After 9 colored straws, endless amounts of tapioca and a major sugar-high, I have discovered some of the best bubble tea on Easton Ave.
Beautiful bubble tea in all its splendor really represents itself here at Rutgers, with over three bubble tea shops on Easton Ave alone! To the bubble tea newcomer, and to even the connoisseur, it can be difficult to find that perfect cup. And that’s where I come in.
Here’s how the mission worked: At each stop I tried the basic black milk tea with boba and then ordered a few others fun flavors. Then, I tasted and compared each tea, paying close attention to the flavor and overall sweetness. It was a crazy journey, but someone had to do it!
Stop #1: Hokkaido
Location: 45 Easton Ave
Hokkaido is just a happy place! Upon stepping into the shop, it is impossible not to smile. The brightly-colored walls, cute animal stickers, sweet scents of tea and the friendly owner make this tiny shop the most welcoming one on the block.
For this first round, I ordered the Thai Iced Tea with boba, Rose-Lychee with pudding and, one of the owner’s favorites, White Peach with pudding.
The Thai Iced Tea looked pretty with its signature orange color, and it was cool and refreshing. It is a nice tea, though I didn’t find too much of a difference between this one and regular black tea. The Rose-Lychee on the other hand was an awesome choice. The rose was perfectly evident but not overpowering. It is a nice light tea to sip on a hot day and its unique flavor left me wanting more. White Peach was quite sweet, but still had an unmistakable peach flavor that I enjoyed.
A Hokkaido bonus: you can ask for half-sugar! I would highly recommend doing that, especially with the fruity flavors.
Stop #2: Noodle Gourmet
Location: 43 Easton Ave
Noodle Gourmet has a considerably different ambiance from Hokkaido. It is adorned with traditional Chinese decorations hanging from the ceiling and the walls and there are even Chinese shows on a TV. The bubble tea menu is fairly extensive with many interesting-sounding variations.
I tried Mango with boba, the bestseller, and also Green Apple Green Tea with pudding because it sounded so intriguing I couldn’t resist.
The three things that come to mind after tasting the mango tea is sugar, sugar and sugar. This tea is much too sweet and a bit off-putting. I was disappointed that the fruity flavor of the mango did not have a strong enough presence. But, the green apple tea was one of my favorites. It did not have milk but certainly didn’t lack flavor. It felt like I was drinking a green apple jolly rancher! I really, really loved that tea!
Stop #3: I’s Café
Location: 42 Easton Ave
In terms of atmosphere, I’s café is like a sophisticated Hokkaido. The bright green walls and white tables and chairs gave it a sleek appearance rather than a cutesy-ness. Besides lots of bubble tea, I’s offers plenty of tempting-looking treats, including French macarons, brownies, and cookies.
For my tea at this stop, I decided to try the Cookies and Cream slush. I also tried the seasonal tea, Pumpkin Spice, back in the fall.
The Cookies and Cream slush was definitely creative. It was full of chocolate, but because it is tea, it tasted a bit watered-down. This is understandable, but nonetheless, I didn’t feel completely satisfied. In terms of the chocolate flavor, it was like straight-up Hershey’s syrup which was weird to me. I might be a tough critic though, because I have heard many rave reviews of this slush. Because of that, I urge you to try it for yourself.
My all-time favorite bubble tea is the Pumpkin Spice. This is a seasonal flavor so I encourage you to take advantage of it when you can. It was creamy, not-too-sweet and spicy. The flavor was a perfect balance of being distinctive but not overwhelming. I can’t say enough about this bubble tea, it is just that amazing!
And an I’s bonus: If you are a Rutgers student you can get a large tea for the same price as a small one!
Now that I have compared most of the teas, I want to do a quick comparison of boba and pudding. One of the things that distinguishes bubble tea from regular tea is the extra elements, like boba and pudding, which lend interest and texture to the drink. The pudding is very light and soft which I found much less satisfying than the toothsome boba. Therefore, I felt the pudding didn’t enhance the tea, and boba is by far the winner.
And now for the side-by-side black tea comparison and the WINNER!
I have not chosen a single bubble tea shop as the winner because they all have their strengths and weaknesses depending on personal preference. Rather, I have chosen the spot with the best basic black milk tea with boba, since it is a staple for every bubble tea seller out there.
The winner of Best Black Milk Tea is I’s Café. Their black tea easily came out on top. It was perfectly sweetened, full of bold tea flavor and has a unique floral undertone that really made it a winner. This tea was awesome!
In second place is Hokkaido. Their black tea was a little sweet, but it still had a fairly strong tea flavor. It did not add the floral complexity that I’s did but it was still a yummy tea.
Third place is Noodle Gourmet. The extreme sugary-sweetness was too much, and unfortunately overpowered the rest of the flavor.
There are so many more bubble teas out there that it is quite possible I left out your favorite! Which means there is only one thing left to do: Take a trip over to Easton Ave and start sipping! Show off your favorites on twitter and instagram and be sure to tag us @trimmagazine !
Photos by Young Hwang