Spill the (Bubble) Tea: Your Guide to Boba

Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, has taken the United States by storm, expanding from the West Coast, where many Taiwanese immigrants settled in the 1990s. The drink originated in the 1980s when tea houses began adding boba—tapioca pearls—to tea instead of the traditional sugar water.

The exact origins of boba tea are hotly disputed, which led to a 2019 court case between two tea houses, Chun Shui Tang and Hanlin Tea Room, who both claimed to have invented it. The court ultimately ruled that the drink couldn't be patented, making the question of its invention legally irrelevant.

Today, boba tea has spread across the Midwest and down the East Coast, becoming a staple in Asian American culture and beyond.

Traditional boba tea typically contains tapioca pearls, which are made from tapioca starch, mixed with water and brown sugar. Nowadays, there are countless varieties of boba tea, ranging from traditional black tea to fruit and honey drinks. The combinations are endless, ensuring there is no single way to enjoy this delightful beverage.

One of boba tea's biggest selling points is its customization. Whether you prefer it with or without caffeine, milk, coffee, tea, fruit, sugar, or various toppings, everyone can find a version they love.

Boba – MILK-T became the first ever self-serve boba food truck in 2015. Now they have published a cookbook of boba tea for you to make and customize on your own.

It's Boba Time for Pearl Li! – This moving middle grade contemporary novel follows a big-hearted Taiwanese American girl as she aims to gain her family's acceptance and save her favorite boba tea shop by selling her handcrafted amigurumi dolls.

Super Boba Café Book 1 – Every summer, Aria spends two weeks at Nainai's house in San Francisco. But this summer is different. This time, Aria will spend the whole summer helping Nainai run her boba shop. But she is slowly realizing that Nainai is up to something; something that might have to do with giant boba, some talking prairie dogs, and an earthquake-generating monster. 

Is it time to treat yourself to some boba again? Or is it your first time ever trying bubble tea? Check out this list of local bubble tea shops. 

Pokè Pokè

  • Location: 39713 Ford Rd, Canton, MI 48187
  • Phone: 734-366-1416
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:30 AM-9:00 PM; Sunday, noon-9:00 PM

Pokè Pokè is more than just pokè bowls, they have an awesome boba bar as well. Choose from lemonade, milk tea, fruit milk tea or fruit tea. You can fully customize your perfect boba. Whether you go for lemonade, green tea or black tea, flavors and toppings can be added to achieve the boba of your dreams. From fruity options like strawberry hearts and pomegranate-bursting boba to oreo and classic tapioca pearls, there's something for everyone to love. 

Bambu Dessert Drinks

  • Location: 45152 Ford Rd, Canton, MI 48187
  • Phone: 734-328-1898
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday, noon-9:00 PM; Friday-Saturday, noon-10:00 PM

Tired of sticking to the same old boba combos? It's time to shake things up and explore some other tasty options. Instead of just boba, why not try something like chè, a yummy Vietnamese coconut and avocado drink with fruit and jellies? Or perhaps you'll want to dive into smoothies, coffee or yonami (a cool yogurt drink). There's a whole world of drinks out there waiting for you to add boba into the mix. Bambu Dessert Drinks has some seriously delicious stuff. You can choose from their set menu or get creative and customize your own drink. Plus, they've got sweet snacks like waffles, mochi ice cream and macarons to satisfy your cravings. 

Kung Fu Tea

  • Location: 45470 Ford Road, Canton, MI 48187
  • Phone: 734-667-2868
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 10:00 AM-8:55 PM; Friday-Saturday, 10:00 AM-9:55 PM

At Kung Fu Tea, you won't find any snacks to go with your drinks, but you won't even care once you dive into their crazy drink menu. They've got wild flavor experiences from “Cereal Milk Cronch” to the fiery “Mangonada Slush”—talk about flavor explosions! Whether you're craving something classic or totally out there, Kung Fu Tea's got your back. 

Ding Tea

  • Location: 42743 Ford Rd, Canton, MI 48187
  • Phone: 734-983-8989
  • Hours: Sunday-Friday, noon-8:00 PM; Saturday, noon-9:00 PM

Ding Tea offers all the classics and customization boba tea is known for with some very luxurious drinks on their menu. Think tiramisu, èclair, cherry blossom, and crème brûlée; they're like dessert in a cup. But that's not all, their menu is packed with all sorts of teas, from the O.G. milk teas to fruity mixes and some wild creations you won't find anywhere else. Whether you like sticking to the classics or trying something totally new, Ding Tea's got flavors to please every type of tea lover out there.

Z’s Bubble Tea

  • Location: 575 Forest Ave Ste A, Plymouth, MI 48170
  • Phone: 734-359-3375
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday, noon-8:00 PM; Friday, noon-9:00 PM; Saturday, 11:00 AM-9:00 PM; Sunday, 11:00 AM-6:00 PM

At Z’s Bubble Tea, get ready for a whole new vibe with your boba fix, and they’re not stopping at just tea—they're shaking up the coffee game too. Whether you're all about DIY or prefer to dive into their signature sips, Z’s has got you covered. They've got everything from mocktails to coffee, hot tea to smoothies and shakes, sundaes, affogato boba and “floa-teas.” They've even added ice cream to the mix. Now you can turn your favorite warm winter drink into a cool summer treat.