Bubble Tea at Dubai Mall, Sino Chai, Kitsch, and more…

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Bubble Tea in NYC
Bubble Tea in NYC

Like my mocha, tea, or frappaccino, bubble tea isn’t something that I liked to make a big effort to obtain. That’s because growing up in NYC, I was used to bubble tea being widely available.

But in Dubai, getting good bubble tea used to involve a long drive (for me as I live in New Dubai) to Sino Chai Teahouse in Healthcare city. In the last few years though, dedicated bubble tea cafes have opened up in Dubai Mall (Bubbles & Boba), Sharjah (Happy Time), and the Deira City Center Metro station (Share Tea), plus many restaurants now often bubble tea options.

What is bubble tea?

Imagine your average cup of black tea with milk and sugar…then shake it up (covered of course) so that it gets frothy and bubbly.  Now add “boba” (which are black tapioca balls, 1-cm thick, and made from the starch of the cassava root) and add optional flavorings and it is instantly transformed into what is known these days as bubble tea.

The first appearance of bubble tea occurred in Taiwan in the 1980s. Now, three decades later, there are hundreds of variations depending on the type of tea (jasmine, Earl Grey, green, oolong, etc), flavorings (taro, sesame almond, etc), or fruit (strawberry, mango, lychee, etc) that is used. The tea can be served hot or cold and coffee variations are also available.

A friend told me that in Munich, bubble tea is served at McDonald’s! Oh, and shakes and smoothies (and almost anything these days!) can also be transformed into a bubble concoction.

With bubble tea, besides flavor and sugar content, it is also important to get the consistency of the black tapioca pearls correct. The tapioca pearls should be properly cooked so that they are not hard and distasteful like uncooked flour lumps nor overly soft like a flaccid gummy bear that sticks to your teeth. They should be just chewy enough to move around the mouth a couple times while pondering one of two options – how to position the extra wide bubble tea straw to either suck up another pearl or avoid it altogether.

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Whenever I am in Dubai Mall, I try to stop by Bubbles & Boba (located in Level 2 by the ice rink and Costa coffee) where staff donning grey bandannas and pink T-shirts create your individual bubble tea selection in a shakey-shaky-mixer thing (for lack of the proper technical term) and then vacuum seal the cup with a plastic lid where you then insert the pointy end of a fat colorful straw to begin sipping and chewing.

At my first visit a few months ago, I was uber-excited to see taro flavor on the menu (my all-time favorite) but quickly simmered down my excitement as it often happens in Dubai that what’s listed is not always available. Sure enough, there was no taro to be had that day.

“Soon,” I was told. Yeah, yeah, heard that one before.

Bubbles and Boba - Dubai Mall
Bubbles & Boba – Dubai Mall

They have lots of free samples for you to try before committing to a full-cup size:

Bubbles and Bobal - Dubai Mall
Bubble Tea samples @ Bubbles & Boba – Dubai Mall

I tasted their original flavor (Assam milk tea with tapioca) and their Thai milk tea with tapioca and settled on an order of a small Thai tea which was very satisfying, just the right sweetness for me, and the tapioca pearls were properly chewy.

Bubble Tea
Bubble Tea – small size from Bubbles & Boba

Pricing is strange to me as there is only an insubstantial 2 dhs ($0.55) difference (19 dhs vs 21 dhs) between a small and a large.

Don’t know what the liquid measurement is but at those prices you should always go for the larger size for better bang for your buck but having said that, I tend to go for the small size unless I am with someone who will help me drink a large because it’s too much liquid and too much sugar for me in one go.

Menu Selection @ Bubbles and Boba - Dubai Mall
Menu Selection @ Bubbles & Boba

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Back in 2008 when I was scouring Karama and Dragonmart in search of bubble tea – it was underneath my nose the whole time in China Palace in the food court of Ibn Battuta mall, only 5 minutes from my apartment, where they literally dispense bubble tea for the bargain price of 6 dhs. There is also a China Palace in Dubai Mall and in the span of one week I tried the bubble tea at both locales and found that I preferred the tea from the Dubai Mall outlet as it is not as sweet as Ibn Battuta’s.

I also periodically (well once per year actually) stopped by Kitsch Cubcakes in Jumeirah to try their bubble tea but it was usually a frustrating effort. The first two times I went they didn’t have tapioca pearls.

Now bubble tea without tapioca pearls is just plain tea. No need to drive 20 minutes out of my way to get milk tea.

Kitsch Cupcakes - Dubai
Kitsch Cupcakes – Beach Road, Dubai

The third time I went to Kitsch was the only time I was successful in getting a cup of bubble tea with tapioca pearls but the fourth and final time I went I left empty (or should I say emp-tead) just like the first two times.

On that fourth visit I was very pregnant (I was in my third trimester) and left very upset as can happen when a pregnant person is denied her cravings. I’m sure the shop assistant isn’t reading this but I would like to publicly apologize if I was impolite or acting crazy upon being told “no tapioca” and denied bubble tea for the third time – I blame it on the pregnancy hormones.

Kitsch Bubble Tea and Cupcake - Dubai
Bubble Tea and Cupcake from Kitsch

Noodle House used to serve bubble tea in their Dubai Marina branch but shortly removed the selections from their menu – they were never able to achieve proper tapioca consistency anyway.

The best bubble tea I’ve tasted in Dubai up until Bubbles & Boba opened up was at Sino Chai restaurant in Healthcare City.

Sino Chai Teahouse and Restaurant - Dubai
Sino Chai Teahouse and Restaurant – Dubai

As I mentioned, it is a bit of a drive for me to get to Healthcare city, so I only enjoy Sino Chai’s bubble tea if I just happen to be in the area.

They have a variety of hot and cold bubble tea and because they are a tea house as well, their tea is very good quality.

Bubble Tea @ Sino Chai - Dubai
Bubble Tea @ Sino Chai – Dubai

My favorite is the jasmine hot tea that is served in clear tea pots and the tea is poured into a matching glass teacup filled with tapioca pearls.

Prices range from 22 dhs to 33 dhs. Sino Chai calls their tapioca pearls “QQ” which came about because it sounds like “chew-chew” in Taiwanese and Mandarin.

Hot Jasmine Bubble Tea @ Sino Chai - Dubai
Hot Jasmine Bubble Tea @ Sino Chai – Dubai

Wee Scotch and I are escaping Dubai for the summer and taking up residence in my hometown of New York City so if this summer is anything like last year, I will be having bubble tea quite regularly – yay!

Have you had Bubble Tea in Dubai? What are your fave outlets and are there others I haven’t mentioned and must try?

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  1. Love the article and images you shared. I have been tried bubble tea in Dubai mall and it was really tasty.

  2. One not to forget to mention is booba in the dubai mall. so many flavours they have. can only recommend that one since i get my fix regularly at there. its their only branch but its rocking good. try it and you wont be disappointed.

  3. As a pearl milk tea lover from Taiwan I know pretty well how an authentic pearl milk tea supposed to be,I was very disappointed that the quality of share tea dubai is going down.Ordered a pearl milk tea today,the pearl was too soft with no taste regardless of its freshness(it had black sugar taste when i first bought it),the milk tea was very watering with no MILK flavor,it’s definitely not worth 16 AED to get such horrible quality pearl milk tea!! not recommended anymore!

  4. The best bubble tea brand in UAE is BoBoQ for sure its franchise from Germany and its the most popular brand in Europe, the staff all trained for a month in Germany.
    The variety and the taste is much better compare to any other brand in Dubai. I think you should try it it in lower ground foodcourt next to the TOP entrance asked for BoBoQ everyone knows where it is

  5. I just found your blog, and I’m totally digging it! I don’t know much about Dubai, but I will as I keep reading your posts, for sure… also, so much incredible Vietnamese food on here, it’s wild! From, a fellow bubble tea enthusiast. ^_^ (I still don’t know if any bubble tea can top the kind I had in Taiwan, but apparently some shops have a 6-12 month training program for their tea-makers! I guess if you’ve invented something, there are standards to keep, and much to our benefit, ne?)

  6. Did Kitsch stop selling their bubble tea? Went last week and didn’t notice it on their wall menu. My first experience of bubble tea was at Kitsch maybe 5 years ago, it was awful! Then I went to Australia and had some taro milk tea on the subway. That’s when I officially became an addict! Have you tried Share Tea?

  7. I’m not a big fan of bubble tea, however my husband can’t get enough of it, so I’m glad there’s a few good places where I can take him the next time I’m in Dubai 🙂 Thanks for the detailed review!

  8. totally agree with you in bubble tea ratings. I initially thought that Dubai Mall (bubbles and boba) had THE BEST bubble tea (disregarding it being highly sweetened); but then Sino Chai came in and knocked it right off the number one spot. I like their Rose iced tea (i believe) heart it!

    1. I think the Rose tea is the most expensive of the teas – haven’t tried it but not a fan of rose flavored things though so I normally stick with the regular or jasmine.