Drinks, Tea

A Yinzer’s Guide to Bubble Tea

We explored five Pittsburgh-based variations of bubble tea you can order with (or without) traditional tapioca boba.

If you love tea and you’re up for trying new things, bubble tea might be right up your alley.

Originating in Taiwan, this cold drink has many customizable varieties to suit anyone’s tastes—from sweet fruit teas to creamy milk teas.

What makes this type of tea unique is its chewy tapioca bubbles (also called boba). But if you don’t want traditional tapioca boba in your tea, you can also get bits of real fruit, aloe vera jelly, popping fruit boba, pudding and more to top it off.

We Recommend these 5 Bubble Tea Spots in Pittsburgh

Not sure where to start? No worries. I’ve shared some of my favorite Pittsburgh-area bubble tea places in this guide.

Tsaocaa

Nestled in Squirrel Hill along Forbes Avenue (just past the Carnegie Library and Commonplace Coffee), Tsaocaa instantly reminded me of a café in NYC. The shop’s light color palette and minimalist interior make its colorful teas really pop. Perfectly set up for social distancing guidelines, Tsaocaa makes ordering quickly and efficiently a snap.

I love this shop’s clean branding. Beyond the tapioca bubbles (a must for me), Tsaocaa also put slices of fresh grapefruit in my peach-and-grapefruit flavored black tea—a nice touch that took my drink to the next level and made this place my new favorite.

Fuku Tea

Located along Forbes Avenue in Oakland (right near Stack’d and rue21), Fuku Tea is probably the bubble tea spot I’ve visited most. The shop makes it easy for first-time bubble tea drinkers to order a beverage customized to their unique preferences.

Social distancing measures require people to order online, but once they stop by, Fuku Tea employees are ready at the door to safely hand you your order. My favorite drink to get here is the taro milk tea, a lovely lavender-colored drink that Fuku Tea describes as similar to cereal milk.

Bae Bae’s Café

Remember working Downtown before COVID-19? When I did, Bae Bae’s Café was my go-to for a quick, midday bubble tea fix (and a sandwich). Located along Liberty Avenue across from the August Wilson Center, Bae Bae’s offers convenient curbside pickup when you order online. I recommend ordering the Thai iced tea with tapioca boba here.

While you’re in the area, be sure to check out their sister restaurant Bae Bae’s Kitchen (which also serves bubble tea).

InsaniTea

Yinz will have to venture outside the ’burgh for this one—but it’s worth the trip. Located inside Monroeville Mall, InsaniTea provides high-quality, custom bubble tea that mall goers can enjoy. This is the best place to try “popping boba,” or fruity bursts of flavor that remind me of Gushers.

When you’re here, I recommend mixing two fruit flavors you enjoy. For me, that’s usually lychee green tea with peach popping boba…but sometimes, I mix it up. With 38 different flavors and 23 toppings to choose from, you can’t go wrong!

Ineffable Cà Phê

Back in the city, stop by Lawrenceville’s Ineffable Cà Phê. Located along Penn Avenue, this spot makes it convenient to order your bubble tea of choice for takeout.

If you’re feeling adventurous, pair your favorite fruit flavoring with aloe vera jelly to give your tea a unique texture.

But Wait…There’s More!

Those are my top 5 favorites, but Pittsburgh and the surrounding area is teaming with bubble tea spots that deserve to be explored. Other places you might want to try include Kung Fu Tea in Squirrel Hill, Chic’n Bubbly in Oakland and Rose Tea Café (in Oakland and Squirrel Hill).

Bubble tea fanatics—where do you go when a bubble tea craving strikes?