Boba, aka “bubble tea,” is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan. The drink mainly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls. Boba can be made with other toppings such as popping bubbles (that pop in your mouth with flavored juices) or jellies (fruit-flavored jelly texture). When choosing your boba, you’ll typically select three things: your base, toppings, and sweetness. Your base is the type of drink, so tea, milk, or smoothie base. Your toppings are your “boba,” so tapioca balls, popping bubbles, and jellies. Lastly, your sweetness level determines how sweet you would want your drink. Boba has been extremely popular these past few years as a cost-friendly and unique thing to try during quarantine. Here are few cost-friendly boba places in the city for first-timers.
Kurimu is an ice cream, frozen yogurt, and bubble tea shop. They have two locations: one is in Little Italy and the newest location is in Wicker Park. Although famous for their soft serve ice cream, Kurimu boba is a hidden gem. Not only can you add boba to any of your drinks or soft serves; the process of choosing what to get is relatively simple, mainly because of the minimal menu, and the visuals they give can make choosing your bubble tea very simple.
My personal favorite when I visited was the Black Sugar Boba Milk Tea. The drink was very balanced in terms of sweetness, the amount of boba, and portion size. The type of boba they used was chewy tapioca balls. Visually, the drink was appealing. I paid about $5.50 for my drink, so it was not bad at all. The environment was friendly and welcoming. The workers were delighted to help me choose what I wanted and explain the menu. Overall rating: 9 out of 10.
Meet Fresh is a dessert shop with many unique types of desserts and drinks to choose from. They are located in Chinatown. Meet Fresh is next door to a hot pot restaurant, so it is very convenient if someone wants unique desserts to go with their unique meal.
I ordered a few things: oolong tea with melon jellies, mochi ice cream, and milk tea with chewy tapioca balls. My favorite out of the two drinks was the oolong tea with melon jellies. The flavor profile was more fruity than savory. The type of boba I used was melon jellies.
The best part about Meet Fresh is that you can add as many different toppings as you want because they have a wide variety. For sweetness, you could choose between half sweet, sugar-free, and regular. I chose a regular sweet, and it was delicious. The only downside was that there were too many jellies in the drink, so it got in the way of the actual base of the drink.
I paid $4.45 for the drink, a very reasonable price. The service was okay: they were friendly, but because of me being a first-timer, they were not as helpful in explaining things or being attentive. Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
Uni Uni is a bubble tea café that sells different types of boba with an excellent combination of drinks. They are located in Chinatown. Uni Uni is one of the most popular places to go for first-time boba drinkers because they give you more choices to customize your drink to your liking.
When I visited, the menu was set up where you pick your type of drink, next your toppings, and lastly, your level of sweetness by percent. I ordered the “Strawberry Orange Jasmine Green Tea” with clear boba at 100% sweetness. The drink was good, but too sweet. When ordering, I would suggest getting 75% sweetness for a more balanced drink experience. Other than that, the clear boba was delicious, and the jasmine tea was excellent and fresh, giving a refreshing feeling. I paid $6.70, so it is a little bit on the pricey side.
In terms of service, the environment was very welcoming. Most people who come in are new to boba, so the workers are very well versed in explaining the menu and giving the right advice when ordering. The cafe itself is very quaint and pretty, making it a very picture-friendly moment. Overall rating: 9 out of 10