Coffee shops are trying to keep up with America’s boba obsession. Are they succeeding?
Well, Starbucks boba tea is now a thing. Or at least they are testing their own quirky version with coffee pearls.
But if you run on Dunkin’, can you get a legitimate bubble tea?
The answer is a definite maybe.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ latest addition to its iced drink menu is popping bubbles — colorful pearls that look like boba. Are they the real thing?
The jury is out. But if you’re looking for a blast of summer refreshment, we recommend you get popping.
Does Dunkin’ Donuts Have Boba Tea?
Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t offer bubble or milk tea in the traditional sense. Popping bubbles, or popping boba, are deliciously unique.
To get a better idea of what they are, check out this video where Steph Pappas tries them for the first time:
Well, looks like she enjoys them!
And I must say I also like adding them to certain drinks — especially Refreshers and Coolattas. But I’ll tell you more about that a bit later.
Boba Pearls vs Popping Bubbles
Conventional tapioca boba pearls are small spheres produced by cooking down tapioca starch extracted from the roots of the cassava plant.
Semi-solid, they have a satisfying chewy texture and a neutral flavor. Most are coated with sweeteners, but they’re far from sugary.
Added to milk teas, they’re filling enough to pass for a light lunch.
I recommend that you take a look at my guide to the CoCo bubble tea menu for a traditional boba experience.
So what exactly are popping bubbles?
Popping bubbles look like boba, but they’re not the same. They are thin gelatin shells containing a burst of liquid flavor.
The outer texture is similar, but the bubbles aren’t as chewy. Instead, they burst in your mouth.
Added to your favorite iced beverage, each is a tiny explosion of fruity fun.
Popping bubbles are for iced drinks only — you can’t add them to Dunkin’ hot teas. Unlike traditional boba, they’ll melt in hot drinks.
They’re manufactured in dozens of fruity and herbal flavors from kiwi to rose hips — Dunkin’ only offers strawberry. But it’s the perfect complement to any of their iced or frozen beverages, including their green tea Refreshers.
For a small upcharge, you’ll get a heaping helping served in the usual cup with a colorful, oversized paper straw designed exclusively for slurping popping bubbles. It’s yours for the asking.
What Dunkin’ Drinks Go Well with Boba?
Popping bubbles are sweet, so they blend perfectly into Dunkin’ Donuts’ sweetened and unsweetened iced teas.
Dunkin’ has black and green teas — both are good fits. If you typically get the blueberry- or raspberry-flavored teas, the strawberry bubbles add zing, but the flavor gets lost.
Try them with regular iced tea first to get a sense of what they really taste like.
The bubbles are intensely flavorful yet not overpowering. Still, you may want to tone down the sugar a bit so that your drink isn’t overly sweet.
Add a splash of milk for a genuine boba feel and sip, popping the bubbles between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
How about in a Matcha Latte or Coolatta?
I tried popping boba in the Dunkin’ iced matcha latte and was pleasantly surprised. The sweet and savory flavors were an intriguing contrast — I bet they’re a treat in the iced matcha.
For something truly decadent, try the popping bubbles in the Vanilla Bean Coolatta. If you like a good strawberry shortcake, you won’t be sorry. Say yes to the whipped cream.
But what I enjoy popping bubbles the most in are the Dunkin’ Refreshers — it’s a match made in heaven.
If you’re not familiar with Refreshers, they were introduced in 2020. A blend of green tea and the fruit flavor of your choice served over ice, they’re blissfully cool with just enough caffeine and energizing B vitamins to power you through a busy afternoon.
Lighter than the milk-based Coolattas, they’re a guilt-free pleasure at under 200 calories each for a medium.
Dunkin’s drink offerings vary by market, and some come and go seasonally. For now, Strawberry Dragon Fruit and Peach Passion are the only flavors you can order online for pick up.
But Dunkin’ also offers Lemonade and Coconut Milk Refreshers at the counter. And like Starbucks, they’re happy to customize any drink.
The strawberry popping bubbles are a hit in any Refresher, but you’re missing something if you don’t try them in the Pink Strawberry Coconut version.
Similar to Starbucks’ famous Pink Drink, it’s the closest you’ll come to sipping genuine milk tea in a streetside Thai cafe. It’s rich yet still light enough to be refreshing. Satisfying, it won’t weigh you down.
Are Dunkin’ Popping Bubbles Discontinued?
Regretfully, when I tried to order popping bubbles in September for my last-of-the-summer Coolatta, I was told they are discontinued for now.
That was disappointing but not unusual in our neck of the woods where hot chocolate is more popular than iced anything from October through April.
Dunkin’s offerings come and go with the seasons, but an add-on as popular as popping bubbles is sure to be back in the spring. Or at least I hope they will.
So, try them now if you can. If you can’t, make it a goal in the spring. I miss them already!
Final Thoughts on Dunkin’ Bubble Tea
The bottom line is that you can’t get real bubble tea at Dunkin’ Donuts.
But even if popping bubbles are not traditional boba they come quite close and are definitely worth trying. As an homage to the boba you know and love, popping bubbles are both familiar and exciting.
If you want an authentic experience, try my recommended Chatime milk teas.
Have you already tried the popping bubbles at Dunkin’?
Post a comment below and tell me how you like them and if they are still available at your nearest Dunkin’ Donuts shop.
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