Illustration: Caryn Qian

Bubble tea? Yes, please.

Among sugary drinks with no nutritional value, bubble tea is a relatively unexplored territory. Originating from Taiwan, this unique concoction has recently moved onto the global food scene and bubble tea franchises have grown to incorporate and develop new and unique flavours. We decided to follow this rising trend to six different bubble tea shops. At each stop, we ordered the original milk tea with tapioca, as well as a distinct flavour specific to the chain.

 

Sunny Supermarket

Taste: 2/5

Tapioca Quality: 1/5

Cost: ½$

Options: 2/5

Atmosphere: 1/5

Starting off with the infamous bubble tea with a reputation of being undistinguished, Sunny Supermarket did not disappoint. Watery base, low sugar, tapioca with no substance … the unfortunate list could go on and on. Having said that, the price range is quite befitting high school students with very little pocket change. On a hot day after school, it’s a good go-to option.

 

Real Fruit Bubble Tea

Taste: 4/5

Tapioca Quality: 2/5

Cost: $

Options: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3.5/5

Real Fruit Bubble Tea was pretty good, and despite drinking an inhuman amount of bubble tea, it still stood out as an option that was well worth our money. We tried their original black tea with tapioca along with the matcha green tea sherbet. The matcha sherbert was particularly good, as its flavour was not overpowering. Although the tapioca was slightly hard, fairly chewy, and a few clumps were found, both drinks tasted better than expected, and we would definitely recommend checking it out.

 

Chatime

Taste: 4.5/5

Tapioca Quality: 4.5/5

Cost: $$$$

Options: 4.5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Chatime was probably the most well-known and hyped-up bubble tea chain that we visited, and all for a good reason. There is an impressive variety of menu options, and the tea and tapioca are definitely at the top of our list. As usual, we ordered the original pearl milk tea, along with lychee green tea with rainbow jelly, both of which were highly satisfying. All the stores have a nice purple colour scheme, resulting in a modern and crisp atmosphere. The only downside was the price; the drinks were quite pricy. But was it worth it? Every cent.

 

Sharetea

Taste: 4/5

Tapioca Quality: 3/5

Cost: $$$$$

Options: 4/5

Atmosphere: 2.5/5

Sharetea is best described as average. There is quite a bit of inconsistency among the drinks, some being far better or worse than others. The original milk tea that we tried was mediocre; the bubbles were far too soft and had almost no chew at all. On the other hand, we ordered an Oreo milk tea, which was one of our favourite drinks of the day. While the prices were sky-high, this particular drink definitely stood out and was worth it. There were hits and misses here and there, all averaging out to a pedestrian experience.

 

Chacago

Taste: 1/5

Tapioca Quality: 2.5/5

Cost: $$$

Options: 3/5

Atmosphere: 3/5

Chacago was by far the worst place we visited. If you think the bubble tea from Sunny Supermarket by Marc Garneau is bad, you clearly have not tried this one, and, trust us, you don’t want to. For a shop that provides only one size of drink at an expensive price, Chacago set the bar too high for themselves. The original milk tea and the Hokkaido caramel milk tea we ordered were definitely not worth our money. What milk tea has to do with the Japanese prefecture, we don’t know, but its taste was deplorable. Although the tapioca was average, both teas were watered down and didn’t taste like milk or tea.

 

Coco Fresh Tea & Juice

Taste: 4/5

Tapioca Quality: 3/5

Cost: $$

Options: 2.5/5

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Coco Fresh Tea & Juice didn’t really stand out, yet in terms of atmosphere, it was one of the frontrunners. The interior design was clean and well-put-together, with chic couches and wall art. The drinks themselves were tasty, but nothing special. There was, however, an underwhelming amount of choices; the menu only limited to a few flavours. We tried the original and Sago milk tea, the latter of which had bubbles that were too small which greatly reduced the fun of chewing them. Even so, both the drinks we ordered were still good. With all that said, the prices were reasonable and much better than some of the other options we visited.

Whether you’ve never tried bubble tea or you can’t live without it, its presence in Toronto’s food scene is strong and there are numerous delicious options out there. It provides a great opportunity to hang out with friends and try something new. Our one word of advice: try not to inhale ten bubble teas in one day. Your stomach will thank you later.