The phenomenon that is bubble tea originated in Taiwan and arrived in Singapore in 1992, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the drink reached the pinnacle of its popularity here. If you recall, long queues could be spotted at bubble tea shops everywhere, from neighborhood kiosks to ubiquitous chains like Cool Station and Each-A-Cup.
Even though, as with all food fads, the novelty of the drink soon wore off for fickle Singaporeans, bubble tea never completely left our shores. Many businesses may have gone downhill in 2003, but our taste for the beverage soldiered on, paving the way for major brands like Koi and Gong Cha to stake their place in our hearts – even with higher prices than before.
Of course, the bubble tea we know and love today is worlds apart from the bubble tea of old. Besides tapioca pearls swirling around cups of classic milk tea, we’ve got an always-changing selection of new and exotic flavors to whet all kinds of appetites.
Behold, an exhaustive list of all the great bubble tea brands in Singapore – from iconic mainstays to unconventional newcomers.
After hitting a couple speed bumps and shuttering outlets in places like Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and Tanjong Pagar Plaza, local brand Artease is left with one spot in the CBD, where it feeds office workers grilled cheese sandwiches and teas.
Classic drinks (from $2.50) like oolong milk tea and honey lemon jasmine green tea feature on the menu, alongside more unconventional concoctions like coconut water green tea ($3.50), roasted rice tea ($3), and caramel popcorn tea ($4). Then there’s the salted caramel Earl Grey milk tea ($4), which the café proclaims to be the “world’s best”, so tea connoisseurs can give that a shot.
#01-01, 3 Phillip St. Mon-Fri 7:30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8:30am-2pm.
Brought in by local actor Nat Ho, the new-to-Singapore brand caters to the Instagram/Snapchat generation with multi-colored and multi-layered concoctions given millennial names like Mermaid’s Tears ($5.90) and Don’t Want to Grow Up ($6.90).
The former is a tropical mix of butterfly pea extract, lemon, honey, milk, and mango with butterfly pea bobii ($0.90), while the latter is a tart, pastel blend of mango, milk, strawberry, and yogurt. Those in desperate need of a caffeine kick can try the self-proclaimed Extraordinary Bubble Milk Tea ($4.50) for sips of black tea, milk, and brown sugar bobii ($0.90).
#04-K4 The Clementi Mall, 3155 Commonwealth Ave West. Daily 10am-10pm.
Okay, so this one’s more tea than bubble, but it’s great for East-siders who just want an affordable thirst quencher on a hot, sunny day. Besides floral, fruity, and milk teas (from $2), the stall also whips up beverages inspired by local dessert favorites like ice kachang, chendol, and honeydew sago.
#01-05 Tampines MRT, 20 Tampines Central 1.
Old is gold, and when it comes to Each-a-Cup, loyal fans will agree. Having persevered through the highs and lows across the years, the grand dame of Singapore’s bubble tea scene has pleasantly surprised us all with its continued evolution. And to that we say, bravo.
If you haven’t had a cup branded with the familiar orange logo for a while, swing by one of its seven outlets for a swig of nostalgia.
Seven locations, including #B4-69 ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn. Daily 10am-10pm.
We all lived through the drama last year, when new homegrown brand LiHO took over every single Gong Cha outlet on the island, to many a devoted fan’s despair. But then, surprise surprise, the beloved franchise rose from the dead and received a warm welcome back mere months later – when more than 200 people waited in line for a sip of magical milk tea.
If you’re one of the five people left in Singapore who’s never clutched a Gong Cha cup in your hand, perhaps you’d like to start with bestsellers like the milk foam green tea, taro drink, or Earl Grey milk tea with 3J.
Five locations, including #01-141A/141B SingPost Centre, 10 Eunos Rd 8. Daily 10am-10pm.
Known for its cheese teas that rival LiHO’s range, Hee Tea boasts variations like mango cheese ($6.90), cheese pu-er ($5.50), and oolong cheese ($5.50), with crème brulee desserts (from $2) in flavors such as matcha and durian for those who want an extra heaping of sugar in their diet.
Healthier fruit tea offerings are also available, with options like passion fruit mango tea ($5), pomelo tea ($4.80), and green orange lemon tea ($4.50).
Two locations, including #B1-147 SingPost Centre, 10 Eunos Rd 8. Daily 11am-10pm.
Pearls made fresh as what Hollin dabbles in, with flavors like honey, matcha, cocoa, coconut, coffee, peanut, black sesame, and rock salt — each available on different days of the week for an extra $0.70. Although it’s a neat idea, that also means you’ll have to time your visit to the Toa Payoh stall according to the type of pearls you prefer.
Drinks-wise, you can choose from teas ($2.20-$4.90), tea lattes ($3.20-$5.20), and rock salt macchiatos ($3.20-$5.20).
#01-538, Blk 190 Toa Payoh Central. Daily 11am-9pm.
With a website that boldly brags about its “Best Pearl Milk Tea in Singapore”, the Taiwanese street food eatery is totally on board the ombre drink bandwagon, whipping up layered milk teas like Sunny Island ($4.90) with mango and butterfly pea flower, and Double Yammy ($4.30) with yam milk tea and honey yam.
For the lactose intolerant, try brews like Purple Lemonade ($4.90) consisting of lemon juice, butterfly pea flower tea, and chia seeds, or Autumn Sunrise ($4.90) made with osmanthus oolong tea and honey. Apart from good old-fashioned pearls, toppings on the menu include aiyu jelly, red bean, and passion “popz”.
Nine locations, including #B1-K11 Bugis Junction, 230 Victoria St. Daily 11am-10pm.
Mostly found in heartland areas, itea’s extensive menu will leave you spoilt for choice, with everything from milk teas to juice and yakult blends. Ice blended beverages also feature on the list, alongside macchiatos, lattes, smoothies, and fruity brews.
But as all bubble tea veterans will know, it’s really the basic milk tea option that’ll tell you everything you need to know about a brand. So don’t brush it off for other stalls till you’ve tried it.
Ten locations, including #01-52, 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza. Daily 10:30am-8:15pm.
With the recent Gong Cha reboot, Koi probably rejoiced and secretly celebrated its newly-minted position as Singapore’s reigning bubble tea brand with more than 40 outlets tempting tea drinkers at every corner.
If you’re on the Koi side of the debate against its fiercest rival, you probably know the menu like the back of your hand by now. From hazelnut milk tea ($3.50) and lemon yakult juice ($6.50) to caramel black tea latte ($4.10) and matcha macchiato ($4.10), the drinks have cheered up many a customer, especially with sweet toppings like konjac jelly, aloe vera, and golden bubble.
46 locations, including #01-68 Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Rd. Daily 10:30am-10:30pm.
A newcomer from China, Kurotaki Chabann set up shop at a café space on Rangoon Road, with signature drinks like grapefruit tea ($4.50), mango coconut with sago ($4.20), and brown sugar jelly milk tea ($3.50). Cheese lovers can also try the cream cheese series topped on brews like mango and oolong tea.
Four locations, including #01-01 The CherryLoft, 180 Rangoon Rd. Daily 10am-10pm.
Taking over all former Gong Cha outlets since last year, homegrown brand LiHO set itself apart by whipping up the mind-boggling concoction that is cheese tea (don’t knock it till you’ve sipped it). Of course, it’s also got crowd favorites like milk tea blends and fruity brews with toppings such as pearls, custard pudding, nata de coco, and more.
89 locations (and counting), including #B1-39 Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd. Daily 11am-10pm.
Looks like the cheese tea fad isn’t going anywhere soon. At new brand Oh Cha Cha, there’s an entire range of cheese teas, with flavors like milk chocolate, peach oolong, and mango.
But if you’re still on the fence about that strange-sounding combination, try the sugar-free cold brew ($3.50), milk tea ($3.20-$4.60), or tea latte ($3.90-$5.20) series, with toppings such as pearls, oreo bits, and milk pudding.
#01-01 Northpoint City, 930 Yishun Ave 2. Daily 11am-10:30pm.
Another newcomer to the scene, Partea wants you to party it up (sorry, lame) with its fruit and cheese tea selection, featuring traditional teas like jasmine green tea and oolong teas that are given a zesty boost with chunks of mango, strawberry, and watermelon. Sipping on a cup is pretty much like having a party in your mouth.
Three locations, including #02-470 Suntec City North Atrium, 3 Temasek Blvd. Sun-Thurs 11am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm.
Known for its unique pearl toppings in flavors like pink cactus, black sesame, and burnt caramel, this famous Taiwanese brand apparently makes its Instagram-worthy drinks with natural ingredients.
If you’d like to try something new, go for the brown rice ($4.30) and charcoal ($3.60) lattes, or take a swig of blends like pink cactus smoothie ($4.60) and cranberry vinegar ($2.90). Classic milk teas and fresh fruit drinks also make an appearance on the menu.
#01-59 Tampines 1, 10 Tampines Central 1. Daily 10am-10pm.
Welcomed to our shores by food court operator Koufu, yet another Taiwanese name brings its tea brews to thirsty Singaporeans, with signature drinks like Mighty Luffy ($6.80) featuring Hawaiian fruit tea with fruit bits, and Devil’s Booster ($4.20) made with peach tea, pineapple, and orange.
Oh, and let’s not forget the trending-in-Taiwan Brown Sugar Boba Milk ($3.80), consisting of fresh milk poured into a cup with tapioca pearls that have been cooked for over three hours in a brown sugar recipe. Yum.
Two locations, including #04-101/102 Koufu Cookhouse at Marina Square, 6 Raffles Blvd. Daily 10am-9pm.
To keep customers coming back for more, Sharetea recently hit refresh on its menu to add in cold brew teas to the mix. Earl Grey, oolong, and jasmine teas now come in palate-cleansing flavors like cucumber lime and passion fruit, alongside signature offerings like coffee milk tea, winter melon tea, and the classic black milk tea overflowing with pearls.
Six locations, including #01-14A Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria St. Daily 11am-10pm.
Make the trek to the obscure CC for jugs of caffeine-free bubble tea made with Super Oxide Dismutase — it’s apparently an “important antioxidant defense in nearly all living things” that helps to boost the immune system and remove toxins in the body, so says the website — which is what the café is named after. Served with syrup on the side and your choice of black pearls, white pearls, or aloe vera chunks, this version of bubble tea is quite possibly one of the healthier ones around.
Even if you don’t live anywhere near Hougang, the café brings its range of bubble teas to doorsteps islandwide, with free delivery for orders above $30. Bestsellers include the standard range of milk teas (from $2.50), but you can always go for fruity renditions like the grape milk tea or mango milk tea ($3.50) to try something different.
#01-03 Ci Yuan Community Centre, 51 Hougang Ave 9. Wed-Mon 11am-10pm.
It’s all about fruit teas at Teafolia, with cups of Taiwan’s Four Seasons oolong brew, Sri Lanka’s Royal Ceylon black tea, and green tea from Vietnam brimming with slices of orange, lemon, kiwi, grapefruit, and peach.
But if you gotta have your dose of lactose for the day, try the stirring milk series of fresh milk mixed with flavored pudding, sweet sauces and fine ice, topped with the likes of pearls, grass jelly, strawberry konjac, and taro cubes.
Four locations, including #01-29/30 Tampines MRT station, 20 Tampines Central 1. Sun-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 11am-10:30pm.
Besides dessert bowls, the café chain also whips up classic brews ($2.30) like oolong, jasmine, and Earl Grey, with milk teas (from $2.90) in flavors such as peppermint, hazelnut, caramel, yam, chocolate, and strawberry.
Fans of fruity teas (from $2.80) can quench their thirst with passion fruit or mango peach green tea; alternatively, there’s always the fresh milk range (from $3.90) with black or green teas.
Five locations, including #B1-140 Suntec City, 3 Temasek Blvd. Daily 11am-9:30pm.
Bumping up your bubble tea experience to M18, CBD eatery The Local Box offers alcoholic concoctions, including ones like Nutella milk tea with a splash of Baileys ($11), taro tequila milk tea ($12), and pineapple thyme with a shot of rum ($12).
Granted, you’ll have to fork out about four times more for these boozy beverages, but it’ll be worth it when they float you through the work day on a pleasant buzz.
#01-05, 8 Enggor St. Mon-Thurs 7:30am-6pm, Fri 7:30am-7:30pm.
Yishun gets a fruit vinegar tea brand in the form of True Boss from Taiwan, with a selection of signatures that includes peach vinegar ($2.90), plum vinegar ($3.40), sparkling cranberry vinegar ($4.50), and vinegar yogurt ($4.90).
#B2-134 Northpoint City, 1 Northpoint Dr. Daily 10am-10pm.
From lemon tea to milk tea to fruit tea variations, U-Cha shakes up sweet and tangy drinks with a massive bear mascot welcoming you at its stalls. But for those who already know exactly what you like, go ahead and customize your own liquid refreshment by starting with base options like cheese tea ($4.20), fruit tea ($4.50), pure tea ($3.20), and fresh milk tea ($4.20).
Next, choose the tea type you prefer from an assortment that includes lychee black tea, sakura oolong, and osmanthus oolong, then throw in black or white pearls if you wish.
Two locations, including #01-37 313 @ Somerset, 313 Orchard Rd. Daily 11am-10pm.
If ever you’ve got a cough, Woobbee’s herbal mint milk tea drizzled with Nin Jiom pei pa koa ($3.90) could be just the thing to soothe your bubble tea-lovin’ throat. But if that’s a tad too out-of-this-world for you, it’s also got regular blends like honey milk tea ($3.20), taro milk tea ($3.30), and hazelnut milk tea ($3.20).
Juice and yakult mash-ups are on the menu as well, alongside flavored coffees and fruity teas.
Three locations, including #02-26 Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Rd. Mon-Fri 10:30am-8:30pm, Sat-Sun 10:30am-7:30pm.
With tea leaves brought in from Taiwan to brew fragrant blends like pu’er, oolong, ziya shan, and tieguanyin, Yuan Cha offers a selection of traditional teas, fruit vinegar teas, and milk teas. For a different take on your regular milk tea, try the milk tieguanyin ($3.50); if you’re after a refreshing beverage, get the honey alishan ($3.30) for light, floral notes.
Toppings run the range from herbal jellies and konjac jellies to coconut jelly, QQ yam, and QQ sweet potato. No pearls though – which probably makes the health-conscious among us feel slightly better about getting a drink here.
Four locations, including #02-13A nex, 23 Serangoon Central. Daily 11am-9:30pm.
“There’s always time for tea,” Yocha declares, and it’s safe to say most Singaporeans agree. With a tea series touted as the healthier option, the store offers customers a not-so-guilty treat with the likes of roasted brown rice tea, tieguanyin oolong, and rose petal black tea. Drinks can also be sweetened with honey instead of sugar, if that’s what you prefer.
Otherwise, there’s always the reliable range of milk teas, yakult and juice blends, fruity brews, and smoothies to choose from.
Two locations, including #01-07 Velocity @ Novena Square, 238 Thomson Rd. Daily 10am-9:30pm.
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