The Best Boba Shops in NYC
When it comes to afternoon pick-me-ups, boba perfectly straddles the line between something slightly caffeinated and dessert—and it’s easily available across all five boroughs. With so much great boba in NYC, the hardest part is picking which shop to visit. Here are our favorite places to satisfy the urge for sweet drinks with lots of satisfyingly chewy bits, including our go-to orders at each shop.
Xing Fu Tang is our top pick for brown sugar boba, with locations in Flushing and Manhattan (on St. Mark’s and Hudson Yards). The boba is always warm and fresh, and the giant copper cauldron of tapioca pearls simmering away in dark, sticky brown sugar sauce makes the perpetually crowded shop smell like slightly burnt sugar. If you want to be extra, get your boba milk topped with whipped dalgona coffee…or 24K gold leaf. If you're looking for a drink with no milk and caffeine, the electric blue lemon-lime soda mixed with curaçao and strawberry jellies is the best choice.
The union of boba and soft serve is one we’d root for on a reality TV dating show, and Surreal Creamery does this combination especially well. Get the Flotea, a bubble milk tea topped with a sky-high swirl of ice cream. (Note, these are enormous, so bring a friend or two to share.) If you need caffeine and ice cream to get through a torturous workday, get the Thai milk bubble tea topped with Vietnamese coffee soft-serve. Milder options include a matcha/taro swirl with taro bubble tea. Surreal Creamery has locations in Midtown and Greenwich Village.
Lots of boba shops sell snacks, but Debutea, a full-service cafe with locations in Downtown Brooklyn and Greenwich Village, also has a food menu with things like egg salad sandos, unagi don, and poke—making it a great spot for a casual lunch or a low-key date. The drinks menu covers all the bases with a selection of hot teas by the pot, tons of fruit tea options (try the Pinkglow Pineapple), a selection of cheese foam teas, and four classic boba milk teas. We’re especially fond of the Jade Dew cheese foam tea.
Möge Tee’s tall, clear cups showcase the artistry of its drinks, which are heavy on swoops and swirls of frozen fruit. Cheese foam and fruit slush are the specialties here, and if you can’t decide, you’re in luck, because they also do cheese foam fruit tea slush. The black grape version of this is one of our favorite summertime drinks, and the fruit Yakult is pure perfection: whole slices of lemon, orange, or grapefruit, smashed in a cup, topped with several Yakults and a ton of ice. Möge has about 16 locations across the boroughs, so you’re never too far from a brain freeze.
Yi Fang specializes in fruit teas, with eight tiny shops across the city. Our go-to is the signature Yi Fang Tea, which comes with tons of crunchy fresh fruit that you can snack on after your drink is finished. We also love the Aiyu Lemon Green Tea. If fruity teas aren’t your thing, they also have milk tea and brown sugar boba. Their cafes usually have a few counter seats, which are convenient for catching up with a friend.
During the summer, there are days when only a mountain of shaved ice the size of a toddler will do. On those days, head to Meet Fresh. This chain with multiple locations is best known for its Taiwanese desserts, like ice jelly, purple rice, and tofu pudding, but also makes great boba tea. Our preferred order is a 10% sugar boba milk tea with lychee jelly and “mini Q” mochi for maximum textural impact. Meet Fresh has a ton of seating, making this a solid choice for group hangs when you A) don’t want to drink alcohol and B) don’t want to spend a ton of money.
We go to this popular West Coast mini-chain whenever we need to get out of a boba rut. Boba Guys has three NYC locations with some unique menu options, like the signature layered strawberry matcha latte, dirty horchata boba, and Korean banana milk boba, which uses homemade banana jam as the base. Plentiful oat milk options make this a particularly good choice if you’re a plant-based person. Boba Guys has smaller shops with a modern aesthetic (think white subway tiles and natural wood), and little or no seating—so plan to grab your drink and take it to go.
If cute packaging is high on your list of boba tea priorities, head to Honestea on Eldridge Street. Here, you can get your drink in a square perfume bottle with a cork stopper, an oversized Yakult container, or a clear pop-top can. The minimalist La Vie En Rose, an amber-colored tea with fresh rose petals, could easily pass for an expensive skincare product. And the Mango Yakult Crystal Bubble Tea is a solid backup choice.
In the same way that you sometimes just want a Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato, sometimes you just want boba tea from Vivi. With 27 cafes in the city, most New Yorkers who love their boba have probably stabbed an oversized straw through the heart-shaped eye of Vivi’s adorable skeleton logo at least once. The menu is huge, the customization options endless, and there are rotating seasonal specials. We love the coffee jelly bubble milk tea, which has a nicely balanced flavor and hits both chewy and bouncy textural notes.