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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

Opinion | My favorite boba places in Oakland

Fuku+Tea+welcomes+customers+at+the+corner+of+Forbes+and+Oakland+avenues.
Bronco York | Staff Photographer
Fuku Tea welcomes customers at the corner of Forbes and Oakland avenues.

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite “sweet tweat” is boba. Luckily for me, there are numerous places to get boba near campus. I think I can confidently say at this point that I’ve tried each place enough times to give a pretty accurate overall ranking. These are all based on my preferences of course, and what ingredients I do or don’t have an intolerance to. 

Before we get to rating, here’s a little bit of information on how I’m determining this. Quality is a big one — fortunately, Pitt doesn’t really have an issue with this. With all of these are wonderful places to get boba drinks from, it just depends on what you like and don’t like. 

The second biggest factor is customization — sweetness levels, how much ice, toppings, etc. I personally don’t like when a drink is too sweet or is half filled with ice, so I always get mine at 25-30% sweetness, if applicable, and light ice.

Tsaocaa 10/10

This is tied with Gong Cha — which sadly has no locations anywhere near western Pennsylvania — as my all time favorite boba places. The nearest Tsaocaa used to be in Squirrel Hill, but they’ve recently opened a new location on Pitt’s campus between Atarashi and Mount Everest Sushi. 

Tsaocaa offers a wide variety of tea options, from fresh fruit mojitos to fruit teas to milk bubble teas and milk swirls. Their fruit teas and milk swirls are the most popular, and they should be, because they are delicious. I have a slight lactose intolerance, so I don’t get their milk teas or swirls as much, but when I do, it’s the brown sugar milk tea. I am the biggest brown sugar milk tea stan. If there is not a single person left on this planet who enjoys brown sugar milk tea, then that means I’ve perished. It’s my favorite drink by far! I recommend everyone try it at least once in their lives, especially if you’ve never had boba before. 

Another thing Tsaocaa does really well is their fruit teas. I always get the grapefruit and peach green tea with jelly or the pineapple and passionfruit green tea with jelly. The jelly that it comes with is usually nata jelly — a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food produced by the fermentation of coconut water. Both fruit options are delicious. I highly recommend it if you’re not a fan of the milk teas and swirls or can’t consume lots of dairy. 

If you also want a snack with your drink, I recommend trying out their egg waffles. They come in multiple flavors and are super delicious. My go-to is the pork and seaweed-flavored waffle. If this isn’t your cup of tea, try their macaroons. They’re a bit pricey for how small they are, but are delicious nonetheless. 

Fuku Tea 8/10

Fuku Tea is what got me into boba in the first place, so they have a special place in my heart. To my knowledge, they’re the only place that offers some variety of milk choices. If you’re lactose intolerant or have any dairy dietary restrictions, I would recommend going here for milk teas. 

I usually get the Thai iced tea or the Thai green tea — light ice and 30% sugar, of course. Their seasonal drinks are also really good. The peppermint twist is my personal favorite during the winter time. They might’ve made this one a permanent drink, so definitely try it out whenever you can. They also offer pudding and grass jelly as topping options, which I love and think makes the drink 10 times better. Many places don’t seem to offer those, so Fuku stays winning in the toppings category. 

Fuku also offers food options. What really gets me about Fuku’s snack choices is that they have tiramisu. I love tiramisu. Tiramisu is the love of my life, and I will continue devouring it even though it severely upsets my stomach due to my lactose intolerance. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re not lactose intolerant. But even if you are, it’s so worth it. 

JJ Poke 8/10

Most people go to JJ Poke for their food — totally understandable, it’s spectacular — but their bubble teas are also just as spectacular. From what I’ve noticed, they tend to make their drinks less sweet than traditional boba places. It’s not by a really noticeable amount, but you can get away with getting regular sweetness — 100% — without feeling sugared out. 

Another thing I really enjoy about JJ Poke is their punch cards. You can get nine bowls or boba, and the 10th one will be free. As someone who loves free food, I will be going back for my free bento bowl and drink. They have a good system going, and it really works.

Bao 8/10

Whether you’re there for the food or drinks, you will have a good time here. I really love the way Bao makes their drinks. While they do have regular boba, they also offer specialty drinks. Their zodiac sign drinks are my friends and I’s go-to. We always get a giggle out of ordering the Cancer drink — that is unfortunately my sign. The Scorpio and Aquarius drinks are also really good, and it is so tasty with some pork buns or noodles. 

Love Tea 7/10 

I don’t go here as often as I do the other places, but Love Tea does have some really good milk tea options. They also have a wider range of milk tea flavors to choose from if you ever want to try something new. Some of their special flavors include matcha pearl milk tea, dragonfruit pearl milk tea and red guava pearl milk tea. 

If milk is a dietary issue for you, they also have fresh teas in almost all the same flavors as the milk teas and smoothies. Some of their special drinks also don’t contain milk. 

This establishment is much more of a sit-down eating place than some of the other bubble tea stores, so their food options are a little more of a meal than snacks. For example, they have chicken wings, crispy rolls with many different meat options and shrimp tempura. It is the type of place to have a chill hang out with your friends or go on a casual date. 

Chick’n Bubbly 7/10

Last but certainly not least. Chick’n Bubbly offers the cheapest boba drinks out of all these places. The quality is also really good. You can get more customizations with your drinks here. They have different tea bases, flavors and toppings. A drink for $3-4 is the best deal you’ll find at any restaurant or tea place in Oakland. 

Their food is also really good. It’s a lot more to-go than, say, Love Tea or JJ Poke. They come in little to-go boxes, but you could definitely eat some of them whilst walking down the street. My go-to order is chicken gang jeong with Thai iced tea, half sugar, light ice and with lychee jelly. 

Oakland is filled with places to get a little sweet treat, but you just need to know what each of those places offer. Hopefully this boba guide will help you determine where you want to go and what you’d like to try in the future. I also highly recommend fruit teas if you’re not much of a sugary drink person. I find that they are less overwhelmingly sweet than milk teas. But you could also play around with the sugar levels in all these places if you really want a milk tea, which, I cannot stress enough, you must try at least once in your life. I will absolutely die on that hill. 

These ratings are based on Kelly’s Beli profile. If you would like to see more of what Kelly likes and recommends, you can follow her on Beli or write to her at [email protected]. She is also taking recommendations to new places to try.

About the Contributor
Kelly Xiong, Senior Staff Columnist