Taste Tea is one of the best boba locations around with their split cups and endless options for drinks. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

Essentially, boba is freshly brewed tea with its signature tapioca pearls, but for most locals it’s more than just a drink. Boba combines the refreshing aspect of a drink with the sugary quality of desserts and turns it into heaven in a cup. If you’ve had boba before and you’re looking to try something new or if you’re unfamiliar with the drinks and don’t know where to start, here are some places to check out.

Taste Tea: Across the island, Taste Tea has 6 locations and even its own mobile store. Though one of the unique things about this boba chain is its split-cup option. You can choose different drinks, aside from blended ones, to customize to your liking. This allows customers to try two at once if they’re indecisive or having a hard time choosing between options. My go to is always a milk tea and a lemonade because I’m able to enjoy the sweet and tart sides of the best drinks Taste Tea has to offer. However, if you’re not a fan of boba, Taste Tea also has amazing snow ice bowls. It’s very similar to shave ice, though it’s shaved finer and there’s a creamier taste to it. 

Chaya: This boba place is fairly new, as they just opened up in June of last year. They operate out of a small kiosk in Kāhala Mall near Carousel Candyland and their drinks are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. The plantation jasmine tea and the kuromitsu kinako milk are some of the more popular drinks, though my favorites are tied between the li-hing pineapple and the strawberry soda. My favorite part about this place is the freshness of the boba. It’s slightly warm and very chewy which makes it super satisfying to eat as you savor your drink. In addition to the teas, Chaya also serves traditional red-bean taiyaki. Like the boba, the taiyaki comes out fresh and ready to eat.

Lunar Tea: With only one location on the island near UH Mānoa, I was surprised to find so many people talking about it. Out of curiosity, I decided to give it a try. I was drawn to the interesting boba options instantly. Most chain places have regular tapioca and rainbow jelly, but Lunar Tea has much more than that. Guests are able to choose from crystal boba, azuki bean, and even ice cream. While I’m not as adventerous as others, I worked up the courage to try the crystal boba which was actually pretty good. The texture is different from regular boba, which is spherical, though it’s not as gelatinous. There are also different flavors available, like mango crystal boba and brown sugar crystal boba. However, the most interesting part to me was the yogurt rice. It has a thicker consistency than milk tea and blended drinks, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Even though it didn’t sound appetizing, it sets this store apart from others in the area.

Be sure to try the spicy li-hing lava drinks next time you stop at Teapresso. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

Teapresso: After a bad experience with tea from Teapresso, I stopped frequenting its stores. However, their enticing advertisements got the better of me and I found myself in line to order a drink. I ended up getting the strawberry spicy li-hing lava with lychee jelly and as a fan of all things spicy, I was sold immediately. To my delight, it was better than what I was expecting. The slush itself was refreshing and the lychee jelly added to its faint sweetness. To finish everything off, there were strawberries at the top with tajin sprinkles and what seemed to be a chamoy stick to the side of it. I am hoping that this will be part of the regular menu instead of just a seasonal item. This drink also comes in a mango and pineapple flavor and I plan to go back and try both of them.

Cowcow’s Tea: Last but certainly not least, Cowcow’s Tea is a boba shop in Kaimukī across from Coffee Talk. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is its bright pink interior and rose-covered wall. It’s a very uplifting environment and the staff make your experience even better. While their menu is smaller than most places, the quality of the drinks is something you can’t get anywhere else. The flavored sparkling water and fresh brew cha have unique tastes that compliment soft and chewy boba. Once you select and customize your drink you’ll be able to take a picture with it using the beautiful rose backdrop. Don’t forget to tag the shop on Instagram @cowcowstea along with other dedicated customers!