Milk tea is exactly as it sounds: a rich blend of herbal tea and milk. Variations of this drink can be found across cultures, where it can be called anything from tapioca tea to bubble tea.
Story by Alexis Fischer
Illustration by Kathlin Trang
The milk tea locations found in West Campus serve traditional Taiwanese milk tea with boba. “Boba,” also referred to as pearls, are little chewy balls of tapioca that are added to the milk tea for flavor. The drinks can be fruity, infused with exotic flavors like mango or passion fruit, or they can be creamy and sweet.
Milk tea seems to be very popular with students at the University of Texas at Austin, as it’s hard not to pass a shop when walking down the Drag or through West Campus. ORANGE Magazine breaks down the best places to sip this fall.
Coco’s Cafe - 1910 Guadalupe St.
Coco’s relaxing atmosphere makes it seem far from the construction-ridden Guadalupe that lives just outside the shop. The menu is broken down step-by-step and includes pictures of the vibrant drinks. Coco’s also includes some interesting drink add-in’s beside the classic tapioca. Almond pudding, egg pudding, green apple jelly, lychee jelly and pineapple jelly can all be mixed in with drinks. Pick the most colorful drink and you won’t be disappointed.
The staff is bubbly and always armed with recommendations when the menu becomes overwhelming. “I always get the coconut milk tea with tapioca-it’s so refreshing!” says marketing student Evelyn Gonzalez. Coco’s offers fresh smoothies as well as slushies, tea, coffee and snow ice that comes in a bowl and is topped with boba and fruit. The hole-in-the-wall restaurant also has delicious Taiwanese food to compliment your tea. Leave Coco’s full, happy and ready for a nap.
Tapioca House - 1906 Guadalupe St.
Tapioca House is nestled between Coco’s and the other various Asian restaurants south of 21st. The sign proclaiming “Best Boba Drink in Town” lures in curious foodies all over Austin. Although seating is limited, Tapioca House remains the most authentic in terms of ingredients and flavors. With the largest variety of flavors, such as french vanilla, pumpkin, lavender and green apple, it’s encouraged to try a new drink every time. Always keep an eye on the specials board, as it usually presents the employees' recommendations.
A best seller, specific only to Tapioca House, is rose milk tea. Real rose petals as well as rose syrup are blended with milk tea and tapioca. It tastes like you’re walking through a garden, but a really pretty one where allergies don’t exist.
Mango 8 - 705 W. 24th St.
Looking to change up your Instagram feed from the usual Starbucks drink pic? Mango 8 is the most aesthetic milk tea shop in West Campus, for both the atmosphere and menu. Their menu is filled with playful drinks, like the butterfly tea, which blends with other flavors to create a mesmerizing gradient right in your glass.
They recently started serving refreshments in light bulb-looking glasses that customers can take home. “It's so easy to customize your drinks and add different flavors," freshman Andrea Fernandez says. "The drinks are also really pretty and can come in the light bulb glasses. They give you a little light to put under it so you can take a picture of your drink and see everything in it." Mango 8 is located next to Sushi Niichi on 24th Street, which allows drinks from Mango 8 while dining.
Kung Fu Tea - 801 W. 24th St.
Located in the heart of West Campus, Kung Fu Tea has been leading the boba business for 10 years. Unlike other milk tea shops in Austin, they have stores all across the nation, as well as Australia and Canada. The interior of the store is very modern and simple, and offers an inclusive menu for customers with dietary restrictions. Their menu includes gluten free drinks, as well as caffeine free and vegan drinks. One of their best sellers is the winter melon milk green tea, which combines jasmine green tea and ripe winter melon for a flavorful and creamy blend.
Like Coco’s, they offer a variety of traditional drink toppings. Customers can choose from tapioca, red bean, mung bean, aloe jelly, popping bubbles and much more. As an established brand, they are able to constantly pump out new drinks and are not afraid to experiment with odd flavors. Their fall specials menu is something to awe at, especially with the brown sugar ginger tea.