Houston on the Cheap: Bubble Tea

Today we’ll have some cultural expansion! One of my favorite cheap things to do in Houston is to get Bubble Tea.

Bubble Tea is a drink made from iced milk, your choice of flavors and little pearls of tapioca. They share the same name, but its not like tapioca pudding at all. The tapioca pearls are little black balls of chewy goodness that sit conveniently at the bottom of your cup waiting to be sucked up into your oversized straw. The pearls don’t provide much flavor in specific, but the drinks come in literally hundreds of flavors depending on where you get it from. Bubble Tea originally comes from Taiwan before spreading throughout Asia and to America, so some of the flavors aren’t familiar to us Americans. If you don’t feel like being adventurous, they’ve got plenty of really sweet favorites like green apple and chocolate.

Depending on where you go and what you get, drinks cost about $3.50. So, to be really technical, drinks costing the same as Starbucks isn’t exactly cheap. But, there are a few reasons that make those dollars stretch: 1) The pearls are surprisingly filling. So filling in fact, it can almost be used as meal replacement. 2) The cafes where you get bubble tea are almost always full of stuff to do. They’ve got lots of seating, board games, magazines, TVs, wi-fi and internet terminals. 3) Most of the places have frequent buyer’s card that gets you free drinks eventually.

So, to review, for $3.50 you get: 1) A really tasty drink 2) A small meal 3) Cultural expansion 4) Something to do and someplace to hang out.

“That’s a great deal!” you say. “Where can I get some?” you cry. Worry not, there are tons all over the city and I’ll get you started. I’m sure everyone has their favorite place, but I’ll cover my two favs:

Tapicoa Teahouse
The Tapioca Teahouse is an awesome shop with tons of flavors, decent service and a great atmosphere. I’d definitely recommend the #109 Thai Tea. On top of their board games, magazines, free wi-fi, internet terminals, they just added a whole new wing with really comfy couches. The Teahouse is located at Westheimer and Shepherd, next to the Randalls. There’s another one in Hong Kong City Mall, but the location isn’t as nice.

Tapicoa Express
Tapioca Express is very first-timer friendly. Fewer, more familiar flavor selections make it a whole lot less intimidating. They’ve also got a great twist on the standard drink called the Snow Bubble. Basically, it’s a cross between bubble tea and a smoothie. It’s really really good. The #23 Almond is absolutely fantastic. The shop itself is a nice atmosphere with the usual games, plasma tv, wi-fi and internet. But they’ve also got a full blown internet cafe/gaming center in the back. So, you can pwnt some n00bs while you’re enjoying some Bubble Tea. Tapioca Express is located at Westheimer and Winrock.

There are countless others all over Houston, so feel free to search around or stop in if you happen to see one. In your exploring, just remember that if you don’t like a flavor, don’t give up, just try another. There’s some really tasty stuff in there.

If you already know the fantasticness that is Bubble Tea and have a favorite place, leave a comment with a review and we can build a good list here.

Houston on the Cheap is a regular feature highlighting things to do, eat, drink or see in Houston for cheap or free. If you have something you want to contribute, suggest it!

2 Comments so far

  1. cybertoad (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2006 @ 5:52 pm

    Teahouse is my favorite – Express is my husband’s favorite (+ they have great calamari strips). We make bubble tea runs every chance we get get even though we don’t live near a tapioca place! We even get a double dose of tapioca. We love our balls! :)

  2. Chris Doelle (unregistered) on May 24th, 2006 @ 11:13 am

    Ugggh… my friend drinks this stuff all the time and it really grosses me out.

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