It’s a blast straight from the streets of 1980s Taiwan. In essence, bubble tea – also called boba or pearl milk tea – is a sweet, tea-based beverage (usually some parts milk), with either tapioca pearls or some other jelly topping added. Having charmed the hearts of so-called “coffee countries” like the Philippines and the U.S., bubble tea’s success is expected in Myanmar, where tea leaves or lahpet are consumed as a national dish, and roadside teashops are ubiquitous. In recent years, there has been a surge in shops and street vendors selling boba, and the new industry’s bubble doesn’t look like it’s about to burst anytime soon.
Here’s a list of a few bubble tea joints in Yangon for those that want some boba in a pinch…
iTea (Serenitea) / / 76 Sinn O Dan St, Across from Taw Win Centre
Besides the boba business, iTea is also a Korean hotpot and BBQ restaurant. It’s an odd combo, but milk bubble tea has proven to be quite effective at cooling spicy flavours. Some of the best-selling drinks here are the Malty Choco, and the Matcha Frost. Toppings at iTea are called ‘sinkers’. If you’re feeling fruity, opt for the popping boba which comes in three flavours: mango, passionfruit, and lychee. Likewise, there are plenty of smoothies (actually they’re more like slushies) sold at iTea. Serenitea, a sister shop, also serves iTea at No. 17A Nawaday Street, Dagon Township. Around 3,000 kyats – 3,500 kyats
Chatime / / Ocean Centre, Corner of Phone Gyi & Maharbandoola Road, Pearl Condo Ground Floor and more
A more upscale Taiwan-based drink franchise with a growing number of outlets in the city, Chatime is consistent in convenience, but it’s a bit pricey. It has a very customer-friendly approach to drink customization with an extensive categorized menu including milk teas, fresh-brewed oriental teas and more but some less ordered menu items have poorer quality control, like the matcha smoothie which can have a sandy texture. Ask for less ice to get more for your money, since they allow you to change sugar and ice levels. Around 3,500 – 4,000 kyats.
Magic Bubble Tea / / 279 Kyaikkasan Rd, 76A Hledan Rd, and a mobile shop
Fresh juice and tea lattes are also on the menu at this crowd-pleasing local business. Taiyaki, a Japanese snack cake with a fish-shape and sweet red bean filling, is a must-try, and even better with taro milk tea to pair. Also on offer are ‘healthy drinks’ including ginger milk and a section devoted to osmanthus teas – believed in traditional Chinese medicine to have various health benefits and illness-preventing properties. Magic Bubble Tea also has a white and green food truck roaming the streets of Yangon. Around 2,000 – 3,000 kyats
Mr. Ice / / Rm. 19 Bogyoke Aung San Market
Be on the lookout for its colourful sign, since this small stall can be hard to miss. Bubble tea here are sold as ‘shakes’. Around 1,000 – 2,000 kyats
Gong Cha / / Dagon Centre, Junction Square, and more
Another Taiwanese tea shop chain with a similar experience as Chatime; Gong Cha’s much smaller presence in Yangon’s global boba scene is still limited to malls where both stores are present. ‘Signature’ drinks stay close to home, invoking bubble tea’s origins as a shaken milk tea with a layer of frothy foam to top it off. A few unique drinks thrown into the mix like the lychee and wintermelon flavours. Toppings are fairly standard plus some more bizarre ones like aloe and basil seeds. Around 2,000 – 3,000 kyats
SHAKE Bubble Tea / / 209/211 Anawrahta Rd, 9/2A U Tun Lin Chan Street, 1201 Pin Lon Rd, and more
Shake Bubble Tea is a one-stop shop for boba, milkshakes, baked goods, noodles, light Shan foods and Wi-Fi. The drink sizes are on the smaller side, but you can’t complain since it’s so inexpensive. Don’t miss out on faluda, a colourful Indian drink mixed from rose syrup, milk, basil seeds, tapioca pearls, fruit jelly and more. Cheese bread, hard-boiled tea eggs, and kaw yay noodle soup are popular food options. Around 700 – 1,100 kyats
Tea Black / / No. 91B Sinn O Dan St.
The essential flavours of bubble tea are available, but there’s even more juice and smoothies on the menu that you can add pearls or jelly to. The ‘combination series’ has mixed juice pairings like pineapple with dragonfruit, and apple with carrots. Drinks are cheap and offer up good quality, comparable to more expensive shops. Staff are open to special requests. Tea Black also serves up waffles with optional honey or chocolate, in case you get hungry. Around 1,000 – 2,000 kyats
Green Bubble / / No. 92 Phone Gyi St. Lanmadaw Township
This sit-down restaurant serves up several bubble tea drinks made with fresh ingredients, a variety of fruit juices, strawberry ‘milk’, as well as Chinese food, Thai food, and sandwiches. Delivery is an option. Try the potstickers, stay for the jasmine lemon bubble tea. Around 800 – 1,200 kyats
Big Mouth / / No. 675 Mahabandoola St.
A cafe with bubble tea, coffee and juice. Around 1,000 – 1,500 kyats