5 of the Latest Boba Trends and Where to Get Them in Honolulu
Here’s the tea.
Photo: Shinae Lee
After trying these five drinks you’ll never want plain boba milk tea again—at least we don’t. We went to five new boba shops to bring you the verdict on the latest trends. Cheese is definitely one of them, and so are fresh ingredients and unique takes on one of Asia’s favorite drinks.
Brown sugar milk tea at Hana Tea
Photo: Enjy El-kadi
The line at 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday at Hana Tea was almost out the door. After taking a first sip of its most popular brown sugar milk tea ($4.45, small), I knew why: This tea is perfection. Brown sugar milk tea is boba is made with brown sugar syrup, which adds dimension to the tea. Even though I got mine with only 25% sweetness, there was no trace of bitterness, and the brown sugar boba was warm and chewy. The tea itself is creamy with an almost roasted flavor. Owner Jackie Liang says Hana’s brewing process and the time taken to brew each tea is kept to a strict standard, so each batch comes out with a consistent flavor.
1111 Dillingham Blvd., Unit E-2, (808) 376-8139
SEE ALSO: First Look: Bee & Tea in Kailua
Fresh fruit tea at Wave Tea
photo: Shinae lee
I’m a strictly milk tea person, but Wave Tea’s kumquat lemon green tea ($4.25) could take me to the fruit side. It tasted like homemade lemonade and wasn’t too sweet or sour. Wave Tea has an assortment of fruit teas with whole fruit served in the tea—nothing from a jar. The most popular flavor is the mixed fruit tea, with apple, grapes, watermelon, strawberries and three types of citrus.
Pro tip: Don’t miss the mousse cakes. A friend of Wave Tea’s owners makes the airy cakes at an offsite bakery exclusively for Wave Tea. We tried the coffee flavor ($5), which tasted like tiramisu and had the consistency of if whipped cream and Jell-O had a baby. Not to mention the mirror glaze and detailed decorations are gorgeous.
1067 Kapi‘olani Blvd., (808) 591-8668, wavetea808.com
Cheese tea at Cheese Tea
Photo: Shinae Lee
Cheese Tea started its cat-themed café (for good luck and health) last August to bring Asia’s cheese foam trend to Hawai‘i. Don’t worry, it’s not mozzarella or cheddar. The foamy topping is closer to a cheesecake flavor. Cheese Tea’s menu is full of drinks highlighting ingredients familiar to the Islands—including dragon fruit, mango and papaya. We were drawn to Purple Romance ($5.75, small), with whole chunks of Okinawan sweet potato, that we topped with cheese ($1.75), of course.
Pro tip: Sip cheese tea at a 45-degree angle from the lip of the cup to taste the unique flavors of the tea and cheese simultaneously, then use a straw to drink boba from the bottom.
1221 Kapi‘olani Blvd., #112A, (808) 591-2888, cheeseteahi.com
Lemonade with boba at Unicorn Café
PHOTO: Shinae Lee
Lemonade is becoming a popular drink at boba shops, and Unicorn Café, which opened in March in Waikīkī jumped on the trend. It has a line of fun-colored lemonades called Aloha drinks, all named with a Hawai‘i theme. Also, who wouldn’t want to drink unicorn-themed boba? I went for the Sunset Lemonade ($5.79, small), which tastes like it was sweetened with strawberry candy. What struck me as most unique about the café (besides its unicorn wall) was the maple flavor in its boba. It’s subtle but adds an interesting touch to the lemonade. Snap a pic of your colorful lemonade in front of the shop’s back wall. It’s almost a unicorn shrine, complete with neon signs.
2310 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 200-2936, unicorncafehawaii.com
Instagrammable drinks at Nio Snow Ice and Tea
photo: Shinae Lee
If you need to spice up your ’gram, grab a drink at Nio Snow Ice and Tea, where each drink can elevate your feed. We tried Nio’s Matcha Lovers drink ($4.95), which has condensed milk around the inside of the cup, giving it an intriguing drippy aesthetic. The red beans are super sweet and balance out the bitterness of the tea. Owner Dan Hsu started the snow ice shop in Kaka‘ako this July because he wanted to recreate the fresh mango snow ices he had at home in Taiwan, and he expanded his café to serve boba, too. He keeps his menu small to accommodate the small space but everything on it is made with fresh ingredients.
550 Halekauwila St., #101, (808) 548-2431, nio-bubble-tea-store.business.site