Welcome to Food Crawls, a series in which Eater Nashville guides you (virtually) on various food crawls in the metro Nashville area. When we go out, we often find ourselves wanting to try more than one restaurant or bar at a time. On some occasions, we seek out a specific dish or drink, while on others we might explore a style of cuisine special to a neighborhood. Email us if there’s a particular theme, specific dish or drink, or neighborhood you’d like to see covered in a future installment.
Boba tea is having a moment in Nashville. What started as a one-off menu item at a neighborhood ramen or Asian restaurant has quickly cascaded into a full-on, bubbly wave of individual shops doling out cups of Taiwan’s famous tapioca bubble tea.
And it makes sense. Especially in Middle Tennessee, when temperatures can easily breach the 90s and the thought of meeting someone for a hot, muggy cup of coffee is about as appealing as wearing flannel in soupy 70 percent humidity. Because boba is iced — with the occasional slushy variation thrown in for good measure — it’s become the de-facto hangout drink of Nashville summer. The coffee date has given way to boba bonding as a simple, relatively inexpensive way to socialize during lunch, after school or work, or before a movie night with good friends in tow.
For the uninitiated, boba tea (or bubble tea) typically consists of black tea, milk, ice, and chewy tapioca pearls that have been shaken together like a cocktail and served with a thick straw for prime bubble scooping. Flavors vary but can range from sweet and creamy to tart and fruity varieties. This summer, Eater Nashville crawled the city for bubble tea, journeying through different neighborhoods to see if we could find cool summer solace in the bottom of a boba drink. Here are the results.
Stats for this crawl
Number of spots: 6
Boba varieties consumed: 10
3: Number of boba aficionados on the crawl
Approximate amount of time boba spends in the shaker: 6 seconds
1: Bubble waffle topped with ube ice cream
Total number of boba consumed: 18
3820 Charlotte Ave, Nashville
Eat Bubbles is located inside the L&L Market, and it’s a sliver of a space that’s been cozily outfitted with small tchotchkes and well-worn cushions on a long bench. Owner Lora Aboulmouna traveled through Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan for three months where she gathered inspiration for her shop. In a refreshing twist from your typical boba spot, Eat Bubbles doesn’t rely on powders or artificial ingredients for their boba — which means freshly made fruit and vegetable purees (like strawberry and ube), organic milk, and brown sugar. Try the taro with egg pudding or, for a quick nibble, their matcha mochi waffle topped with tapioca pearls.
900 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville
Anna Fields opened up Bubble Love inside the Nashville Farmers’ Market after living and working in China for nearly a decade. Her love of the boba she drank there followed her to the States where she now serves up milk and fruit boba tea downtown. While you can’t go wrong with more traditional flavors like taro, matcha, or strawberry, it’s worth venturing off the beaten path for one of Bubble Love’s seasonal flavors like a recent peaches-and-cream version. Top your cup of boba with a mochi donut (or two) before checking out the rest of the market.
83 Van Buren St, Nashville
A California export, Ying Yang Tea has two locations in Nashville — one in Germantown and the other in West Nash. The boba here is served up in what looks like a plastic Collins glass, giving it an extra fancy feel. You’ll find some off-the-beaten-path flavors at this brick-lined shop, including almond boba milk tea, banana, Hokkaido (a butterscotch-type flavor), Nagasaki (honey green tea), and jasmine. During the summer months, Ying Yang also offers a piña colada version that tastes eerily like the real thing, minus the booze.
700 Church Street, Suite 101, Nashville
The branding at this downtown boba shop might be just as good as the actual boba itself — you’ll know you’ve found the right spot by the fiery kitsune adorning the entrance. The boba pearls here are made from scratch and their tea concoctions use very precise measurements, so, unlike other shops, the Boba Bar doesn’t readily offer customizable ice and sugar levels. (If you ask, they’ll do their best to accommodate you.) The brown sugar and Korean strawberry milk bobas are some of the shop’s most popular flavors, but its new Chè Thai made with coconut-flavored milk and lychee is also a standout.
2217 Elliston Pl, Nashville
Located in Midtown, Sweet Dots gets extra points for the fun mural outside, a sticky note wall that customers can personalize, and its cool, rounded bullet-shaped cups. The tea here is made using the powders most boba fans are familiar with, so you’ll find all of the usual suspects — honeydew, taro, and matcha, to name a few — along with more inventive seasonal concoctions like the summery watermelon fruit boba tea or a winter chocomallow slush with torched marshmallows on top.
3929 Nolensville Pike, Nashville
Tony Nguyen has built a small boba empire with WIN Bubble Tea. You’ll find several locations throughout middle Tennessee (and one in the Philippines), but the Nolensville Pike locale is the OG. It’s situated in a nondescript strip mall and has been churning out traditional and seasonal boba flavors since 2018. The shop imports its teas from Taiwan and offers a topping bar — with options like popping boba, custard, and even aloe vera — to customize your drink. You can’t miss with the taro version, but the wintermelon, rose, and limited-edition Vietnamese fruit cocktail are a fun — and cooling — way to change things up.