Bubble tea — also known as boba tea, pearl milk tea, or boba milk — is a traditional Taiwanese drink that debuted in the Chinese city in the early 1980s, although its roots can be traced to the 1940s when tea shops began selling unique shou-yao — or hand-shaken — chilled teas.
Originally known as foam tea, the resulting beverage was a flavorful iced drink served with a foamy layer of air bubbles thanks to vigorous shaking. The handcrafted touch became an important part of the drink that later morphed into bubble tea.
Today, bubble tea is most recognizable by the chewy tapioca "pearls" or boba. The drink is prepared with a tea-based milk and flavored with a number of add-in ingredients that range from traditional boba to pudding-like, flavored jellies and creamy foams.
TikTea in Kendall is the brainchild of Xin Zhi Li and Yan Dong Lin, a couple from China who tell New Times they decided to take their love of bubble tea to the United States. Their shop menu currently offers more than 30 flavor combinations, from traditional taro and matcha to more experimental picks like the Oreo boba milk tea blended with Nutella and cookie pieces for a unique twist on the traditional bubble tea.
Priced at $4.95 each, they're customizable with add-on ingredients that include a cream cheese foam made with a combination of salty or sweet cream cheese, milk, and whipping cream. It’s a specialty Li says you’ll be hard-pressed to find at other boba shops.
Since opening in August, TikTea's Red Dragon has become a fan favorite, a fruit tea that's flavored with fresh dragon fruit and capped off with that cream cheese foam.
What makes this bubble tea shop stand out from area competitors isn’t just the cream cheese foam, adds Li. It’s also TikTea's use of fresh, all-natural ingredients. Unlike many U.S.-based boba tea spots that use powders and artificial flavoring to create their bubble tea, the couple says they use genuine ingredients to recreate their favorite Chinese treat.
“We don’t use any powders, or artificial flavors, to achieve what we know and love from China, including our cream cheese foam topping. It’s magically delicious,” Li says.
Instead, like most authentic Taiwanese bubble tea shops, TikTea uses its own blend of teas for each drink, which range from expertly sourced whole leaf teas in the hand-shaken fruit teas to fresh matcha in their popular milk tea.
That is most apparent with TikTea’s signature brown sugar bubble tea, a recipe that uses natural brown sugar and fresh milk instead of white table sugar and creamer — a unique twist that has become popular in China in the past few years. At TikTea, you'll find it prepared the same way, hand-shaken with brown sugar and milk before it's finished with the quintessential black boba.
On the savory side of the menu, TikTea also offers several dishes to pair with its bubble tea. Customizable ramen and poke bowls are sold to-go in pink cardboard containers with handles. Choose from pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, and vegetable ramen ($11.95) or signature poke bowls made with salmon, tuna, chicken, eel, or tofu ($12.99).
TikTea. 10846 SW 104th St., Miami. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.