Have you ever tried bubble tea?
After first popping up in Taiwan in the ‘80s, bubble tea is now one of the most popular drinks worldwide, let alone the Hudson Valley. As for what it is, the drink combines various types of teas with tapioca pearls, known as “boba,” which are produced from tapioca starch passed through a sieve under pressure. With every slurp from a jumbo straw, sippers are guaranteed a smooth and chewy surprise.
Unlike other drinks, bubble tea doesn’t have one distinct flavor. Milk tea, a favorite throughout Southeast Asia, is a concoction of rich black tea and condensed milk that pleases foodies with its aesthetic contrast of milk and dark tapioca balls. Oftentimes, boba marinates in a sweet caramel or honey syrup to heighten its flavor.
With tea bases like black, jasmine, and oolong plus fruit mix-ins like mango, lychee, and passionfruit, the combinations are seemingly endless. Depending upon where you go, add-ins like “popping boba” (with bursting, flavored juice in every bite) and jelly offer more flair. The highly customizable nature is arguably the best feature of bubble tea, since it means each visit to a Hudson Valley bubble tea shop is an entirely novel experience.
Kingston, New Paltz
Try this: Passionfruit juice tea
Vegans and Asian fusion lovers unite! Crazy Bowls, an Asian-Mexican staple in Kingston and New Paltz, brought bubble tea to its menu when owner Jenny Yeung noticed a lack of the drink in Ulster County. The staff brews black and green teas daily and concocts its simple syrup in-house. Yeung even took bubble tea training classes to bring the best possible taste to the county. Inside both storefronts, customers can make their own unique combinations, such as the ever-so-popular lavender milk tea with yogurt popping bubbles.
Try this: Caramel Ridge milk tea
A favorite among the SUNY New Paltz crowd, Delish is just as much of a hotspot for frozen yogurt as it is for specialty bubble tea. The Ulster County venue diverges from traditional takes on the drink, instead favoring crazy flavors that walk the line between creamy tea and full-on dessert. Try the Caramel Ridge tea, which comes with caramel syrup squiggles that contrast beautifully against the dark boba, or keep it fresh with Peachy Keen, a neon-hued tea that fruit fanatics will love.
Try this: Mango tea with popping bubbles
After seeing that New York City was brimming with boba shops, Let’s Have Thai wanted to share the beauty of the drink with Mahopac residents. To craft its Thai iced tea, the eatery uses a family recipe that relies upon natural cane sugar to sweeten the tapioca. The tea is made by boiling water and flavored powder and then combining it with tea leaves and secret ingredients — that’s when you know it’s tasty!
Try this: Cherry blossom milk tea
A sweet little spot, Short and Stout makes a mean bubble tea. Bases range between milk tea with black tapioca pearls and fresh tea with rainbow jelly and tapioca pearls. The shop goes crazy on the flavor front, listing everything from lavender and coconut to berries and cream on the menu. For a serious treat, the bubble tea sundaes, or milk tea mixed with sweet extras like toffee caramel and cookies and cream, are a must for any Hudson Valley sweet tooth.
Try this: Matcha bubble tea
Once you try the bubble tea at the all-you-can-eat Super Bowl Cuisine, you’ll be wishing the eatery had a bottomless boba menu, too. The restaurant’s six original options, which include peach, mango, and taro, and five smoothie flavors all have tea bases imported from Taiwan, the bubble tea capital itself. Super Bowl’s staff boils the tea and tapioca every morning for high quality and bouncy texture.
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Try this: Cinnamon Bun (spiced plum tea base, taro, and vanilla milk with nutmeg)
Calling all bubble tea enthusiasts! This Poughkeepsie Plaza joint serves up over 35 flavors, 15 toppings, and three add-ins, so there’s no room for disappointment. Made by tea lovers for tea lovers, Tea Talk beverages are all about creativity and customization. Dip your toes into the special menu, which is full of boba experiments that replicate flavors like Fruit Loops, cinnamon buns, and pumpkin pie. Also check out the themed menus for concoctions with references to anime shows, Disney princesses, and more.
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Try this: Lavender milk tea
Thai Golden has been pumping out milk- and tea-based concoctions since 2008. The Carmel staff cooks up a fresh batch (sometimes two) of tapioca balls every day to ensure that each slurp is as smooth and chewy as the next. Take a seat at one of the café’s turquoise chairs, admire the colorful, cultural décor, and enjoy a classic Thai iced bubble tea.
Plus, with toppings like lychee or passionfruit popping boba, along with tea bases that run the gamut from kumquat and lemon to lychee and white peach, you’ll never want to leave. P.S. Any milk tea pairs well with the eatery’s spicy curry, taming the dish’s heat with every sip.
New Windsor, Wappingers Falls
Try this: Cappuccino milk tea
Toppings might be a Hudson Valley go-to for customizable fro-yo, but its sweet selection of bubble tea is just as much of a reason to visit its locations in New Windsor and Wappingers Falls. Taro, a purple-hued root vegetable, is the most popular flavor here, although it’s far from the only one. In fact, the sweet spot stocks a variety of milk and fruit teas in flavors ranging from almond, banana, and matcha to honeydew and pineapple.
Whether you opt for the classic boba or fruity poppers (which come in lychee, mango, passionfruit, and strawberry), you’ll walk away with a refreshing drink that’s just as fun to look at as it is to sip.
Try this: Milk taro jasmine green tea
More than 10 years ago, the owners of Twisted Soul sought to introduce a new concept to Poughkeepsie. With a lack of bubble tea in the area, they knew bringing the drink to customers would steal their hearts and souls. Nowadays, the Arlington mainstay offers two dozen tea flavors — a majority with jasmine green bases— to ensure that visitors can mix it up with every visit.
Whether you’re feeling fruity or adventurous, you’re bound to slurp with a smile. Pro tip: Pair the milk boba with Twisted Soul’s signature Argentinian-style empanadas for a lunch made in heaven.