How Much Does Boba Cost? Why This Special Tea Is So Pricey

Updated on: November 16, 2023
Author: Alex DeCapri
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how much does boba cost

If you've ever wondered why your beloved bubble tea sometimes feels like a splurge, you're not alone. This delightful concoction has captured the hearts (and wallets) of many.

In this article, we dive into the price variations of bubble tea across different corners of the globe, from bustling US cities to its birthplace of Taiwan. We also unravel the mysteries behind the cost of your go-to boba drink, from drink size to the type of pearls and milk used. 

Join us in this sweet and savory journey to discover how you can satisfy your boba cravings without breaking the bank. 

Let’s answer the question, “How much is boba, really?”

How Much Is A Cup Of Boba?

Boba, also known as bubble tea and boba tea, is a traditionally cold-served beverage that has a tea base, a milk or fruit flavor, and edible tapioca pearls. These pearls are also sometimes referred to as boba or boba pearls. In this article, when we refer to “boba,” we are referring to the entire tea drink.

So, how much does boba cost? To determine how much this drink costs, we have analyzed over 50 bubble tea shops across major US cities. We selected the cost of a medium-sized classic milk tea drink from different bubble tea shops and averaged it out. This cost analysis is summarized below.

Based on our analysis, the average cost for a classic boba milk tea in the United States is $5.64. The prices can range from $4.25 on the low end to $7.50 on the high end. We also calculated the average price for milk tea in Toronto, the largest Canadian city. In Toronto, the average milk tea bubble tea costs $4.58 ($6.28 CAD).

The table below compares the prices in the global boba tea market, including major cities in the US and other countries. Unless otherwise noted, the cost is based on our data. You will notice that Taiwan has the most affordable bubble tea. It is the birthplace of this tasty boba drink, after all!

LocationPrice (USD)
Bay Area (California)$5.74
Los Angeles, California)$5.56
New York City$5.63
Chicago, Illinois$5.67
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$5.58
Dallas, Texas$5.67
Toronto, Canada$4.58
United Kingdom$4 - $8 (1)
Australia$3 - $5 (1)
Taiwan$1 - $2 (1)
China$1.5 - $3 (1)
Singapore$2 - $4 (1)
Bubble tea cost across the world

Here are a few observations regarding the cost of bubble tea in US Cities:

  • The average cost of a classic milk bubble tea does not significantly change based on the city where the bubble tea shop is located. As you can see, the average milk tea cost in the selected cities ranges from $5.56 to $5.74.

  • What matters the most is the actual bubble tea shop you visit. For example, within Dallas, Kung Fu Tea's milk tea is only $4.25 whereas His Tea sells their milk tea for a whopping $7.50.

Why Does Boba Tea Cost So Much?

Bubble teas are made with many ingredients, such as premium teas (green, oolong, or black tea), high-quality milk, real fruit extracts, and of course, tapioca pearls, the key element in bubble tea. These can be labor-intensive to make and can be relatively expensive due to import costs and processing.

Finally, boba shops need a lot of specialized equipment such as sealer machines, shaker machines, bubble tea blenders, and so on. These are expensive and therefore the cost gets passed on to the customer.

Another reason for the high cost of boba is supply and demand. Boba tea is a pricy drink due to its popularity, and that comes with a higher price tag.

Why Does Boba Tea Cost So Much

What Impacts the Cost of Bubble Tea?

There are many factors that can change the price of your boba. As an extremely customizable drink, it’s important to understand how each factor and ingredient can affect the final cost of this delicious beverage. Let’s dive into each one…

Your Drink Size

The size of your bubble tea significantly impacts its cost. It's a no-brainer that larger drinks are more expensive than their smaller counterparts. One shop’s boba may be more expensive than the other shop’s simply due to a size difference. It’s worth checking out!

The Type of Tea Used

The choice of tea base plays a crucial role in determining the cost of your bubble tea. Different types of tea, such as loose-leaf, tea bags, concentrates, or powders, vary in quality and cost.

Loose tea leaves tend to be more expensive than tea concentrates or powders. The type of tea used can significantly influence the flavor and overall experience of your boba tea.


True lovers of this drink refuse to sacrifice quality in this area. Usually, they will insist on high-quality black tea, oolong tea, or green tea, depending on the type of boba drink ordered.

The Type of Milk Used

The milk you select for your bubble tea can also impact the price. Regular whole milk is typically more affordable than dairy alternatives like almond, soy, or oat milk.

Some specialty milk types, such as Hokkaido milk, can be expensive or challenging to find, contributing to the overall high cost of your beverage.

The Types of Boba Pearls

The type of boba pearls used in your bubble tea can vary in cost. Regular tapioca pearls are generally more budget-friendly, while specialty options like popping boba or crystal boba can be pricier. Your preference for texture and flavor will influence the cost, as these unique boba pearl varieties add distinctive characteristics to your drink.

The Type of Toppings

Toppings are an exciting aspect of boba tea, but they can also increase the overall cost. The more toppings you add, the higher the price of your drink. Boba tea toppings can include a wide range of ingredients, from fruit jellies and egg pudding to adzuki beans and cheese foam. As you can probably imagine, they each come with their own price tag.

While extra toppings enhance the flavor and texture of your bubble tea, it's important to balance your choice with your budget.

Tips to Reduce the Cost of Bubble Tea (Boba)

So, how exactly can you stay within your budget with this fancy drink?

Tips to Reduce the Cost of Bubble Tea (Boba)

Order a Smaller Size

While super-sized beverages may seem enticing, consider whether you really need that much. Opting for a smaller size not only saves money but also reduces calorie intake, making it a win-win for your wallet and your waistline. Enjoy your favorite flavors without overspending or overindulging.

Stick to the Classics

When customizing your bubble tea, remember that sticking to the classic combinations can be a more budget-friendly choice. Forget that multilayered drink with 100 toppings and instead KISS (“keep it simple, stupid” 😉).

Traditional boba tea flavors like black milk tea or green tea, often come at a lower price point compared to elaborate and specialized concoctions. By embracing the classics, you can savor the essence of bubble tea without unnecessary expenditures.

Bring a Reusable Bubble Tea Cup

Some boba tea shops offer small discounts or incentives for customers who bring their reusable cups. Not only does this help you save a bit on your drink, but it also contributes to reducing single-use plastic waste. Embracing eco-friendly practices while enjoying your bubble tea is the responsible and economical choice.

Save some money while also saving the planet.

Use Bubble Tea Kits to Make Boba At Home

For the most budget-conscious boba tea enthusiasts, making bubble tea at home is the most cost-effective solution. Bubble tea kits provide the essential ingredients and guidance needed to create your favorite boba drinks in the comfort of your kitchen. This not only saves you money in the long run but also allows you to experiment with flavors and toppings to your heart's content.

I recommend trying a taro milk tea for a special twist on the classic boba. Taro is a starchy root vegetable with a sweet, nutty flavor. It also makes your bubble tea purple!

How Much Profit Do Bubble Tea Shops Make?

Are you thinking about starting a bubble tea business? Maybe you’re just curious if your local bubble tea shop is ripping you off.

If the average cost for a classic boba milk tea in the United States is $5.64, then your typical bubble tea shop is making about $5 in profit per cup (on average). $4.99 in profit to be exact!

This is based on a study that shows the per-cup cost of bubble milk tea to be $0.65 (2). Keep in mind that costs are lower for stores selling boba tea than they would be for you individually. This is because bubble tea shops buy materials and ingredients in bulk, usually at a cheaper wholesale price. Further, these are the costs for the ingredients and materials needed to make boba. A typical bubble tea shop has other major costs such as labor, rent, utilities, insurance, maintenance, and marketing.

Here is the specific breakdown of the cost to make a bubble tea cup:

  • Straw:  $0.01

  • Custom logo cup: $0.04

  • Lid: $0.01

  • Green tea: $0.03

  • Bubble tea powder: $0.42

  • Tapioca pearls: $0.14

  • Total: $0.65

You should expect the profit to go down when using higher-quality ingredients, especially as better teas and milks are used.

Why is Bubble Tea Sometimes More Expensive Than Other Drinks?

Bubble tea can be more expensive than other drinks due to the use of special and high-quality ingredients. Imported tapioca balls and unique tea bases can drive up the cost of production.

Customization options, labor-intensive preparation, and the overhead costs of operating physical stores in prime locations also contribute to the higher price point. Some customers are willing to pay more for the brand and reputation of established bubble tea shops, which further impacts the price, keeping it high from constant demand.

What Size Cup Should I Get to Save Money on Bubble Tea?

To save money on boba, opt for the smallest cup size available. Usually, this is a 10 or 12-oz cup. You can also bring your own cup and ask the shop’s employees to fill it up with the same amount of tea as whatever their smallest-sized cup normally holds.

Popular posts about boba:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is boba tea expensive?

Yes, boba tea is relatively expensive with the average price in the US being $5.84 for a basic bubble tea. The cost of boba tea can vary among many bubble tea shops, with factors like location, size, and customization influencing the price. While it might be more costly than some drinks, there are ways to enjoy it without breaking the bank. 

Where can I find affordable bubble tea?

Affordable bubble milk tea can be found at local or smaller establishments, often away from high-rent city centers. It's also worth exploring loyalty programs, happy hour deals, or making your own bubble tea at home with kits that you can buy online. Additionally, countries like Taiwan and China have boba for less than half of what the United States sells it for.

What size cup should I get to save money on bubble tea?

To save money on boba, opt for the smallest cup size available. Usually, this is a 10 or 12-oz cup. You can also bring your own cup and ask the shop’s employees to fill it up with the same amount of tea as whatever their smallest-sized cup normally holds.

bubble tea cost

Bottom Line

Boba tea is one of the most unique and refreshing cold beverages that I know of. Due to its popularity, customizability, and use of harder-to-come-by ingredients, it’s definitely not the cheapest drink. How much your boba costs will depend on many factors, but it shouldn’t break the bank.

By following the tips in this article, anyone on any budget should be able to enjoy a delicious bubble tea every now and then.

Happy sipping, and enjoy your boba tea experience!

Alex DeCapri is a curious coffee writer and specialty coffee roaster. Currently, he is slowly making his way from the United States to Brazil in his camper van, visiting as many coffee farms as possible!
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