I absolutely love bubble tea drinks, and the Champaign-Urbana area has a bunch of great ones. I love adding the tapioca bubbles to fruity teas and sweet smoothies; it adds a really interesting element of texture to the drink. I recently tried all of the places near my apartment that have bubble tea, and I definitely found some new favorites.
Teamoji is a new tea place that opened on Green Street less than a month ago. I was super excited to try it out, and it did not disappoint. I ordered the Signature Fruit Green Tea with bubbles (often called boba, as well). Teamoji drinks only come in one size, and it was definitely on the larger side. The tea was your standard green tea, and they asked how sweet I wanted it, and how much ice I preferred. The fruits inside were orange, lime, and watermelon. I really enjoyed the fact that there were actual fruits inside to add a natural flavor, and make for a little snack after finishing the drink. The boba that they gave me, which I believe are just the normal boba at Teamoji, were clear and colorless, unlike the brown ones that I am more used to.
The drink was a lovely balance of fresh sweetness along with a light tea taste. I really enjoyed it and it lasted a good while. I paid $6.57 for this, so it was definitely the most expensive of the five that I tried. In terms of packaging and presentation, I was very impressed. The cup’s lid had a perforated straw hole in the top that made it easy to keep things neat, as opposed to having to jab the straw into the thin plastic wrapper that covers the top of most bubble tea drinks. The atmosphere of the place was quite nice and relaxing; it seems like a good place to go work or study. There is some seating on the bottom floor, but there are over 50 seats on the top floor. The decoration was simple, but quite city-like, which I found cute. Teamoji was definitely a great place that I will go back to.
Teamoji is located at 617 East Green Street, Champaign, and open 10 a.m. to midnight daily.
Caffe Bene has two locations in the C-U area, but the one that I visit the most often is the one on Green Street near Chipotle. I love going there to study, and they have very yummy sandwiches. I’m no stranger to the place, but this was one of my first times having bubble tea there. Their bubble teas come in medium or large. There are seven flavors specifically available for bubble teas: milk, taro, Thai, peaches ’n cream, watermelon, mango, and honeydew. These drinks are milk-based, so if you are lactose-intolerant (like me), or prefer to not consume cow milk, you can substitute it for soy, almond, or coconut milks. They also ask you whether or not you prefer ice in the drink.
I went with a friend, and we both got medium sized bubble teas with almond milk in them, but I got mango and she got Thai. We each paid $4.33 for our drinks, and I think that the size we got for that price was fitting. These bubble teas were a more on the smoothie side of these drinks, which I personally prefer. The drink wasn’t too thick or too runny; the consistency was perfect. This drink was definitely quite sweet, so I would consider it more of a dessert drink. The bubbles were the traditional brown tapioca ones. The place is a great cozy location to meet up with friends, or do some work. There are booths, tables, and some wall seats. There are bookshelves lining one of the walls, and there is plenty of light. Caffé Bene is a great place to check out for bubble tea, sandwiches, and more. (Read SP’s review here.)
Caffe Bene is located at 524 East Green Street, Champaign, and 700 South Gregory Street, Urbana. Both locations are open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Cocomero is a popular frozen yogurt place on Wright Street, around the corner from Green Street. I love going to Cocomero with friends after a long day of class or exams to grab a bit of sweet stuff to help the recuperation process. It’s a really cute place to go do work, as well. Upstairs there is more seating, and there is even a bar-seating area on a full glass wall through which you can see the Alma Mater statue. It is a pretty and upbeat place to get some work done with a good treat.
Since most people go there to get their fro-yo fix, you don’t hear much about their bubble teas. I love apple flavored things, so I ordered the green apple green tea with bubbles. I paid $4.92 for the one-size drink. I was not too into the flavor of the drink that I tried; the apple flavor was totally artificial. However, the traditional boba inside the drink were awesome. I think that my expectations for the flavor I chose might have been a bit presumptuous, because I expected more sweetness and it was more on the sour side. I think that other flavors added to the green tea would have been more to my liking.
Cocomero is located at 709 South Wright Street, Champaign, and open Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to midnight.
Latea Bubble Tea Lounge
Latea is one of my most frequent spots that I visit to get my boba. The atmosphere of the place is super cool, trendy, and comfortable. The seating is very limited, but if you do catch a seat it is quite cozy. I ordered a small plum green tea with standard boba. At Latea they also ask you how sweet you want your drink, and how much ice you’d like. I ordered regular sweetness with light ice. The teas at Latea are all excellent, and this one was no different. There are also a lot of fruit-flavored boba options to choose from. I just like the classic bubbles, so I went with those. The flavor of the tea was strong in a fresh way, and the boba were a little bigger than most others (which I like). I paid $4.73 for a small, so it is also on the pricier side for what you’re getting. However, it is totally worth it for the occasional treat!
Latea Bubble Tea Lounge is located at 601 South 6th Street, Champaign, and open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Before I went on this bubble tea adventure, I had never heard of Taipei Café. To my surprise, I think this one is my favorite. I think a lot of people probably miss this one because the main entrance is not on Green Street, but on the back part where there is a brick-paved pathway. However, if you enter through the door near Which-Which and the entrance to the Daily Illini offices, you will see an entrance to the café as well. The aesthetic of this place is fantastic: from cute little plants, to fun wall decor, to tea-themed pillows, it’s a super cute and cozy place to go and work or meet up with friends. I got the strawberry yogurt smoothie with boba. The yogurt smoothies are actually syrup-based, not yogurt, so I was initially a bit skeptical. However, the smoothie had a nicely thick and smoothly icy consistency with your classic boba. I paid $5.18 for a regular size (they also had a large size), but I think that the amount of product that you got for the price was pretty reasonable. This place is a definite gem that I will be taking my friends to.
Taipei Café is located at 512 East Green Street, Champaign, and open Sunday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight.
All photos by Indira Midha.