A Definitive Ranking of the Most Popular Boba Franchises
As boba restaurants infiltrate the United States more and more, it's become my obsession to try every single one. There's something so addicting about it—maybe it's the pleasing chewiness of tapioca pearls or the fact that there's a flavor to match every one of my moods.
After trying so many boba spots, I'd like to consider myself a connoisseur. So, I decided to hit some of the hottest shops near me and rank them to see which restaurant is the ultimate bubble tea vendor. To accurately put them to the test, I ordered one of the most basic (and my favorite) boba flavors, brown sugar. If that wasn't an option, I selected another sweet flavor similar to brown sugar, taro.
Below, find out which of the six boba franchises reigned supreme.
Sharetea was, by far, my least favorite franchise that I tried. I went into these restaurants expecting they'd have the most popular flavors. Because they didn't sell brown sugar, I decided to order their taro frozen drink.
The texture of the drink was confusing. I expected something creamier or similar to a slushy, but the ice wasn't blended well. The taro flavoring was off, and it almost seemed like I had pulp in my drink. I'm used to taro being sweet, but this tasted like the sugar-free version of it.
The saving grace for Sharetea is that they had the most basic menu items besides brown sugar, and it's a good value because their drinks are huge. Because the drink I tried was so off-putting, I don't think I'd return to try something else.
Also read about: A Definitive Ranking of the 10 Best Boba Tea Flavors
5. Happy Lemon
Whenever I go to a boba restaurant, it's a toss-up whether "milk tea" will actually be milk and tea or just milk, unless they clarify that they are milk-based drinks. I have a preference for drinks that are milk-based or have little tea in them.
Unfortunately, Happy Lemon's drink had a potent tea flavor, and I couldn't drink even half of it. Don't get me wrong—this wasn't a terrible drink, but it wasn't what I anticipated. If you prefer the tea portion of milk tea, you will surely enjoy this drink.
Happy Lemon had a beautiful presentation, but the flavor wasn't up to par. Although, they did have an expansive menu, and I saw a couple of items that would make me return to try something more my speed.
4. Kung Fu Tea
Kung Fu Tea is where things get promising.
At this point in my life, I'm a Kung Fu Tea veteran and have been to locations in multiple states, so I appreciate their accessibility. Because I've been here many times, I know their milk tea also has a stronger tea flavor than milk, so I went with their version of a milk-based brown sugar drink, the Wow Milk.
As usual, it was great! The only thing I wish was different is that I could better taste the caramel drizzle. Their boba is consistently fresh, and because they use lactose-free milk, I don't feel bloated afterward. Additionally, they have one of the largest menus I've seen at a boba restaurant.
Also read about: A Definitive Ranking of Kung Fu Tea's Best-Selling Drinks
Daboba specializes in brown sugar drinks, offering a standard and roasted version. On top of that, they have five flavors of each version: fresh milk, milk tea, chocolate, matcha and latte. I opted for the Roasted Brown Sugar Fresh Milk.
Wow, is this drink good! It's super buttery, which I attribute to the fact that it's roasted. The caramelized brown sugar itself has the perfect sweetness. I regret not ordering this drink with the creme brulee or cheese foam topping because it would've taken it to the next level.
The only reason I'm not ranking this drink as one of my top two choices is that the drinks are tiny and pricier, and it took extra effort to get the tapioca pearls through my straw.
2. Gong Cha
Out of every restaurant I visited, I believe Gong Cha is the most popular. After trying it for the first time, I understand why.
I ordered the Creme Brulee Brown Sugar Milk Tea. I try to avoid consuming caffeine, but this drink was too good not to devour. Thankfully, it didn't have a strong tea flavor. I absolutely adore how the creme brulee made it both savory and sweet, and the caramelized brown sugar was salty enough to enhance the drink.
If this drink were milk-based, it'd probably be my first choice. However, Gong Cha has a variety of appetizing, non-caffeinated options, and I'm already looking forward to returning to try something else.
1. Tiger Sugar
Ah, Tiger Sugar. I would order a drink from here every day if I could.
Before you go to a Tiger Sugar location, you should know that they pride themselves on their one-of-a-kind, hand-poured syrups. On their website, they very confidently declare, "They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Many companies have tried to replicate our drinks, but our tried and proven methods stand the taste of time." It takes eight hours to cook their syrups to perfection, and I can taste every second of love in the Brown Sugar Boba Milk I ordered.
I ordered a cheese pudding topping to chop into my drink using my straw, and it made the drink savory, salty and sweet at the same time. My tapioca pearls were warm and felt so pleasing against the ice-cold milk. And my favorite part is that it's caffeine-free.
This drink is quite literally heaven on earth. It's reasonably priced and large, and the flavor is impeccable. They have many other items, but their brown sugar is the star of the show. They could sell this alone, and it would be worth the trek. With that said, I visited the store with a friend who ordered a non-brown sugar beverage and loved it, making this restaurant even better.
Searching for new foods to try? Click HERE to see the most delicious items our editors tried in April 2023.