Before this past year, I was not into boba….at all. Then last semester, on a random evening in October, my suite ordered crepes from T-Swirl Crepe (delicious crepes), and my suitemate Danny ordered boba (crepes and boba, a strange but extremely yummy and sugary combo). I had told him how much I disliked the milky tea, although I’ve always liked getting the tapioca pearls and popping boba in other things like frozen yogurt. “This is really really good though,” he told me. “Why don’t you try it?” At his insistence, I did try his boba, and my life has never been the same.
Now, I looooooveeeee boba. There are so many milk and fruit tea options but my go-to’s have been: Brown Sugar Milk Tea and Iced Rose tea with tapioca pearls. I’ve also enjoyed slushies, passion fruit tea, and various renditions of black milk tea (I still have a long road ahead). As the weather gets nicer, I’ve been getting boba almost once a week, which is not always good for my wallet or my stomach: I’m lactose intolerant and boba in general just has so much sugar and calories. But, it’s been a nice way to see my friends, socially distant, and get out of Trumbull for a walk. Ultimately, I suffer the consequences in pursuit of finding the best boba in New Haven (and when I’m in New York, there too).
There are many contenders on this list. My rating is based on 1) taste, 2) affordability (in relation to size), and 3) tea selections and varieties. All ratings are on a scale of 1-10; I will rate each category and then give an overall score (total of all the categories). The highest number will determine the winner. Note: I have also asked for input from various friends and fellow boba-enthusiasts.
Vivi Bubble Tea: Located on Chapel Street, Vivi’s is about a five-six minute walk from Trumbull College (depending on how fast you walk) and very close to Old Campus. Vivi Bubble Tea is a Taiwanese franchise that started in 2007 in New York and now has over 70 locations. It’s known for its extensive menu
- Taste: pretty standard, nothing too special to be honest and also can be really sweet sometimes so I have to double down on the sugar. 6.5/10
- Affordability: The lowest price for teas starts at $5.50 and ranges all the way to $7.50 depending on size and toppings. Pretty normal prices for Boba. 7.5/10
- Selections: Vivi’s has over 50 flavor options (I counted) ranging from milk teas and fruit teas to slushies, yakult drinks, and even a cream float series! They have many topping options available (popping boba, tapioca, and even pudding). If you’re a first timer and don’t know what kind of tea you’re into, this is probably the best place to start. 9/10
- Overall Score: 23
T-Swirl Crepe: Located on College Street, it’s about a seven minute walk from Trumbull. It’s open until 10PM and it’s on Snackpass until about 9pm. Snackpass is an app that lets you order from New Haven restaurants and earn points. (You can claim rewards like free boba after you reach a certain amount of points). The boba is good, service is great, and the crepes are also delicious!
- Taste: super yummy and consistent, I’ve never tried boba that I have not liked here. 8/10
- Affordability: more expensive through Snackpass, but the base price at the store for milk tea is about $4.25 and ranges to $6.50 depending on what you add, so pretty affordable! 8.5/10
- Selections: They also have a variety of flavors, although not as many as Vivi but still an extensive list. They’re fruit teas in particular are amazing (my personal favorite: Rose Ice Tea, it even comes with little rose petals).
- Overall Score: 24.5
York Street Noodle House: Pretty close to Trumbull College, about a five minute walk. They have a very extensive noodle menu which is pretty yummy!
- Taste: Also, pretty okay. If you’re looking for cheap bubble tea you can’t go wrong.Their focus is really food (noodles, dim sum, etc) so the bubble tea is an added bonus. The drinks are sometimes too sugary for me personally. 6/10
- Affordability: By far the cheapest on the list, with prices ranging from $3.50-$4.25! 9.5/10
- Selection: Really interesting flavors like Avocado although their bubble tea is mostly fruit teas and slushies, not really milk tea. 7/10
- Overall Score: 22.5
The Whale Tea: A bit further away for me, about an eight-ten minute walk from Trumbull College. Many people love The Whale Tea, and many of my friends have voted this as their go-to Boba spot in New Haven.
- Taste: Ok, personally I have mixed feelings because sometimes I’ve ordered boba and it just gets too watery with the amount of ice. I also am not a fan of the Fresh Milk Series BUT the Brown Sugar Milk Tea is really good if you get it with less ice. 7.5/10
- Affordability: Also pretty standard and comparable to others on the list ($5.25-$6.75), unless you order on Snackpass, it’s a bit more expensive). 7.5/10
- Selection: They really don’t have an extensive list of flavors, but do have a Fresh Milk Series and other original series like the Whale Crystal Series which are innovative! 7.5/10
- Overall score: 22.5
Loose Leaf: This spot actually just opened in New Haven but wow…just wow. It started in 2017 in California and this is their second location ever. Their whole motto is real ingredients, and real tea: “Always Keepin’ It Real.” My favorite part was that they had Oat Milk available; for someone who’s lactose intolerant this is HUGE!
- Taste: Just wow. They have their own “Honey Boba” which I’ve never had anywhere else and I was surprised by how good the oat milk tasted inside the milk tea. 9/10
- Affordability: Boba is extra BUT the standard serving size is 24 oz which is ⅓ or ½ bigger than all the other standard sizes on this list. Also none of the milk is extra! The only downside is that you can only get the one size option, which could be inconvenient if you don’t want that much boba. 8.5/10
- Selection: The menu isn’t as extensive as some of the others but they have a variety of tea options, coffee, and even matcha/matcha boba!! Really bringing innovative flavors which I appreciate. Sadly, they don’t have too many fruit tea options. 7.5/10
- Overall Score: 25
There you have it folks… the winner is Loose Leaf!!!! I highly recommend any boba lovers out there to check all these places out and let me know their thoughts!