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Bubble tea is popping Uptown: A ranking of Oxford’s boba shops and restaurants

For students and community members looking for boba tea in Oxford, there are many options. From designated shops to restaurants with small selections, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

I teamed up with Mollie Duffy, a senior public administration and organizational leadership major, who runs the Instagram account @thebobaconcierge, to help taste test. Together, we embarked on a one-night boba adventure hitting six different shops.

For this experiment, we wanted to try to keep things as controlled as possible. The plan was to get a regular sized milk tea at each location and then try them all at the same time.

The evening started at Yum Cha, a shop in the plaza across the street from Kroger on Locust Street. We got a 16 ounce regular for $4.95. The store was cute and clean, although it was empty.

The bulk of Oxford’s boba is Uptown, so that’s where we headed next. 

We tried Ramen Hachi first, which carries Tsaocha tea. The restaurant was lively with people chatting over ramen. Tsaocha didn’t have anything labeled “original milk tea,” so we opted for their ruby black tea, which was 20 ounces for $5.95.

Just a few doors down was Brick House Cafe, which didn’t carry tea at all. The restaurant looked as if it was trying to be an Instagram photoshoot location, with a mix of yellow subway tiles, round clear acrylic tables with rainbow LED lights and vines hanging from the wall. There was even a printout of an Instagram photo box that people could pose with. The restaurant was empty. We got their caramel boba, a 20 ounce for $5.

Next was Phan Shin, which is also more of a restaurant than a boba shop. There, we got a 16 ounce original milk tea for $4.25.

Across the street was Aqua Tea, which felt more like a doctor’s waiting room than a boba shop, with no tables and two rows of chairs lining the walls.  We picked up a 16 ounce original milk tea for $5.50.

Our final stop was around the corner at Drop In Tea, where we got their 16 ounce original milk tea for $6. This was the most crowded shop by far and our final destination.

In our drink comparison, we noticed most of the places had rather hard tapioca pearls, all except for Drop In Tea. Brick House Cafe’s drink was just milk with caramel sauce, and the caramel tasted more like maple than anything and was far too sweet. Aqua Tea’s boba tasted like it had jasmine tea instead of black tea. Out of the six, Yum Cha and Drop In Tea were the best, with Yum Cha having better tea and Drop In having better boba. Next were the actual boba stores, with Tsaocha in second and Aqua Tea in third. Phan Shin’s boba wasn’t bad, just not as good compared to the actual boba shops. 

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