Lincoln Asian Student Union reviews bubble tea shops around Portland

Members+of+Lincoln%27s+Asian+Student+Union+traveled+to+bubble+tea+shops+around+Portland+and+rated+them+on+a+scale+of+1-5.

Courtesy of Michelle Yamamoto

Members of Lincoln’s Asian Student Union traveled to bubble tea shops around Portland and rated them on a scale of 1-5.

Asian Student Union

Lincoln Asian Student Union is an affinity group for Asian-identifying students to meet, participate in Asian cultural activities and discuss relevant Asian-related topics.

This month, we asked some of our members to review different bubble tea shops around Portland. 

The classic bubble tea is a tea-based drink which includes tapioca pearls– chewy balls made of tapioca starch– or a wide variety of other toppings. Bubble tea can come in many different forms and flavors, ranging from an original milk tea to a watermelon-mango smoothie! If you’ve never tasted it before, it’s definitely worth it, for both the taste and the experience. 

At each shop, our members ordered the Original Milk Tea with 50% sweetness and tapioca pearls. They based their reviews of the tea and the shop on the following criteria:

  1. Tea quality
  2. Flavor
  3. Tapioca pearl texture
  4. Atmosphere of the shop
  5. COVID-19 adjustments

We have ordered our reviews from best to worst-ranked bubble tea shops. 


Five Flavors

By Michelle Yamamoto

Down the street from Sunset High School lies Five Flavors, your go-to spot for bubble tea and Asian snacks, like popcorn chicken and taiyaki. Located in a small strip mall with a large parking lot, finding parking by Five Flavors is an easy task. The decor in the shop is nothing spectacular; aside from a few plants and posters, the space appears more functional than aesthetic. A table barrier ensures guests are only allowed in the front of the shop to maintain proper social distancing, and transactions are digital and contact-free through systems like Venmo and Paypal. Inside the shop, you’ll find an extensive menu of teas and smoothies, with a range of toppings from jellies to boba. At 50% sweetness, the classic milk tea is close to perfect, with the ideal balance of smooth and bitter tastes. With various options of dairy-free milks for our lactose-intolerant friends, the default lactose-free creamer lent itself to a milk tea with a velvety and creamy texture. Each boba pearl is equally satisfying, from the wonderfully chewy texture to the subtle sweet taste inside. Five Flavors nails every detail, down to the small pieces of ice that keep your tea cold without watering it down. If you choose to pair your tea with their popcorn chicken, be warned that a spice level 1 is enough to leave your eyes watering. Around 15 minutes from downtown, Five Flavors is a great spot to grab simple, but effective boba drinks at a reasonable price. 

Rating: 4.5/5

Bubble N Tea

By Jake Yun

Tucked into a pocket of the long-stretching street of food in Beaverton is Bubble N Tea. After maneuvering through the rather tight parking area, you are immediately welcomed into a well-lit and well-scented cafe with wooden decor. The ambience itself is warm and homey, with friendly staff and lively background music; furthermore, they have adjusted to COVID-19 regulations, with marked off waiting spots and an outdoor seating area. The tea itself is creamy, aromatic and flavorful, and additional flavors such as their Matcha and Jasmine items will give a cleaner flavor profile, strangely resembling a bar of soap. The star of the show, boba, might be their best quality. The texture is firm and chewy with no signs of hardening, surpassing a simple description of tapioca lumps with its simplistically sweet flavor within each pearl. In under five minutes, you can be on your way– tea in hand– to your next food destination.  

Rating: 4.5/5

Tea Chai Te

By Vy Nguyen

On Northwest 23rd, you will find a very warm and welcoming bubble tea shop called Tea Chai Te. Located near Lincoln, Tea Chai Te is the perfect space to study and hang out with friends (when COVID-19 is over). There is outdoor and indoor seating, including many comfy couches! The outdoor seating is on a balcony, where you can enjoy the view of the street while drinking your tea. Unfortunately, seating is not available right now due to the pandemic, but it is still a safe place to visit since they have adjusted well to COVID-19 precautions. There are many hand sanitizers located around the shop. They are good at social distancing between workers and customers, and they only allow a limited number of customers in the shop at a time. The workers are very polite and they make delicious bubble tea. The tea is very flavorful and of high quality. Their original tea is not too sweet and doesn’t taste artificial like some bubble tea shops. In fact, they use loose tea leaves to make their tea, so it’s very fresh. They offer a wide range of tea flavors, and even offer limited seasonal tea flavors. They also sell many flavors of loose tea leaves, so you can enjoy Tea Chai Te in your own home. Not only does Tea Chai Te serve tea, they also offer sweet treats, including muffins, macarons and Rice Krispie treats. The tapioca pearls are chewy and neither under nor overcooked. There were many options for boba, including the classic boba pearl, fruit jelly and popping boba, and, considering they let you have one free topping with your tea, I would say the pricing was pretty good. I would recommend going to Tea Chai Te when you are on 23rd because, overall, the shop’s environment and drinks are very good. I would recommend walking because the street is very busy and it is hard to find a parking spot. 

Rating: 4/5

Ding Tea

By Lark Zabel

Ding Tea is located right across the street from Portland State University (PSU), and kitty corner to the PSU food carts. On weekdays, street parking is mostly open, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of finding a lot! Walking in, the atmosphere is friendly and the decor bright and minimalistic. On the far wall there are many Pusheen prints, which enhanced my experience quite a bit. As for COVID-19 adjustments, they have a plastic partition separating the customers from shop workers, no indoor seating and Apple Pay, which is great for contactless payment. After ordering, my bubble tea was ready within minutes. The boba was perfectly soft and chewy, but I wish the tea flavor had shone through more. Other than that, the staff were helpful and the cup shape (cylindrical but rounded on the bottom) was very cute! 

Rating: 4/5

ShareTea

By Rohan Yamin

ShareTea, located in Cedar Hills Crossing, is part of the ShareTea franchise, which opened in 1992. The store has taken extensive COVID-19 precautions, mapping out a line with markings six feet apart. All indoor seating has been removed, and the cashier doesn’t touch your card or cash. Overall, a five out of five in that department! As for the overall vibe of the store, I give it a three out of five. Partially due to the coronavirus, the store seems a little empty and cold. Now to the drink itself. I give the boba texture and flavor a four out of five. The flavor is not that rich, and the boba is a little too chewy. For the tea quality, I give ShareTea a five out of five, as it is flavorful and not watered down. If you get a chance, I would recommend visiting.  

Rating: 4/5

Milk + T

By Cameron Chen

At this fun, modern-looking bubble tea shop located right next to Beaverton High School, you can find a great experience combined with some pretty good bubble tea! Unfortunately, you can’t stay inside the store for long right now. Milk + T has adjusted to COVID-19 precautions by requiring masks at all times and only seven people into the shop at a time. Although Milk + T is located pretty far out from the Lincoln area, I highly recommend going, for the tea was pretty tasty and the jar they give it to you in can be a very fun collector’s item. They have a great array of flavors, from your more classic teas, to premium teas that are served with ice cream on top, to more fruity and refreshing juice/tea options. All of their teas come with lactose-free milks, and you have the ability to control sweetness and ice levels, like many other bubble tea shops. When ordering a boba drink at Milk + T, they serve it to you in a Milk + T branded glass jar. I personally found myself having mixed feelings on the jar. On one hand, I thought it was a great change from the usual plastic cup and plastic straw, opting for a more eco-friendly option; however, in the grand scheme of things, the jar is very small and the prices for the drink are average for boba. If you bring the jar back to the store, you can get 10% off your next purchase. For someone like me that really enjoys getting boba, I found that the jar was no more than a gimmick, and for someone that lives far away from the shop, going all of that distance just for a small boba tea and the glass jar was not worth it. Their boba was a little bit weak to me, not having the same bounce as many other shops around Portland, and the tea lacked in flavor, too.  

Rating: 3/5

Tea Social 

By Angelo Mercado

In a basement on the corner of 23rd and Johnson lies Tea Social, formally known as Fat Straw. The location is very pedestrian-friendly, but I would not suggest driving there due to the lack of parking space. Walking down the steps to the front door, you are pleasantly greeted by the calming ambiance of the shop, well decorated with plants and natural lighting. Before giving your order, you are immensely overwhelmed by the plethora of flavors and add-ons you can use to customize your drink. In addition to this, there is also a vegan/vegetarian-friendly menu of Banh Mi and breakfast sandwiches, as well as an assortment of small cookies. The COVID-19 adjustments included no public restrooms, no seating areas, take-out only and designated waiting areas to maintain social distancing. After just three quick minutes, my order was ready and I was on my way. The drink itself was not impressive. In fact, you could probably make something on par or better than this at home yourself. The flavor was bland and the tea was very thin. The tapioca was very standard, chewy with no presence of hardening, but not anything remarkable. It was not something worth my $5. Although the drink was not amazing, it was very accessible and in a good location for people shopping on 23rd. Before COVID-19, the shop was a pleasant place to go to study after school with friends and get a very mediocre drink. 

Rating: 2.5/5

 

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