Have you ever visited a Milk Tea/Bubble Tea store and found that the menu is entirely in Chinese characters? Don’t fret, although some international chains do also provide their menu in English, not all do, so we’ve got you covered, we’re here to help you learn some practical and useful Chinese so you can order your boba tea with ease. No more pointing at the menu and more speaking Chinese like a native.

Firstly what is Milk Tea, Bubble Tea or Boba Tea?

Nǎichá (奶茶) – Milk tea

Zhēnzhū nǎichá (珍珠奶茶) – Bubble Tea

Bōbà nǎichá 波霸奶) – Boba Tea

These three names essentially refer to the same type of drink. Milk Tea or Bubble Tea is extremely popular in China, especially among the young. Originally originating in the east, its popularity has gone on to sweep the globe with bubble tea chain stores open around the world. A sweet and textured delight, it’s a drink for all seasons, and can be drunk hot or cold, with or without ice, depending on what you order.

Bubble Tea/Boba Tea are more or less the same, the name refers to the tapioca pearls/bubbles (Zhēnzhū - 珍珠) – in the drink which has become standard. However obviously you can get different flavours with different toppings. So a more general and umbrella term for these drinks would be ‘milk tea’, this is less common vernacular in western countries compared to ‘bubble/boba’ tea, but in China it’s more generally referred to as Nǎichá (奶茶), as it’s also an abbreviation.

Wǒmen qù hē nǎichá ba?

Shall we go for milk tea?

Let’s see what a visit to a milk tea store is like and what they may ask you about when you order.

There are three sizes that you can order, again depending on what you select on the menu. Some may only have certain sizes.


Xiǎo bēi (小杯)  - small cup

Zhōng bēi (中杯) – medium cup

Dà bēi (大杯) – big cup

You will also be asked how much additional sugar you’d like to add, and can say one of the following.

Sugar/Sweetness Level (甜度, Tiandù)

Zhèngcháng tang (正常糖) – full sugar, 100%

Qī fēn tang (七分糖) – 70% sugar

Wǔ fēn tang (五分糖) – 50% sugar

Sān fēn tang (三分糖) – 30% sugar

Bú lìngwài jiātáng (不另外加糖) – no extra sugar added

Again, depending on what you order, you can choose to have ice or no ice, and at different temperatures. Some drinks are only made hot and some only cold.

Ice and Temperature (冰度, Bīng dù) and (温度, Wēndù)

Zhèngcháng bīng (正常冰) – Normal Ice

Shǎo bīng (少冰) – Less ice

Qù bīng (去冰) – No ice

Cháng wēn (常温) – Room temperature

Bīng de (冰的) – cold

Rè de () – hot

And now the best part, choosing what topping you want, some drinks allow you to choose or add additional ones, some drinks already feature toppings, the standard topping are the Zhenzhu Tapioca pearls but others common toppings are listed below.

Bubble Tea Toppings

Zhēnzhū (珍珠) – pearls

Bùdīng (布丁) – pudding

Bīngqílín (冰淇淋) – ice cream

Yē guǒ  (椰果) – coconut jelly

Shāo xiān cǎo (烧仙草) – grass jelly

Also when ordering you should take note that the common types of tea used will be one of the following, often the name of the tea is in the specific name given to the drink.

Types of Tea

Hóng chá () – black tea

Lǜ chá (绿) – green tea

Wūlóng chá (乌龙茶) – oolong tea

Many milk tea chains will also provide combinations that include a choice of fresh fruits or provide fruit tea drinks - Shuǐguǒ chá (水果茶) – Fruit tea

Popular Fruits Used

Mángguǒ (芒果) – Mango

Cǎoméi (草莓) – strawberry

Júzi (橘子) – orange

Xīguā  (西瓜) – Watermelon

Huǒlóngguǒ  (火龙果) – Pitaya, dragon fruit

Pútáo yòu  (葡萄柚) – Pomelo, grapefruit

Shíliu (石榴) – pomegranate

Bōluó (菠萝) – Pineapple

Níngméng  (柠檬) Lemon

Now here is a typical dialogue when you order a milk tea so you can practice and be more confident when putting in your order.

Ordering Milk Tea Role Play

Customer: Wǒ yào yì bēi zhēnzhū nǎichá
Customer: 我要一杯珍珠奶茶。
Customer: I’d like one pearl milk tea.

Cashier: Zhōngbēi háishì dàbēi?

Cashier: 中杯还是大杯?
Cashier: Medium or large?

Customer: Zhōngbēi.

Customer: 中杯。

Customer: Medium.

Cashier: Tiándù, jiā bīng ma?

Cashier: 甜度、
Cashier: Sweetness, add ice?

Customer: Sān fēn táng, shǎo bīng.

Customer: 三分糖、少冰。
Customer: 30% sugar, less ice.

Cashier: Xiànzài hē háishì dǎbāo?

Cashier: 现在喝还是打包?

Cashier: Do you want to drink now or take away in a bag?

Customer: Xiànzài hē.

Customer: 现在喝
Customer: Drink now please.

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