Light, sweet, and incredibly fun to customize, bubble tea is having a moment in Ann Arbor. Sometimes referred to as boba, pearl milk tea, zhenzhu naicha, this Taiwanese drink seems to be popping up in storefronts all over the city. In the last year alone, the landscape of Ann Arbor bubble tea has changed drastically, with two international chains, ChaTime and CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice, opening their doors. In the coming months, outposts of Ding Tea and Tea Ninja are expected to set up shop in Tree City.
With all these options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of choice. Fortunately, Eater’s compiled a handy guide of tried and tested bubble tea shops around Ann Arbor. Whether the day calls for a quick carryout bubble tea, a cozy cafe with a wide selection of colorful jellies, or a late-night milk tea run, here’s where to find the best boba in Ann Arbor.
1731 Plymouth Rd.
Taiwan-based chain CoCo entered the Ann Arbor boba scene last year, and undeniably made a splash. The shop opened to a two-hour-long wait, and is still constantly packed with fans of the popular brand’s extensive variety of flavors and ever-changing menu. Located in the University of Michigan’s North Campus, near the iconic Korean fried chicken spot Seoul Street, CoCo’s milk teas are rich and flavorful. Choose from options like the crowd-favorite black tea macchiato or the mango Yakult slush. It’s hard to go wrong. Just don’t plan on staying too long. The little café tables are mostly filled with people waiting for drinks and rushing out the door again.
340 Maynard St.
This highly anticipated international boba franchise debuted in Ann Arbor at the start of May 2019 to another excited crowd. Chatime is recognized as the place for fruit-based teas and features a seemingly endless purple menu of tapioca and jelly options. This location is especially generous with the toppings; each cup is packed with jellies, tapioca, or whatever else the heart desires. This central location is another one that’s constantly abuzz with friends hanging out, students meeting up, as well as a reliably healthy line of people rushing between classes and appointments to grab something to sip on. Consider asking for 50 percent sugar as opposed to the default full sugar, as Chatime tends to lean towards the sweeter side.
1213 S University Ave.
This Ann Arbor staple has been around for a while, but it recently changed the game and increased its cup sizes. (A big win for those on a strict college student budget.) Right across the street from Bubble Island, and with another location near Briarwood Mall, Sweeting offers a large variety of customizable flavors, choices between the traditional milk tea and a creamier British-style milk tea, and sweetness adjustments to find the right balance of flavors. With both high-top and family-style seating arrangements, comfortable couches, and the melodies of soothing Chinese ballads playing over the speakers, this location is great for a second date, a last-minute exam cram session, or an evening out with friends. For people who aren’t craving a bubble tea, Sweeting also serves great desserts such as mango pudding or Thai rolled ice cream.
516 E William St.
Yes, Asian Legend is a restaurant, but the reputation of its milk tea has earned it an honorable mention among the well-known Ann Arbor boba hotspots. For sugar-averse drinkers who might not want a super sweet tea, the milk tea here with tofu topping is a heavenly balance between airy, sweet, and creamy, with the lightest floral touch to top it all off. As an added bonus, it’s the most affordable on this list at $3.71. In fact, this milk tea is so popular, all one need to do is say the word “tofu” and the resident cashier auntie hands you a fresh cup in under 50 seconds. For people who just want a cup of delicious boba without the bells and whistles, Asian Legend is highly recommended.
1220 S University Ave. #100
Bubble Island is one of the most familiar cafés on the Ann Arbor bubble tea scene. Serving a reliable menu of typical bubble tea flavors, this boba shop on the bar-lined street of South University also offers a selection of fried “munchies” such as curly fries and popcorn chicken, as well as mochi ice cream, for those feeling peckish. Unlike some of the buzzier spots on this list, Bubble Island is a place where people can relax and stay for a while. There are couches and leather benches for people to lounge and enjoy themselves. But the strongest sell? It’s open until 2 a.m., making it ideal for a post-bar crawl bubble tea.
413 E Huron St. Suite C
New, trendy restaurants have been popping up all over Ann Arbor in the last year, including Asian fusion poké bar, Wild Poké. This quiet, industrial-chic eatery near Kerrytown offers not only lunch bowls, but a rack of imported Japanese candies, a late-night bar, and board games. And of course, there’s the boba: the Thai tea here is equal parts sweet and flavorful, and the popping boba and jelly options are a fun complement to a study date with friends. One can easily spend a full afternoon-to-evening inside Wild Poké reading, working, chatting, and chewing on tapioca pearls.