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Our annual Best of the City gets the hyper-local treatment this year with neighborhood-by-neighborhood pics for top places to eat, drink, play, and shop. And speaking of bests, we've got Top Doctors here, too!View as a flipbook or download the PDF on Issuu>>

Bubbling Up

Caramel boba tea and passion fruit boba tea sitting on a table
Gregg Carnes
Gregg Carnes Photography

There's more to boba tea than you think. Here's a primer

It might not be as ubiquitous as coffee, but a beverage hailing from Asia has been an American mainstay among youth and other communities for decades. Known by many names — boba tea on the West Coast, bubble tea on the East, or pearl tea — this classic Taiwanese drink was invented in the 1980s and brought to the U.S. in the ’90s. It’s a mixture of tea and milk with assorted additions, most significantly boba, the chewy balls made from tapioca or cassava starch.

The sensation first bubbled up in the Taiwanese immigrant communities of California, giving rise to cafés that became social hotspots, especially for Asian American youth. As of 2023, according to IBISWorld’s Industry Report, the U.S. has some 3,600 boba shops, ranging from popular chains such as Kung Fu Tea and Tiger Sugar, to family-owned shops. Most of Las Vegas’ dozens of shops are nestled in the Chinatown area, where the heart of local boba tea culture began to beat 25 years ago. They now stretch all over the city, from Henderson to North Las Vegas. Here are five of our favorites.


(13 locations,
Acclaimed as Las Vegas’ first boba shop (then under a different name), No. 1 Boba Tea’s original owner brought the business to Chinatown with 18 drinks in 1998. Current owner Amy Zhang Warthan bought it in 2005 to continue its legacy. Over time, 12 more locations cropped up, putting milk tea and boba in unfamiliar communities. Adhering to their slogan, “Using fresh fruits is our tradition since 1998,” Zhang and her partner, Kevin Warthan, source the freshest possible ingredients, and are currently cultivating tea from their own farm.
TOP PICK: No. 1 Boba milk tea
BEST SNACKS: Chicken pot sticker (gyoza) and spam musubi (Water Street Social location only)

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(Three grab-and-go locations,
Brew Tea Bar started during the boba craze of 2015, when a band of pas-sionate California friends gambled on business success in the desert. They discovered their own identity by focusing on the tea through months of trial and error, creating a menu that paved the way for more quality boba. “Tea is part of our Asian culture. I think a lot of people identify boba (drink) as the black boba balls, but tea is the actual beverage. I want to educate people about tea because there’s so much culture to it that can be shared,” says Sou Ngo, one of the shop’s three owners.
TOP PICKS: Taro; brown sugar; Hokkaido milk tea


(500 E. Windmill Lane Ste. 170)
A tea bar-ice cream shop fusion, TK’s offers a plethora of beverage and dessert choices. If milk tea isn’t one’s cup of tea, they can enjoy a cup of rolled ice cream in countless flavor combinations. Opened in 2019 as Level Up Nitro Creamery & Boba, it also included a video game lounge. The shop hosts Pokémon card and video game competitions, and is bustling in the evening, when groups of friends flock there to hang out.
TOP PICKS: Cocoa sugar; Hokkaido milk tea
ALSO TRY: Taro slush; rolled s’mores ice cream


(5410 W. Spring Mountain Road Ste. 102)
A hidden gem in a quiet quarter of Chinatown, LaPostté emanates nostalgia. The shop’s highlight is a wall displaying hundreds of postcards, which customers can buy and send to themselves or loved ones, so-called “Mail to the Future.” A postman picks up the cards daily, and mother-daughter owners Hannah and Zoey Ma send them out on Sundays and holidays. Zoey, whose love for traveling and writing brought the idea to fruition, describes LaPostté as “a slow-paced, family-like environment.” Her mom spends most days there, chatting with customers.
TOP PICK: House boba milk tea
BEST DESSERTS: Black sesame and honey croffle (a croissant pressed on a waffle maker) or strawberry crêpe cake


(4850 W. Flamingo Road Ste. 46)
A highly Instagrammable spot with pink and neon walls, Pink Cactus Tea provides a trendy, youthful atmosphere that’s as hot as its teas. Born during the pandemic, the shop overcame its struggle to gain customers with the wide menu options, generating hype in both Asian and non-Asian communities. It’s a modern shop, but the Asian inspiration can still be found in classic Taiwanese ingredients.
TOP PICKS: Dirty brown sugar milk tea, Earl Grey milk tea
ALSO TRY: Cactus sunrise drink; popcorn chicken