University of Washington, Seattle Bubble Tea 101
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University of Washington, Seattle Bubble Tea 101

An in-depth review of bubble tea locations on The Ave

University of Washington, Seattle Bubble Tea 101

Let's talk bubble tea. You may also know it as "boba" or "milk tea". It originates from Taiwan and has since made its prevalence in the U.S.. Traditionally, bubble tea consists of milk or non-dairy creamer, tea, tapioca pearls, ice and a sweetener such as simple syrup or condensed milk. It now comes in a variety of flavors, both tea-flavored and fruit-flavored. Fun fact: Counter to intuition, the "bubble" part of bubble tea actually refers t the bubbles that form when the tea is shaken, not the tapioca pearls.

Now if you go to the University of Washington, you know that there are at least a dozen bubble teas on University Way, simply referred to as "The Ave". Every year, more and more bubble tea places pop up, contributing to more competition and higher prices. Here is everything you need to know about the current bubble tea places on The Ave, including their menus, Yelp rankings, hours, tips, and my personal reviews:

1. Sharetea (Menu):

Address: 1100 NE 45th St, Ste 100, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Sun-Mon (12pm-10pm)

Average Stars on Yelp: 4.5

Sharetea is my favorite place for milk tea. They don't serve fruity milk teas other than their Mango Green Milk Tea. Pros: The manager is always super nice and makes the effort to interact with the customers while their orders are being prepared. The employees are fast and efficient. Like most bubble tea places on The Ave, you can customize the sweetness, ice level, and even order certain drinks hot. They use Perka, so once you buy 10 drinks, you earn on free drink. Cons: They just raised their prices (it's almost $5 now for a standard pearl milk tea), so expect to pay over $5 for your drink. You also cannot adjust sweetness levels for their Okinawa (black sugar milk tea) or their honey teas because they are already pre-sweetened. Tips: Avoid the Ice-blended drinks. Not only are they the most expensive drinks on the menu, but they also don't add any additional milk or creamer to the drink. The Matcha Ice is simply matcha powder blended with ice. It tastes like water. Also, unless you want a huge sugar rush, do not order the strawberry black tea. Even at 25% sweetness, I had to dilute it with water to make it drinkable . Favorite drinks: Classic Black Milk Tea, Fresh Matcha Milk Tea, Okinawa Milk Tea, Mango Green Milk Tea. Unique drinks: The Creama series. I am no into the sweet and salty taste, but if you are, this is the drink for you. Creamas are basically cream mixed with sugar and rock salt. They then pour it on top of your tea.

2. Oasis Tea Zone (Menu):

Address: 4525 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Mon-Sun (11am-12am)

Average Stars on Yelp: 3.5

While this is a popular hangout for college students, I have yet to find a tea that I actually like here. This place is also super roomy (their new location is more spacious and only a few doors down from their old location) and is great for studying too. Oasis also serves food such as chicken tenders and sweet potato fries. Pros: Prices are super reasonable. Somehow, this place has managed to keep prices lower than its competitors. My friends recommend the Thai Tea, but I find that it has a strange aftertaste. They also have soy milk and almond milk if you are dairy-free. Cons: Even if you ask for half-sweetness, it is still too sweet for my taste. They also do not have a classic black milk tea (their version of classic milk tea is Jasmine Green Milk Tea, which is okay, but not the same as a classic black milk tea). The closest to black milk tea is their Royal Milk Tea. Besides their fresh juices, their drinks are made from artificial low-quality powders and syrups. Trust me, you can taste the difference between Oasis and other bubble tea places. Tips: Ask for half-sweetness. Favorite drinks: TBD... Unique drinks: Green bean Snow, Kiwi Tea, Kumquat Juice

3. Chatime (Menu)

Address: 4701 Brooklyn Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Average Stars on Yelp : 3.5

Chatime opened up a couple of years ago in U-District. I remember going to the BOGO free deal during its Grand Opening. Lines were out the door and it took my friend and me over an hour to get our drinks. I got a plain pearl black milk tea. It was creamy and tasty, but I cannot say I remember too much else about it. Chatime is super popular in Canada and they have many other locations in the U.S. and around the world. Pros: They have a wide selection of bubble tea flavors and toppings including coconut jelly. Cons: It is a little out-of-the-way if you are coming from class. I am not sure if service is still slow, but hopefully its improved since its opening. I will have to go back and see. Favorite drinks: I have only tried their black milk tea, so I do not have an opinion yet. Unique drinks: Hazelnut Chocolate Milk Tea, Banana Milk Tea, Brown Rice Green Milk Tea

4. Ding Tea(Menu)

Address: 4725 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Everyday (12pm-10pm), closed on Wed

Average Stars on Yelp: 3.5

Ding Tea is one of the newest bubble tea places on The Ave. It opened up this past summer across from Kung Fu Tea. I tried it over the summer with a friend, and it was okay, but I would not rave about it. Their toppings are unique from other bubble tea places. For example, they have sea cream (which is comparable to Sharetea's Creama) and two different types of boba to choose from: golden boba and crystal boba. Golden boba is made from potato starch whereas crystal boba is made from seaweed. They claim crystal boba is "healthier" for you. I presume that it is because crystal boba consists of lower carbohydrates than golden boba. My friend did not care for the texture, so it is definitely not for everyone. I tried the sea cream with black tea on my last trip there. It is less salty than Sharetea's Creama, but it was too rich for me to finish. Pros: It's new. Cons: If you spend under $5, there is a $0.50 transaction fee if you pay using card. Also, while the menu lists $3.50 for milk tea, that price is for a regular 16-oz tea. The standard 20-oz tea (an "upgrade") costs $4.05 Additionally, toppings cost $0.55 each (crystal boba costs $0.75) as opposed to the typical $0.50. Tips: Stick with the golden boba. Also, bring cash or pay together with a friend! Unique drinks: Passionfruit Milk Tea, Longan Milk Tea (Hot only)

5. C Fruit Life (Menu)

Address: 4106 Brooklyn Ave NE, Ste 103A, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Sun-Thurs (12pm-10pm), Fri (12pm-11pm), Sat (1pm-11pm)

Average Stars on Yelp: 4

C Fruit Life (also known as Guo C) serves more than just bubble tea. They serve all types of authentic asian desserts ranging from "Snowdaes" (their take on Taiwanese shave ice) to Taro Crepe Cakes to "Harsmar" (which their menu describes it as "a central Asian dessert made from the fried fatty tissue near the fallopian tubes of true frogs"). I might try the Snowdae someday, but the Harsmar sounds far too adventuresome for me. C Fruit Life recently updated their menu and they now serve regular Black Pearl Milk Tea for $3.50 (a steal!) as well as Caramel Black Pearl Milk Tea for the same price. Their Caramel Black Pearl Milk Tea is good, but I am not sure if you can adjust the sweetness level. Pros: C Fruit Life uses real fruit and high quality ingredients. The drinks are as tasty as they are "Insta-worthy"; if you order a Three Layer Sensation (mango, coconut milk, and grass jelly) or a Mango/Coconut Smoothie, they layer the flavors in your cup (similar to an Iced Caramel Macchiato). In addition, it is super convenient to West Campus. Lastly, they have an "Excellent" health rating posted outside their window. Cons: Besides their milk teas, their prices are very steep. A smoothie/milkshake costs $4.95 and their other desserts can cost up to $10.95. Favorite drinks: Coconut smoothie, Signature Mango and Coconut Sago. Unique Drinks: Durian Smoothie, Red Bean Milkshake, Carrot Pear Juice

6. Bambu(Menu)

Address: 4511 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Sun-Thurs (11am-10pm), Fri-Sat (11am-11pm)

Average Stars on Yelp: 4

Bambu is another recent addition to The Ave. They have a second location in International District. Pros: Like C Fruit Life, they use real fruit in their smoothies and also serve "Snow Ice". They also use the Fivestar app, which offers you a free drink after you purchase 12 drinks as well as occasional free topping sand other deals. Cons: While I highly recommend their real fruit smoothies, I was disappointed by their milk teas. I ordered a black milk tea ($4.50) with tapioca pearls (+$0.50). The tea was very dilute. Additionally, Bambu does not sweeten their tapioca pearls, so the pearls were tasteless. Also, beware the transaction fee if you pay using card. They charge $0.50 for orders under $10, so again, bring cash or a buddy (or two). Otherwise, you will end up spending over $6 for a basic milk tea with boba. Yikes! Favorite drinks: Coconut Taro Smoothie. Unique Drinks: Chè is a Vietnmaese dessert consisting of a variety of toppings such as sweetened beans, pandan jelly, rainbow jelly, taro, boba, and/or basil seeds topped with coconut milk and ice. It is super filling and honestly more of a meal than a drink.

7. Kung Fu Tea(Menu)

Address: 4730 University Way NE, Ste 109-110, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Mon-Sun (2pm-9pm)

Average Stars on Yelp: 3.5

Kung Fu Tea is a hike if you are coming from Kane or Red Square. Definitely bus it if you are coming from the Magnuson Health Sciences building. They have a variety of toppings to choose from including aloe and fig jellies, grape, mango, and coffee popping bubbles, mung beans and red beans, Oreos, and tapioca. This is also the only bubble tea place, that I know of, that offers a 120% sweetness level. Pros: Their tapioca pearls are sweetened with honey and have the perfect amount of chew. Cons: The Kung Fu Tea franchise occasionally advertises BOGO free deals, but the one on The Ave is not usually a participating location. Tips: Download the Kung Fun Tea app and get a free drink on your first visit. Also, the Honey Milk Tea is very sweet. Do not get 100% sweetness. Favorite drinks: Kung Fu Milk Tea (I like to stick with the basics here). Unique drinks: Milk Strike series (they contain lactose-free milk), Mung Bean slush, Taro Milk Green Tea, Longan Jujube (Red Date) Tea

8. Mee Sum(Menu)

Address: 4343 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: Sun-Thurs (11am-11:30m), Fri-Sat (11am-12:30am)

Average Stars on Yelp: 3.5

Mee Sum is a favorite on The Ave, and is especially known for its freshly baked hom bows and traditional Chinese food. Pros: Their classic Black Milk Tea is decent. They also use real fruit for Mikey's Mango Smoothie and for their Avocado Smoothie. Their milk teas are all from powders mixes and syrups though. Cons: Mee Sum currently has a "Needs to Improve" health rating. However, I would be more cautious about consuming their food than their bubble tea, but eat and drink at your own risk. They also have a $0.50 transaction fee for orders under $10 if you pay using card. Tips: Do not order the matcha milk tea here. It is powdery, neon green (like green apple), and it tastes like artificial food coloring. Honestly, it was the worst bubble tea experience I have every had. On a side-note, their Okinawa Milk Tea, Hong Kong style Milk Tea, and Black Milk Tea all taste the same to me. Favorite drinks: Black Milk Tea, Black Sesame Milk Tea. Unique drinks: Earl Grey Milk Tea, Chocovado, Minty Cocoa

These are just some of the popular bubble tea places on The Ave. I am sure you can name many others, so if you have a favorite bubble tea place, let me know in the comments below!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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