A Food Lover’s Guide to Variations of Bubble Tea

4 December, 2018

Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan, and thanks to the addition of various toppings, falls under both the drink and snack umbrellas. But the real beauty of the drink might be in the ritual involved. One must order it in a specific manner, specifying your order as well as any additional toppings, plus your desired level of sweetness and ice. You’re then given a fat straw and offered a carry bag (which other drinks are carried around like swag?). Then the moment comes, of de-sleeving your straw and boldly stabbing it into the plastic film lid.

Here’s a beginner’s rundown of the various ways bubble tea can differ.


Milk-based bubble tea comes with fresh milk, evaporated milk or milk powder.


These are often made with black (regular or roasted) or green tea, and fruit juice extracts, such as peach, mango, passionfruit, strawberry, apple and more.

Hot or cold

What it sounds like, basically.

Tea variants

Choose from black, green, matcha, oolong, and white tea. There may also be herbal and floral varieties available.

Traditional toppings

If it’s soft and edible, you can bet it’s a bubble tea topping. Popular choices include pearls, popping pearls, crème caramel (pudding), grass, rainbow or lychee jelly, sago, aloe vera and red beans. The toppings are the very reason bubble tea straws are thicker than your average.

Real fruit toppings

You’ll commonly see passionfruit, kiwi, mango or lychee on offer.

Cheese top

Cheese foam tea hails from Asia. It refers to a frothy layer of whipped cream cheese, topped with salt, that’s layered over cold tea. It plays into the sweet-salty combination. To ensure the cheesy layer remains floating atop the tea, one must drink it unmixed and sans straw.

To extend your bubble tea savvy, head to Sharetea, CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice, and Chatime.