It’s October, which means everyone lines up to drink… bubble tea! Move over pumpkin spice lattes, there’s a new fall drink in town.
We encountered some incredible highs and some dangerously close spit-takes on our quest to find the best bubble tea that downtown has to offer. And to save your taste buds from some particularly unpleasant drinks, we created a list of some fantastic bubble tea options downtown.
The Alley | 11966 104 Ave. NW
We had high hopes for The Alley which only got higher when we walked inside. The space is so beautiful and cozy, and it has an overall calming effect with the wooden accents and green plants hanging on the walls. The tables are spaced out and the music isn’t too loud which gives a sense of privacy; it’s a great spot to catch up with a friend or do some studying.
We decided to try out two milk teas since that is what The Alley is known for! The drinks came in plastic cups and we were happy to find that the straws were cardboard (oh and bonus points because they weren’t actually bad to drink out of), and the top covering was paper as well.
Deerioca Fever: Brown sugar milk tea with tapioca
This drink quickly lost its charm. At first sip, it was quite tasty with the creamy, sweet brown sugar syrup and the chewy tapioca, but after a few minutes it honestly just tasted like straight milk with tapioca.
Boba score: 2/5
The Alley Trio Milk Tea: Milk tea with tapioca & strawberry and pineapple jelly
We really enjoyed this one! You could really taste the black tea and we ordered it half-sweet which ended up being perfect. The jelly was full of flavour and added a nice fruity punch to the drink.
Boba score: 4/5
Edo | SAMU building, 2nd floor
With an Edo now in the SAMU building, we knew we had to try their all-new bubble teas. The size of Edo’s bubble teas is big for the cost so that’s a huge plus, and you can choose to get the drinks half-sweet which was a nice option to have. The cup covers are plastic and the straws are cardboard so they were a bit difficult to get in which was annoying but also hilarious (read terrifying) to watch.
Milk Tea Bubble Tea
Let’s just say this was the spit-take-inducing experience that we referenced at the beginning of this article. Mya swiftly coined this tea as “a terrible drink that tastes like liquid plastic with slight notes of cheese that (she) would not consume again.” One positive is that the boba was very chewy and fresh.
Boba score: 0.5/5
Passionfruit Green Tea with lychee jelly
This tea was so refreshing! At half-sweet it was the perfect combination of tangy and sweet and you could also still taste the green tea. The lychee was chewy and delicious, and all in all, we would both order this again in a heartbeat.
Boba score: 4/5
Dream Tea | 11242 104 Ave. NW
Dream Tea is a classic. Warm atmosphere, huge menu, two-minute walk from Allard Hall — what’s not to love? The only downside to this location is that it has made a significant dent in our respective bank accounts. Post-class Dream Tea is just too good to pass up.
Real-Fruit Mango Bubble Tea
This is our go-to Dream Tea order, and it never disappoints. The mango was refreshing, thirst quenching, and surprisingly filling, and the boba was fresh and chewy. And with the real-fruit mango, you can almost feel like you’re drinking something healthy.
Boba score: 5/5
Maui Sunset Real-Fruit Bubble Tea: Mango and strawberry with mango jelly
This was our first time trying this bubble tea, and it was as tasty as it was gorgeous. The drink combined mango and strawberry smoothies into an Instagram-worthy ombre, and the mango jelly was the perfect texture — not too soft, not too chewy. They also managed to get the ratio between jelly and smoothie just right; there was a little bit of jelly in every sip. Mya drank this entire bubble tea in under 20 minutes, so do with that what you will.
Boba score: 5/5
Quickly | 10140 104 St. NW
While it’s unassuming from the outside, Quickly houses inviting, mint green walls and pink cushioned booths for bubble tea drinkers. It was quiet and calm, and the entire room smelled like waffles. Major points from Leslie Knope. We also watched the staff scoop out fresh fruit and veg to make our smoothies, so you know that quality ingredients are going into your bubble tea.
Also, the portions were large for the price, which is another bonus.
We ordered both our drinks from Quickly’s signature collection — half sweet. The avocado smoothie was the one we were most excited about, and it didn’t disappoint. It was probably the most refreshing bubble tea we sampled, since the flavour was fairly mild. (We were craving real food at this point in our bubble tea journey, so we went with something most like a salad.) The drink was very thick, very creamy, and also very cold. The tapioca was tasty as well.
Boba score: 3.5/5
Mango Poppy Smoothie
While the mango smoothie was good, it wasn’t our favourite mango option. The flavour was a little weak and a bit too milky. The drink also came with popping mango boba and mango jelly, but the jelly was a bit too gloopy for our tastes. The thick drink was a little difficult to drink through the straw (a spoon might have made things a bit easier) and there were lots of ice chunks in the drink that gave it a strange crunch.
Boba score: 2.5/5
Gong Cha | 10236 103 St. NW
Gong Cha is another great bubble tea option near MacEwan. Located above XO Bistro + Bar, it serves up a cozy atmosphere, a pretty cherry tree, and an extensive menu. Gong Cha also conveniently has three different sizes of bubble tea you can choose from. The only downside was that the cups weren’t see-through (at least the medium size that we ordered).
The service was also great, and the server was able to tell us which toppings would pair well with the drinks we ordered. Heads up: boba doesn’t automatically come with many of the drinks so you might need to add toppings.
Lemon Winter Melon Basil Seeds Tea
We were both very impressed with this drink. The basil seeds were cool and crunchy, there were chunks of lemon peel (“they weren’t kidding when they said they used real fruit,” said Eva), and the boba (which we added) was nice and chewy. While this drink was a glorified lemonade, it was one of the most delicious ones we have ever tasted.
Boba score: 5/5
This was also a great drink, and we were able to order it half-sweet. It was a great mix of smooth, creamy, and earthy flavours. We also added red beans — at the server’s suggestion — which added to the authenticity.
Boba score: 4/5
By the time we made it through five bubble tea places downtown, we were a little too tired to give CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice a go. Apparently there is such a thing as too much bubble tea. But CoCo has a 4.3-star rating on Google and is conveniently located at 10147 109 Street if you want to try it out.
And if you ever find yourself on the south side, TeaCup2Go (located at 2960 Ellwood Drive) is an adorable little bubble tea spot with some of the best bubble tea either of us have tasted. We’d recommend the Magic Purple Bubble Tea (taro and coconut with boba and lychee popping boba) and the Honey Green Tea (iced green tea with honey and tapioca).
Thanks for coming on this journey with us and may your bellies be filled with delicious boba this fall season!