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From independently owned outfits to franchises hailing from Taiwan and mainland China, the number of bubble tea shops across the Front Range has exploded in recent years. And while that magical Taiwanese combination of tea, milk, ice, and tapioca pearls (also known as boba tea or pearl milk tea) is still the main attraction, these next-gen shops are importing the latest food trends from Asia and catering to ever-more explorative tastes. Peruse the menus to find creativity on full display in the form of popping boba, cheese foam, crème brûlée milk, slushes, puddings, jellies, yogurt-infused drinks, and more. Increasingly, there is also a focus on artisanal ingredients (ceremonial-grade matcha, grass-fed dairy) and culinary technique, including scratch-made boba pearls.
Whether you’re in search of the beguiling chew of the tapioca pearls sucked through those wide straws or the hit of caffeine and sugar in the milky tea—treating yourself to delicious boba has never been easier or more fun. Here is our guide to the best shops in town. Bonus: Scroll down for a glossary of helpful bubble tea terms to help you order like a pro.
As of October 2022, folks living on the far southeastern side of Aurora now have their own destination for bubble tea, fruity yogurt “Lulu” drinks, and Croffles, aka croissant-waffle hybrids topped with the likes of whipped cream cheese and crunchy feuilletine flakes (shards of crêpes or sugar cones). Even if you don’t live nearby, it’s worth a drive to this shop for the “deerioca,” the shop’s name for the bouncy, QQ* tapioca pearls that are made in-house from scratch and simmered in rich brown sugar syrup.
Order: The Ube Brown Sugar Deerioca Crème Brûlée Milk*, with its vibrant purple hue and those delightful house-made boba.
24107 E. Commons Ave., Ste. 102, Aurora
This compact, family-owned shop on Colfax stands out for its adorable branding and high-quality bubble tea drinks. Taste the deep, rich nuances of 8 Immortals Oolong tea, served unsweetened and topped with cheese foam* or cool off with a Mango Lavender Lemonade. Bonus: Boba Touch offers multiple non-dairy milk options.
Order: The seasonal pumpkin spice milk tea is a delicious sip of East-West fusion in a cup.
3107 E. Colfax Ave.
Adorned with large, artificial cherry blossom trees, this sleek shop on Platte Street offers an extensive selection of hot and cold teas, sweet dessert soups, snow ices, flavored shaved ices, and snacks. Grab a mochi doughnut and settle in at one of the ample glossy black tables with a hot cup of traditionally brewed oolong or pu’er Chinese tea or a fanciful puff cream* tea
Order: The delicate almond-flavored iced milk tea.
1700 Platte St., Ste. 130
Founded in 2007 in Taiwan, Denver gained its own outpost of the global brand in 2019 (Fort Collins has one, too). Lucky us: This shop focuses on freshly brewed, highest-quality tea leaves and offers plenty of trendy toppings for a customizable creation, from tart-sweet blueberry popping boba* and honey-flavored golden boba* to coconut-based rainbow jelly*, kumquats, and tiramisu foam.
Order: The creamy, yet refreshingRed Grapefruit Yogurt drink, made with Japanese probiotic beverage Yakult.
1699 S. Colorado Blvd., Unit E
This Taiwanese shop is a great place for both milk tea enthusiasts and those looking for a solid roster of tea-less drinkable treats, from fresh lemonades to red bean* matcha smoothies to rich shakes swirled with Oreo and the chain’s signature puff cream*.
Order: Happy Lemon claims to be the first to have invented rock salt cheese* tea. Try it with the classic jasmine green tea with salted cheese and add the taro* balls.
From the spare design to the hand-crafted drinks, this isn’t your typical bubble tea shop. Inspired by the revelatory experience of a tea ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, Milk Tea People may be the best place in Denver to drink ceremonial-grade matcha tea, whisked by hand with a chasen, as is tradition. Each drink is crafted with the highest-quality fresh ingredients, from the grass-fed milk to house-made ginger limeade that tops the Coconut Thai Fresca.
Order: For a decadent treat, try the Caramel Hojicha Teaki, which combines roasted green tea with ice, grass-fed milk, vanilla cane sugar, caramel drizzle, and house-made whipped cream.
1641 Market St., Ste. 133
This “new-style” tea shop hailing from mainland China offers unique beverages and a kiosk ordering system (a helpful piece of technology if you want to spend extra time swiping through the myriad options before you decide) at its Lakewood location. The staff takes great care in the presentation of the beverages, swirling crème brûlée* foam and placing real fresh fruit along the edges of the fruity drinks for flavor and visual appeal.
Order: Try the creamy and not too sweet cheese foam* avocado tea.
3140 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Unit 115, Lakewood
Tucked away in a subterranean location in LoDo, Tea Cloud might not have the largest bubble tea menu in the city, but the uncommonly friendly service and delicious drinks more than make up for the lack of variety. The Royal Milk tea is cold brewed for over 24 hours for a smooth, rich flavor. If you’ve never ordered boba pearls in a hot tea drink before, this is the spot to do it as the staff takes great care with the brewing process. Bonus: If you’re looking for lunch or dinner with your tea, the poke bowls here are also delicious.
Order: The signature Flying Dragon Boba Tea, a fruity blend of strawberry, pineapple, rose petal, hibiscus, and jasmine tea.
1690 Champa St.
While many traditional bubble tea shops use powdered milk, Tsaocaa founder Eddie Zheng was inspired by the artistry at specialty coffee shops to use lighter ingredients, including fresh dairy. Loose leaf teas are brewed to order on an espresso-like machine, rapidly cooled, and mixed with organic milk or non-dairy milk at this outfit. The topping game is also on point, with multiple flavors of fruity popping boba*, plus goodies like purple rice, lime jelly*, and mini taro* balls on deck.
Order: Lychee green tea with crystal pearl and milk foam slushie.
5092 W. 92nd Ave., Westminster, with a Centennial location on the way
This independently owned and operated Glendale shop from brother-and-sister duo Patrick and Victoria Lam specializes in scratch-made boba and other beverages. The Colorado-native siblings are ethnically Chinese with Vietnamese-born parents and have spent years traveling across Asia, where they sampled countless styles of hot and cold tea beverages. The Lams bring that inspiration and a true dedication to sourcing premium quality teas and fresh ingredients (including Palisade peaches) to Tea Street, and you can taste their care in every sip.
Order: The green-tea-based coconut milk tea with boba and chewy rectangles of coconut jelly, or the taro slush, made with fresh taro that’s stewed for 12-plus hours.
4090 E. Mississippi Ave., 720-863-8636
With locations up and down the Front Range, this Queens, New York-born tea shop has more than 10 outposts in the Centennial State. It’s easy-to-navigate menu offers milk tea with the option for Lactaid milk if you happen to be lactose intolerant, slushes, “punches” (fresh lemonades with fruity teas), and seasonal specials, like a purple yam latte.
Order: Sometimes called cheese tea*, Kung Fu’s “milk cap tea” features a thick, fluffy top layer of slightly salty cream cheese above sweet green or black tea. Get the winter melon tea cap, which balances the rich topping with the slightly grassy flavor of winter melon.
A Taiwanese staple since 1992, this global chain has five Colorado locations: Westminster, Lakewood, Aurora, Highlands Ranch, and Castle Rock. The teas there are consistently tasty, and the service is quick and hospitable. There are also plenty of lighter, fresher options here if you prefer your tea sans milk, including fresh hot ginger tea.
Order: Try the QQ* Happy Family Milk tea, a classic milky black tea with a treasure trove of textures from the addition of lychee, red beans*, grass jelly*, and boba pearls.
This four-year-old Littleton shop churns out perfectly cooked tapioca and not-too-sweet drinks to please even the most discerning boba seeker. This is the place to venture beyond basic tapioca balls: Try crystal boba* or different flavors of popping boba* in your drink.
Order: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more Instagrammable and delicious drink than the purple-blue-and-white swirled butterfly lavender milk tea.
5005 Kipling Pkwy. Unit A8, Littleton, 303-990-9926
- Boba: Classic boba pearls are made with tapioca flour. Bubble tea shops simmer the pearls in sugar syrup until the pearls are chewy.
- Cheese Foam or Cheese Tea: A fluffy layer of whipped cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar, and salt, this topping adds a cheesecake-like flavor and body to drinks. It typically sits atop a drink.
- Crème Brûlée Milk: If you love the caramelly French dessert, you’ll love this add-in. Most shops make it by whipping custard powder with whipped cream for a decadent mix-in.
- Crystal Pearls or Crystal Boba: Made with the konjac plant, these gelatinous, jelly-bean shaped additions have a very subtle citrus flavor and are considered a healthier alternative to classic boba.
- Customize: Most shops offer the option to customize the sweetness and ice level in your drink. 25 to 50 percent sweetness is usually plenty for us.
- Golden Boba: Made with tapioca flour like traditional boba but flavored with honey, these pearls offer a lightly sweet taste that complements both milky and fruity teas.
- Jellies: Gelatinous jellies add chewy texture and an array of flavors to bubble tea. Grass jelly is incredibly popular, as is coconut jelly made from coconut flesh. Other flavors include lychee, coffee, lime, and brown sugar.
- Popping Boba: Best added to fruity tea drinks, these thin-skinned Gushers-esque balls, typically made with agar agar, burst open when bitten to unleash fruity syrup or fresh fruit juice. Expect flavors like blueberry, strawberry, and mango.
- Puddings: Imagine bits of soft flan in your milk tea and you’ve got the idea. Puddings add a thick, creamy texture to beverages and are fun to slurp up through the wide straw. Options such as almond pudding and tofu pudding are popular.
- Puff Cream: A frothy custard cream similar to the aforementioned crème brûlée milk.
- QQ: A Taiwanese term for the chewy, bouncy, springy texture of certain foods, including boba pearls.
- Red Beans: Slightly earthy with a natural sweetness, red beans are a classic component in a variety of desserts. Many shops offer them as an addition to bubble tea drinks as they add a pleasant nutty flavor and uniquely starchy texture.
- Taro: This starchy root vegetable makes a popular addition to milk teas and adds a lavender color to drinks. While often used in powdered form, many shops boil and mash fresh taro for their drinks. Multi-colored taro balls are also often available to add to drinks.