Bubble Tea Battle!
The Hoboken area is dominated by Americanized Japanese and Asian influence. Whether it’s comparing the best sushi, the best Thai food or the top Pokémon Go team, the Asian-American influence in Hoboken is undeniable. Today I suited up with comrades, Lucas Gallo, Mike Delaney, and Jonny Alarcon to review some bubble tea. We took our talents and stomachs to three bubble tea establishments on Washington Street, Kung Fu Tea, Vivi’s Bubble Tea, and Hoboken newcomer, Jun’s Macaron & Gelato.
For those unfamiliar with bubble tea, it is essentially green or black tea mixed with either fruit or milk. Additionally, chewy tapioca flavored balls, colloquially referred to as bubbles are added to give the drink a variety of textures. The rules of engagement were simple; I would review all three restaurants on my typical criteria of service, quality, and atmosphere. Since I would learn that all teas were approximately the same price, I removed the budget criteria from my rating. Then, I would compare the three together to determine an overall winner. I would of course, take into heavy consideration the feedback of the fine gentlemen sampling tea with me.
Our first stop was Kung Fu Tea. Hearing about its variety of teas and colorful atmosphere, my crew was excited to try some bubble tea. Kung Fu Tea, located just a short walk from campus, immediately caught my eye with its colorful advertisements and quaint outdoor sitting area. Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was variety. Their menu seemed to go on forever, which was exactly what should be expected from an establishment specializing in one specific type of item. Something else noteworthy was the lack of food served by Kung Fu Tea. While I was not expecting a large variety, an assortment of snacks would have been a nice compliment to the tea. We started off by ordering two large teas – one fruit and one milk. The teas were priced at $5.50 each which I instinctively felt was on the high side but, thanks to the comparison, came to realize was an appropriate price for Hoboken bubble tea. The employees began making the tea in an expert-like fashion, quintessential of a specialty store. Kung Fu was equipped with some of the most interesting food preparation tech I have ever seen. They had an auto shaker and labeler, both of which presented a great show while we were waiting for our tea. After a short minute, the teas were ready and so were we.
Taking our first sips, the reactions were mostly positive. The Taro Milk tea was a big hit with Mike Delaney, who experienced bubble tea for the first time. Sweetened with condensed milk and syrup made from the southeast Asian native “Taro Plant”, the bubble tea had the sweetness of ice cream with the viscosity of a tea. The bubbles were the cherry on the cake, tasty and very appropriately textured. On the other side of the punch-milk spectrum, I personally enjoyed the Strawberry Lemonade tea. Specifically, I enjoyed the small pieces of fruit that were placed in conjunction with the bubbles. The third texture was a pleasant addition to an already good tea.
After we indulged on what was, overall, a tough bar to beat, we headed over to Hoboken newcomer, Jun’s Macron & Gelato. I passed Jun’s every day on my walk to work and frequently peered in to see some of the best-looking gelato in Hoboken. I had seen them advertise for bubble tea and was interested in how a gelato establishment would fare with bubble tea. Upon walking in, I was not met with the same cheery atmosphere I had known at Kung Fu Tea.
There was an abundance of white walls, which I initially attributed to the store being incomplete, but there were no signs of construction or any willingness to change. With that being said about the appearance, the variety of gelato made me instantly forget about the barren walls and stare, lovingly into the delicious looking swirls. If I ever review gelato, I will be sure to come here! The prices for the tea were comparable to Kung Fu Tea, with a medium being four dollars and a large being five. All and all, I was excited for round two of bubble tea!
We ordered the passion fruit bubble tea and the mixed berry tea. To my surprise, the man working the register walked over to the gelato and placed three massive scoops of passion fruit and mixed berry into two separate blenders. After blending with ice and adding green tea and bubbles, we had a finished product. The verdict; good but not bubble tea! The texture was that of a smoothie, that is to say, it was very thick. One of the major purposes of the bubbles, in my mind, is to contrast from the tea in terms of texture and hardness. To put it simply, tea is liquid and bubbles are solid. I was disappointed to have less of that contrast in Jun’s bubble tea. Additionally, I found the bubbles very firm and often stuck together, what I perceived as a lower quality bubble. The smoothie itself was quite good, but all and all I would stick with gelato when heading to Jun’s.
Finally, we arrived at our final stop, the famous Vivi’s. Kung Fu had set a high standard, but being the most popular among students on campus, Vivi’s was sure to impress. Upon entering, the same white wall problem that had plagued Jun’s hand returned. I did however, enjoy the nice seating area they had outside. Upon entering, I noticed something different from the other two establishments – they had food! Fairly priced, I considered ordering some but figured I should only be basing my review on bubble tea. I went to order and was very disappointed to find out that Vivi’s did not take credit cards on purchases less than ten dollars. When your typical item is less than ten dollars, you must take credit cards, plain and simple. The bad taste in my mouth, however, was quickly washed away by some delicious mango bubble tea. Jonny Alarcon especially enjoyed the tea, likening it to some pleasant aromas he smelled before. Lucas Gallo was a bit harder to please with his order of coffee bubble tea. In my opinion, there are things that should not mix, and bubbles and coffee are one of them. The bitterness of the coffee and the neutrality of the bubbles left a sour taste in my mouth. Overall, Vivi’s had one big hit with the mango tea and a big miss with the coffee tea.
Overall, Hoboken is a great place for bubble tea! Taking into consideration everything that I wrote and the advising my colleagues gave me, I have to decide that Kung Fu Tea has the best bubble tea in Hoboken! At the end of the day, I am reviewing bubble tea, not anything else a restaurant serves.
Kung Fu Tea
Jun’s Macaron & Gelato Quality