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Photo courtesy of Sarah Afaneh

AD Secrets: Bursting the Saadiyat Bubble (Tea)

Features Editor, Sarah Afaneh, explores different spots in the city for bubble tea.

Sep 27, 2020

Food culture on campus is a vital connection point — maybe you met your best friend at Abd El Wahab or had a late night Chips Oman run with a stranger — and it definitely spreads like quickfire, helping discover staples that eventually become a part of the NYU Abu Dhabi tradition.
Alongside Magnolia’s banana pudding and late-night KFC, Boba from Chatime takes a high rank among the staples for NYUAD students, and thus was a vital part of my first year.
Boba, also referred to as bubble tea, is a tea-based Taiwanese drink. It traditionally includes chewy tapioca balls, known as pearls. There are many variations of the drink, with different flavors and toppings, and an option to customize the sweetness. The most popular flavor is Pearl Milk Tea, a classic black tea with milk and pearls.
Chatime, located just a shuttle away in Yas Mall or next to the Corniche, is a location often frequented for Classic Pearl Milk Tea. Other times, my friends and I call them to make a group order to get us through late night procrastination. I’ve perfected my order: a classic tea with 30 percent sugar.
But after spending a summer exploring authentic bubble tea spots in Dubai, I realized that while Chatime has incredible Milk Tea, it lacks the wide variety of drinks usually offered at other bubble tea shops.
And so, I set out to find new locations in Abu Dhabi, too. Prices across different shops did not vary much, averaging at 20 AED for a 22oz large cup and 15 AED for a 16oz small cup, giving me the freedom to select the shop based on my favorite drink there — what I have now termed my go-to drinks.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Afaneh
Mancha’s best-seller is without a doubt the Brown Sugar Milk Tea, also referred to as Tiger Sugar Milk Tea. Ordered with ‘less sugar’, the drink is the perfect balance between the bitterness of the tea and the sweetness of the sugar. Located at Electra Street, only 15 minutes from campus, Mancha has since been labelled as my favorite bubble tea spot to go to.
Beyond the Tiger Sugar Milk Tea, they also have a cream cheese and cream puff series for milk teas, and offer flavored milkshakes with pearls. While the store does not have a seating capacity and only offers take-away, it can be delivered directly to campus through Deliveroo.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Afaneh
Two storefronts away from Mancha is Milk Tea and Cakes by Faye. The store is cozy, with bubble tea puns plastered on the wall and a small table for seating in the corner. Similar to Mancha, their bubble tea menu includes salted cream cheese toppings, cream puffs and classics.
The milk tea at Milk Tea and Cakes has a higher concentration of tea, making it bitter; it usually requires more sugar than you would normally ask for. Their menu also includes, as their title suggests, a wide variety of cakes, ranging from classic chocolate to Japanese ube to decorated birthday cakes. They are also available for delivery through Deliveroo.
Bliss Tea is located on Airport Road. While I didn’t particularly enjoy their milk tea, they are a spot I have come to love for fruit tea. Fruit bubble tea is made without milk; instead, sweetener and natural fruits are added to the drink. Pearls can be added, but I personally choose to add jelly — rather than the traditional tapioca balls, these ‘jelly pearls’ burst in your mouth with a blueberry flavor. My personal go-to is the Fortunella fruit tea. There is a socially distanced seating space to dine-in, with only four people allowed per table and three tables available. This also a delivery option on Talabat.
Regardless of the store that you choose to go to, boba has become a more prominent part of NYUAD tradition, one that is worth exploring; perhaps it is to meet a new friend, destress or simply to get out of our Saadiyat bubble.
Sarah Afaneh is Features Editor and Senior Communications Editor. Email her at
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