Jimmy Cawley/Sun Dining Editor

Mango Mango, the proclaimed best boba restaurant in Ithaca.

April 19, 2023

A Boba-licious Tour: Comparing Ithaca’s Finest Boba Shops 

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Known for its wide variety of restaurants and food options, Ithaca’s Collegetown also sports a diverse selection of boba shops. With so much boba in such close proximity, it’s only natural that we’d want to compare them to find out which ones truly stand out. In this review, we will explore three popular boba shops in Ithaca, evaluating them based on their taste, texture, ambiance and overall experience. 

Kung-Fu Tea (7/10)

Located in the heart of downtown Ithaca, Kung-Fu Tea offers a vibrant atmosphere that attracts both students and locals alike. With a diverse range of flavors to choose from, this shop provides an extensive selection of milk teas, fruit teas and even slushies. Their original boba milk tea was both chewy and had a rich flavor with just the right amount of sweetness — a perfect refreshment for the onset of summer warmth. The customer service is top-notch, with friendly staff that always seems happy to help. If you’re looking for a fun and lively place to enjoy your boba, Kung-Fu Tea is definitely worth a visit. 

Mango Mango (10/10)

Mango Mango, located just up the hill from Kung-Fu Tea, is known mainly for its classic cake and dessert offerings. But don’t let that discourage you — Mango Mango also boasts a surprisingly savory selection of smoothies, fruit teas and boba. Their original boba milk tea was not too sweet, yet not too bland — a perfect blend. Moreover, the boba pearls themselves were bigger than those of adjacent competitors, which both reviewers agreed worked to its advantage. The environment was clean and calming, and offered both the option to take-out or sit down (although the second option comes at a higher price). Overall, due to the texture of the pearls, balance of the milk tea and serenity of the environment, Mango Mango was both reviewers’ top choice. 

U-Tea (5/10)

U-Tea, nestled off Dryden road in Collegetown, is a longtime favorite for Cornell students, known for its creative drinks and Instagram-worthy presentations. Upon walking into the shop, you immediately catch the distinctive scent of U-Tea — the smell of tapioca pearls. U-Tea’s menu offers a variety of fruit and milk teas, all packaged in a modern aesthetic. However, the boba was not quite as flavorful as its rivals Kung-Fu Tea and Mango Mango, and there were too many pearls to enjoy the milk tea without interruption. On a positive note, U-Tea offers a wide variety of authentic toppings such as lychee. While the ambiance is more minimalist, the friendly staff and innovative drinks make it a popular destination for many boba fans.

Ithaca’s boba scene has something for everyone. Whether you prefer a lively atmosphere, a tranquil environment or unique flavor combinations, there is a place for you. While each of these three boba shops have their own distinct charm, Mango Mango takes the crown for its extensive menu, vibrant atmosphere and consistently delicious drinks. However, we encourage boba enthusiasts to visit all of these locations to find their personal favorite. Happy sipping!

Aaron Zhu is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Conner Smith is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].