While completely satisfactory, I wasn’t particularly wowed by this drink and found it slighting lacking in boba. The tapioca balls were of a decent size and chewy, but slightly firm. On the other hand the fruit tea completely exceeded expectations. My mother described it eloquently as “yummy and refreshing.” The tea was smooth and the flavoring was the right amount of fruity- not too sweet but not too bitter. The skin of the popping boba felt a little wrinkly when entering my mouth, but besides that it was amazingly juicy and tasty.  

Sierra Hanrahan ‘24, who frequented the store during the COVID-19 pandemic, sang high praises for the shop, claiming “it was oh so very good and kept me calm during that stressful year.” The exceptionally good fruit tea will likely have me making further visits as well.

Shiny Tea

Shiny Tea is one of my favorite regular spots in New York. Located on 101 and Broadway, it’s a hole-in-the-wall, independent shop, yet it remains hugely popular. 

There are many things I adore about the business. The small staff is immensely kind and helpful when picking out a drink. Sage Blank ‘24 said, “I really love it because the people who work there are super knowledgeable and are able to give great recommendations when I want to try new types of bubble tea.” Shiny Tea even offers a student 10% discount for drinks paid in cash or for orders over $10, and free size upgrades when ordering from their website.

Here is the exterior of Upper West Side favorite, Shiny Tea, during an after school rush. (Sophia Markens)

The only downside to Shiny Tea is that it has a longer wait-time than most shops. I typically order from Shiny after school, so it can be flooded with students, increasing the wait time. It may not be best in a hurry, but I find the lines are worth it. As a small business, Shiny puts time and effort into each of their orders, and I would easily recommend it to anyone visiting the Upper West Side.

Shiny Tea is always just what I need after a long day of school. I personally favor their milk teas over their fruit teas, but both are delectable. The tea is good quality and I have never found my drinks made too sweet or too bitter. The boba is delicious, soft and served in good portions. My mother and I joked that the boba lived up to the title of ‘shiny,’ feeling incredibly silky and smooth in our mouths. If you ever find yourself on the Upper West Side I urge you to give this business a try. 


Coco Fresh Tea and Juice is a Taiwanese franchise with over 4,000 stores around the world and five right in Manhattan. The Coco on West 72nd holds many fond memories for me and kept me sustained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Dani Cheng ‘24 believes that “there is nothing better than Coco, it’s the best bubble tea shop there is. It tastes good and has a unique flavor that no other place has.

Coco is efficient and quick. I often feel like my drink is halfway made before I even have the chance to pay. If you want something in a hurry, this is the place to go. I also find that they give generous portions of boba, maintaining a perfect ratio so you don’t run out before you’re done with the tea. They boast a large selection of options on their menu, and offer promotions and discounts for those who follow their social media.

I find that their flavors pair perfectly with the taste of the boba and make the beverages feel cohesive, rather than a tea with an added topping. They provide good portions of boba, which are of both great size and taste. The milk teas in particular typically have the right amount of milk in it, complementing the tea instead of overwhelming it. I usually will go for the passionfruit here, perfectly quenching my thirst before heading to Central Park which is located only a block away. 

Biao Sugar

When entering Biao Sugar, located on 32 and 6th Ave, the first thing you notice is the giant golden tiger head on the wall. Here, instead of being simply handed your order, your drinks come straight out of the tiger’s enormous mouth. The counter is full of a variation of stickers giving the shop a nice, homey feel. 

All orders from Biao Sugar are delivered through the massive golden lion head in the middle of the small shop. (Sophia Markens)

Biao Sugar is known for their brown sugar teas, but unfortunately I didn’t try any of them as I chose to stick with my usual orders. To be frank, I wasn’t quite impressed by either of the drinks I tried. The flavors were slightly bitter, and I ran out of boba before I finished my tea. Their passion fruit tea comes with seeds, which the employees were kind enough to remove for me, but some were still left behind. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy seeds or other textures in your drink, you may want to keep this in mind.    

In contrast to my visit, other Bronx Science students think very highly of the shop, as does Kate Hankin ’24 who had many positive things to say about Biao, remarking, “They have a very selective menu, meaning everything they make is something they’re really great at making.” Although this wasn’t one of my best experiences, I still encourage you to try this place on your own for the unique experience.

Gong Cha

Out of all the places I heard about from my peers, Gong Cha had the most mentions by far. Originally founded in Taiwan, Gong Cha now has over 1,800 locations across 20 countries. There are 10 locations just in Manhattan and plenty more across New York. For this article I visited the location on 108th and Broadway and found the service to be quick and efficient. 

Gong Cha has a wide assortment of teas and other beverages which they brew daily. Both the milk and fruit teas I tried here were enjoyable and delicious, with balanced flavor palates and neither drink was too sweet. I found the boba slightly too chewy, but the generous portions made up for it.

An interesting aspect of Gong Cha is that they no longer offer plastic straws. Their new straws are now made of sugarcane fiber and polylactic acid, making them entirely decomposable. This is definitely a positive attribute, as it is environmentally friendly. Although they are not as sturdy as plastic straws, they’re much more durable than the paper alternatives. The eco-friendly straws along with their solid drinks provide ample reasons to visit this chain.


Teamakers, located in Koreatown, prides itself on making “tea as it should be,” using strictly fresh and high quality ingredients. The small shop has a wide variety of products, most notably their line of cheese cake and cheese teas. Additionally, they make their own lychee sodas. The shop itself is really more of a stand, and one orders from the street instead of going inside. Their service was quick, and the employees were friendly and attentive. 

Teamakers, a small shop located in New York’s Koreatown. (Sophia Markens)

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the boba, as I found them slightly hard and small, but both teas themselves were exquisite. The passion fruit tea was perfectly fruity, with the right amount of every taste, and the orange slice on top enhanced the flavor. There were some passion fruit seeds, and even though I typically am not a fan, I found them incredibly tasty. 

Initially, the black tea was very milky, but as I continued to sip, the flavor became more prominent. Similar to the fruit tea, the balance of flavors was perfect and felt both fresh and flavorful. My mother once again added her profound opinion, detailing the drinks as “above average” and “yummy” and claimed the tea was exemplary. Out of the new places I visited while writing this article, Teamakers is definitely one I plan to go back to and try again. 

Vivi Bubble Tea

Years before I officially formed a bubble tea addiction, I had my first taste of boba in a Vivi Bubble Tea shop down in Chinatown. Opening up their first shop in New York, Vivi now has 9 stores in Manhattan and over 100 across four continents. 

Vivi has a very ‘bubbly’ atmosphere, their stores often decorated with different pinks and pictures of their adorable skeleton logo. Vivi has a huge selection of different teas, along with a slush series. Their list of toppings is also expansive, including both mango and strawberry popping boba which I love. You can also find several food options in the store, such as popcorn chicken or ramen.

Although I will always care for Vivi fondly, I was disappointed on my last visit to their 32nd Street location. While the fruit tea was perfectly up to standards, the milk tea was much less appetizing. Not only did I find it too sweet but it was overwhelmingly milky. Upon trying it, Chellam Kothandaraman ’24 said that “the milk overpowered the drink so much that it was hard to taste the tea.” Instead of tea with milk it felt as though I had received milk with tea. Despite this experience I will definitely try Vivi again and not let this one experience deter me from further visits. 

Möge Tee

Möge Tee is a global franchise aiming to expand bubble tea’s fanbase with their ‘new style tea.’ Five of Möge’s New York locations are based across Manhattan, with over 60 locations across 17 countries. I visited their relatively new location on 108 and Amsterdam. 

Möge’s menu offers several types of drinks such as fruit slush, cheese foam tea, and yogurt fruit teas. While they do offer many different types of drinks, I found the selections of tea rather lacking. Their fruit tea options are limited to their ‘Fresh Lemon’ or “Super Fruit’ teas, available in black, green and oolong tea, with no traditional offerings like passionfruit or mango. Their milk tea selections, although more abundant than the fruit series, were also very limited. 

Given their limited fruit teas selection, I tried the Superfruit green tea with added boba. If you are to get this tea, I recommend you do it without boba because the fruit throughout the drink makes it hard to have it all at once. There is a lot of fruit and pulp in the drink, so be sure to keep that in mind when ordering. In terms of taste, the tea was nice, but I did find it a little too lemony.

Even if it was slightly milky, I found the classic milk tea I ordered quite refreshing. The boba itself was a lighter color then most I’ve tried, but I have been unable to find out what it is made of. Though slightly small, the pearls were very nice and chewy. Moge Tee has definitely been added to my list of Upper West Side shops to frequent.


Writing this article has been a memorable experience that I will always treasure. This adventure not only allowed me to write about my favorite places, but visit and learn about more businesses throughout my borough. I have discovered so many new bubble tea shops throughout the city, and hope that through reading this you are all able to explore these stores on your own. To make it easier for you to recreate my steps, I compiled a map of all the places I visited, and any other locations to the chains. 

Here are the author and her beautiful mother enjoying bubble tea on mother’s day. (Sophia Markens)

I want to take a moment to thank the people who helped me with this article. Along with all my editors, I would like to thank my best friend Julia and Chellam Kothandaraman ’24, who both helped taste tea with me. Most of all I would like to thank my wonderful mother who both bankrolled this journey and was my partner in visiting many of these shops. 


Bubble Tea Price Chart

Place Milk Tea Fruit Tea
Biao Sugar $5.50 $6.00
Coco $4.82 $5.97
Gong Cha $5.50 $6.00
Moge Tea $5.75 $7.50
Shiny Tea $5.00 $5.25
Teamakers $5.00 $6.00
Vivi $5.25 $5.50
Yaya $5.75 $4.95


Kate Hankin ‘24 said, “When I’m feeling sad, I always joke that I need bubble tea in an IV.” In the spirit of Kate’s enthusiasm, I embarked on a journey all around Manhattan to try some of Bronx Science’s favorite bubble tea stores.