Boba chains have been blooming all over metro Detroit these past years. For those who are not familiar with the Taiwan-based drink, boba tea, it is a combination of black tea, or green tea with a choice of milk or fruit flavoring, the liquidy substance is poured over black pearls, called tapioca pearls. The two most popular and authentic boba chains in Metro Detroit are Quickly, and Kung Fu Tea.
Quickly Boba Cafe, located on Rochester Road in Troy, is a franchise boba business that originated from Taiwan and was founded by Nancy Yang. There are more than 2000 franchises all over the world, in Africa, North America, Europe, and Asia. Quickly Boba Cafe was opened after Jay Zheng and Cheuk Lee, co-owners of Quickly, noticed that there was a competitor in town, Kung Fu Tea.
“We saw our competitor, Kung Fu Tea on 15 and Dequindre. Their business was doing outstandingly well so my business partners, Jay and Cheuk, asked me to join them.” said Tom Tu, co-owner of Quickly. “for drinks, it would be the classic milk tea, the taro, milk tea, the jasmine milk tea, the Thai milk. Those would be the top four sellers for milk tea.” said Tu. I can vouch for the drink’s popularity because I myself became so addicted, I had to go to the hospital. It all started off when I went to Quickly five days in a row and ordered my go-to drink, a classic milk tea with boba and aloe vera. One night I trapped myself in the bathroom for 7 hours because I was in agony. I tried every possible method to get rid of the pain in my stomach, nothing worked, so I ended up going to the hospital and was told by the doctor that I should relax on the boba. So while I do recommend this … this comes with a warning.
As soon as I entered the doors I could smell the sweet, floral aroma of freshly brewed tea. The marvelous interior struck my attention; it wasn’t like any other boba place that I’ve been to. Quickly had a contemporary feeling; it was spacious and sparkling clean with bright hanging chandeliers that gave it a modern vibe. To the left there are three big brown rectangular menus with a variety of food and drinks. The menus offer drinks like milk tea, fruit tea, slushes, and snows. And to top it off there are assortments of toppings such as tapioca pearls, puddings, jellies, and popping boba. On the food menu, there are egg puffs, mochi waffles, rice bowls, popcorn chicken, and much more. Gazing at the menu, my eyes wandered to the milk tea section. It took me a while to come up with an order since there were plentiful options to choose from! so I decided to start small; I went with what I usually order at every boba shop, a classic black milk tea with creamer and brown sugar.
Photo by Genna Tran. The tables near the counter, three customers are socializing while sipping on their boba drinks. The atmosphere of the place gives it a modern but a cozy vibe to it.
As I made my way to the counter, the young lady greeted me with a beaming face. I ordered a regular sized, classic black milk tea with tapioca pearls and aloe vera that cost $4.75. Tu mentioned that Quickly’s regular size is 700ml, which is the same size as a large at Kung Fu Tea. A large sized cup at Kung Fu Tea can cost somewhere between $4 and $4.75 depending on which type of drink you get. After ordering, I made my way to one of the tables and sat on a white wooden bench. A few moments passed and the young lady who took my order called my name. I made my way to the counter and picked up my drink and a thick pink plastic straw. Poking the straw through my drink lid, I heard the satisfying pop as it broke through the seal. I took a big gulp of my black milk tea, feeling the texture of the tea and cream mixing together. The drink wasn’t too sweet nor creamy. The tapioca pearls made the drink even more delectable, adding a soft chewy texture to the drink along with the aloe vera, the texture of the boba felt as if I was chewing on gummy bears.. Overall, I would give this drink an 8.5/10. Although the tea and creamer were balanced, the flavor was a bit dull compared to other drinks I’ve had in the past.
Photo by Genna Tran. The classical milk tea with tapioca pearls and aloe vera from Quickly was one of my favorite drinks on March 3. A perfect combination of brewed black tea, creamer, and brown sugar made the drink suitable for my tastebuds.
Tu, one of the co-owners of Quickly, offered me chicken wings to taste test.. The chicken wings are a good size for a quick grab and go snack, enough to satisfy my afternoon hunger. The taste of the chicken itself feels as if it was a homemade recipe, very scrawny and crispy skin but a soft and juicy inside. I was automatically grasped by the flavors after the first bite.
I would highly recommend Quickly, if someone is looking for a go-to boba spot. What makes Quickly stand out are both their lunch combos and the value the employees place on their customers.
“We give a lot of value to our customers not just in the drinks but even in the food, like for the popcorn chicken we give a pound of chicken. And not just for that, we have lunch specials during weekdays from 11am - 2pm where you can come grab a lunch combo from various selections,” Tu said. I would highly recommend Quickly, if someone is looking for a go-to boba spot.
Then there is Kung Fu Tea, a competitor of Quickly. In the late summer of 2018, the first Kung Fu Tea was opened in the City of Sterling Heights, located on 15 mile and Dequindre. Kung Fu Tea is a franchise boba shop founded by four people who wanted to open an authentic boba shop in America. There are several Kung Fu Tea’s chain in other parts of the world like Vietnam, Australia, and Canada.
Upon entering Kung Fu Tea, the interior of the store did not feel welcoming; it felt a bit claustrophobic for me. The tables were at least 1 foot apart from each other and the walkway to pick up your drink was a bit crowded because of the vicinity between the tables and the counter. As I made my way to the counter I took a glance at the menus. The menus are displayed on two wall-mounted flat screen tv’s. At Kung Fu Tea, drink variations include classic tea, milk tea, punch, milk cap, yogurt, slush, milk strike, and espresso. For the toppings they offer traditional tapioca pearls, red bean, oreo, nata jelly, herbal jelly, crystal bubbles, aloe jelly, and popping bobas. You can also choose the ice and sugar level of the drink. The down-side of Kung Fu Tea is that they don’t sell jasmine milk tea, which is a common boba drink. I asked my friend, Sabrina, who works at Kung Fu Tea, what is their most popular drink at Kung Fu Tea. I went with Sabrina's recommendation and ordered a small, milk tea with tapioca pearls, the drink cost $3.75. Their milk tea is black tea with non-dairy milk powder, and cane sugar.
Photo by Genna Tran. This brown sugar drink called the “WOW” from Kung Fu Tea contains lactose free milk, brown sugar, and cocoa powder. Taken on February 29th, I can testify that this drink will make you say “WOW!” after the first sip of the sweet, creamy drink.
While waiting for my drink, I sat and took in the atmosphere of the shop. I noticed that across from me there were games such as Uno, Connect 4, Jenga, and more. I’ve noticed that every boba shop has at least some sort of entertainment. A few minutes later, one of the baristas called out my number, so I made my way to the counter and picked up the milk tea that I ordered earlier. Another euphoric feeling came upon me, the sound of the tear that comes from a straw puncturing the plastic never gets old. I took one sip of the milk tea and I could taste the strong flavor of the black tea leaves that makes this drink superior. The tapioca pearls were extremely hard to chew, making it feel like a chore to chew them compared to the soft, delicate texture a Quickly tea has.
I firmly believe that Quickly is superior to Kung Fu Tea. Quickly’s bigger store size makes it less crowded and easier to move around, especially compared to Kung Fu Tea it was cramped and difficult to move around. The cup sizes at Quickly are larger than Kung Fu Tea’s and are priced almost the same; therefore, you get more value for your money at Quickly. Quickly also serves varieties of food, whereas Kung Fu Tea only sells macaroons, which tend to get boring after a while because of the lack of vartieries . I’ve tried the best of both worlds, and Quickly especially the flavor of their drinks, a flavor so tasty I am still willing to risk another trip to the hospital just for a sip of their classic milk tea, TJ tea, or the okinawa .