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Boba binge: a review of Chinatown’s biggest boba spots

Green Tea with Tapioca from Feng Cha
Andrew Lee
Green Tea with Tapioca from Feng Cha

Walking through Chinatown, amidst all of the hustle and bustle, you notice a shop lined with people posing for pictures and socializing with their friends. In their hands, you see a cup with small miniature balls at the bottom. With curiosity, you and your friends walk over to see the craze. Upon walking in, you find a tea shop with a wide variety of drinks. You order. Upon drinking it, you are pleasantly surprised by the wave of flavors and black spheres which engulf your taste buds. This drink, most commonly referred to as “boba” has become a staple among teens in this modern day and age.

With such a popular demand, many scramble to such plazas filled with these shops, with one such plaza being Dun Huang Plaza, located in the heart of Houston’s Chinatown. The plaza is filled with many Asian restaurants, gift stores, dance studios, and most importantly, boba shops.

We decided to go to almost every boba shop within this plaza to compile our thoughts and reviews to see which was the best option for a refreshing drink of boba tea.

Feng Cha

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Interior wall/ceiling of Feng Cha

The store displayed a sky theme upon walking in, with clouds hanging from the ceiling, and light blue walls around the shop. The store was moderately filled, with seating aligned in three rows. As we took our order, we asked the cashier what they recommended. He ended up recommending the green tea with tapioca. A pleasant surprise to us was how customizable the drink was, as you could ask for varying levels of sweetness or ice volume. The menu was also quite expansive with a wide variety of drinks. Pricing was quite normal, with drinks ranging from 5-6 dollars. Upon sitting down, we tried the drink, which was quite pleasant and had a good tapioca to tea ratio. Another feature of the store was the vast array of board games you could play, like Jenga, Monopoly, and UNO. The store was also quite clean with lots of wall decor, and even a Christmas tree. All in all, if you are looking for a boba shop to hang out and talk to your friends while also playing a game to pass the time, Feng Cha is an excellent option.

Rating: 8/10

Star Ice & Teriyaki

Star Ice and Teriyaki cashier/pick-up area

Before even walking into the store, its outward appearance seemed more run down than the prior shops. With a look far less modern than its counterpart, it gives the sense of an older, more worn-out Chinese cafe where customers are served their food straight from the kitchen, and families enjoy a quick bite to eat. The shop was crowded, more than you would expect, and did not have many decorations and wall decor. Looking at the boba menu, selection is limited but you are given your typical flavors, such as strawberry, mango, jasmine, green tea, etc. Pricing, however, was supreme, as each drink is priced around 4-5 dollars with generous sizing per cup. We got the strawberry smoothie with tapioca which was served in less than 5 minutes. Taste was nothing exceptional, but was not lacking in the last bit. The strawberry flavor was strong, and the tapioca was still warm. Boba was not this shop’s only big menu item, however. The store has a variety of rice, noodles, and soup dishes. They also specialize in a popular Vietnamese dessert (chè). All in all, if you are looking for a budget place to grab a bite and drink some boba with your friends, Star Ice & Teriyaki is a great option. Although it doesn’t have the photo-op vibe or the clean appearance other shops might give, it certainly is nothing to frown upon.

Rating: 7.5/10

The Teahouse

Arguably one of the more recognizable boba tea brands, The Teahouse Tapioca & Tea has long been a recognizable boba tea chain in Houston. Therefore, we decided that it would be interesting to try bubble tea in Dun Huang, especially due to the variety of unique options available in the plaza. We picked the recommended drink, the #1 Teahouse milk tea, but utilized rose milk tea in place of the standard tea. We felt that this drink covered all the bases. The milk tea was light and delicious, albeit a little standard. However, the addition of rose milk greatly enriched the taste, with the hint of rose adding flavor to the otherwise standard milk tea. Teahouse also had a good variety of food options, ranging from crispy popcorn chicken to the usual French fries. We tried the sweet potato fries, which were both crunchy and flavorful. While Teahouse hit all the marks, we felt that it pales in comparison to the unique establishments of Dun Huang Plaza. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Share Tea

Walking in, you are brought with the sweet smell of tea and tapioca. Seating was mostly open with a short line to grab a drink. The shop looked more like a fusion of a study cafe and a social restaurant. Looking at the menu, prices were right around average, sitting at 5-6 dollars per drink. We decided to get the mango ice blended with ice cream with tapioca toppings. Upon sitting down, the mostly-quiet shop gave a calm setting that allowed us to enjoy our drink in peace. The taste was very sweet, maybe a litte too sweet for most but it should be noted that there was a degree of customizability, from the sweetness to the ice level (similar to that of Feng Cha). The mango flavor was present, but mostly overpowered by the sweetness of the ice cream. Overall, a great place to have a nice peaceful drink, but nothing too extravagant.

Rating: 7/10

Front display of Hui Lau Shan’s store showing replicas of their various desserts

Hui Lau Shan

Hui Lau Shan is a blast of freshness in the boba-dominated Dun Huang Plaza. With a multitude of flavors and selections in drinks made from tropical fruits such as durian and mango, this is the place to go if you are a fruit lover. While the store may be a bit on the pricier side, with our drink amounting to around $7, it is definitely worth the price, with the store’s renowned Handmade Mango series using freshly made Carabao mangoes imported directly from the Philippines. The drink that we tasted, D3’s pomelo and mango with sago (a starch derived from tapioca), is just one of the many drinks in the series. Our taste buds had an explosion of many tastes at once, with the freshness of the mangoes complementing the tenderness of the coconut. Whether it was the fruity taste of the citrus, the crunchy taste of the sago, or the smoothness of the jelly condiments, this drink had it all. However, the drink was loaded with toppings, and it was hard to get a defined taste. This place is heaven for smoothie and slushie lovers but if you’re more of a boba lover, then maybe this isn’t the place for you.

Rating: 8/10

In our tasty endeavor to find the best boba spot, we ultimately decided that there is no best boba place. Each spot had its own unique vibes, drinks, and niches that they filled. Some drinks we thought were better than others, but that is ultimately subjective to the drinker. Also, people’s intentions when going to a boba shop may differ. Whether they want a packed dessert, a snack-filled meal with boba serving as a compliment to what they are eating, or a spot for their next Instagram post, it is up to the drinker to define what they think is best. All in all, our review can best be summed up as a guide to seeking the perfect spot for a tapioca-loving enthusiast when exploring the shops of the Dun Huang Plaza.

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About the Contributors
Andrew Lee
Andrew Lee, Staff Writer
Andrew Lee is a junior at CVHS. He enjoys playing basketball and sleeping but is also very committed to his goals of being a good student and looking into the medical field for his future. He enjoys spending time outside when there is nice weather, and wants to live in California. He expresses his carefree attribute by being a come and go type of guy but very reliable when it comes to helping people. Andrew is determined to get better at writing and hopes to create great articles.
Siddharth Dasari
Siddharth Dasari, Staff Writer
Siddharth Dasari is a junior at CVHS. An aspiring diplomat, he is fascinated in learning about the world around him and meeting various global leaders through the World Affairs Club. In addition to his interest in international relations, he also loves to run, bike, and travel. Siddharth is excited to write about his community and provide a fresh perspective to Upstream News.
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