It should be really easy right? Go up to the person behind the counter, and ask for a bubble tea! Well, unfortunately all that does is confuse the barista. Asking for a bubble tea in a bubble tea café is akin to going into a Chinese restaurant and asking for Chinese food. There are many options, flavours, and bases to choose from. This blog will help guide bubble tea virgins to make the best choice when ordering for the first time. Let’s begin with the bases.

Bubble tea has evolved into many different variations from its humble beginnings in Taiwan. Some shops will specialize in just a specific base, but most will encompass many types of bubble tea. The process of a bubble tea order will go Base -> Flavour -> Sweetness -> Toppings. Let’s dive into the bases to give you a better understanding of the differences.


First we have the classic Tea base. Most shops have specialty teas you can choose from such as fruit teas, tea blends, spiced teas, etc. You can order these hot or iced (mostly consumed iced). It is an incredibly refreshing alternative to pop or juices, with a great variety of flavours. Most shops will include a list of flavours you can combine your brewed teas with (Ex. Iced Peach Green Tea)

Second is similar to the classic tea base, but made with milk or cream. These are called Milk Teas which are also served hot or iced. Originally bubble tea was made with brewed black or green tea, milk, sugar, and pearls.  The original milk tea is something most bubble tea shops will have, and that is usually an Assam Black Tea base. Because it’s made with milk; it has a thick, creamy texture that works really well with pearls. Many bubble tea shops will have different milk teas to choose from including: Jasmine Green Tea, Roasted Oolong, Early Grey, etc. Ask the barista about popular milk teas, and let them describe the tastes to you, to give you a better understanding of what will satisfy you. Normally there are no fruity flavours added to the milk teas since it is focusing on the combination of the milk/cream and tea, but there are some shops that will do this.

Third is a Slush base. This is fairly straightforward and is popular with younger people. It is basically a flavoured syrup or fruit puree/jam, ice, water, and then blended to create an icy texture. Great for hot days, or to satisfy your sweet tooth. Add real fruit pieces to get more flavour into the drink.

The last base is a Smoothie. Similar to the slush, except smoothies are made with milk instead of water. When blended, it creates a very smooth, thick texture. Usually bubble tea shops will have flavours in powder form to mix with the milk; or it can be made with real fruits and ice cream to give you a full flavour fruit smoothie. The Taro Smoothie is probably the most popular bubble tea flavour in North America, give it a try!

(Made by:  Ash Robertson )

(Made by: Ash Robertson)

These are the 4 most common bases of bubble teas. All that is left is figuring out your flavour, sweetness levels, and toppings. If you’d like to have a proper bubble tea drink, make sure it has pearls! This is completely optional as some people don’t like them, yet still appreciate the quality of drinks most bubble tea shops produce. If you are unsure about pearls, ask the barista for a sample. They will gladly offer one for you to try.

That's it, you're ready to order! Welcome to the world of bubble tea, you’ll be a regular in no time.

Options a bit overwhelming? Follow this flow chart (right) for a recommendation of your first bubble tea order.