Bubble tea 101: A guide to Tallahassee’s top options

by Tallahassee Table
Where and what to order, toppings and locations for these fun drinks

By Moriah House

Tallahassee’s bubble tea scene is booming. 

A plethora of flavorful new options have popped up in recent years. As a bubble tea enthusiast, I’m thrilled. But for the uninitiated, the multitude of choices can be overwhelming. 

Here’s everything you need to know before ordering, plus the ultimate Tallahassee bubble tea guide.

What is bubble tea?

Bubble tea is a tea-based drink often mixed with fruit and/or milk, chewy tapioca balls and other fun toppings. The distinctive beverage is also known as boba milk tea or pearl milk tea. It originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and has since spread across the globe.

What’s the difference between bubble tea and boba tea?

Contrary to popular belief, the namesake “bubbles” refer to the foamy bubbles that appear in the drink when shaken, not the spherical tapioca.

 “Boba” refers to the actual tapioca pearls. But generally speaking, bubble tea and boba tea refer to the same enticing category of beverages. Chewing a drink may sound off-putting to some, but it is undeniably delicious. Don’t just take my word for it — forecasters expect the U.S. bubble tea market to grow from $3.27 billion in 2022 to $6.14 billion in 2032.

How to order bubble tea

The classic bubble tea consists of black tea, milk, chewy tapioca pearls and ice. If you are trying boba tea for the first time, black milk tea is a great starting order. But if you are feeling more creative, most shops offer a wide variety of fun flavors and customizable toppings, from fruity poppers to cheese foam.  Additionally, many shops allow customers to select a sweetness level, such as 25 percent or 50 percent. This is up to your taste preferences, but I like 50 percent sweetness.

Where can you get bubble tea in Tallahassee?

Bubbly Tea Bar

Relaxed spot for California-style boba and light snacks. Bubble tea $5-$8. Menu highlights: Cocotaro blizzard, Tiger spice chai. 2020 W Pensacola St.; 850-889-0833. Hours: Open daily from noon. to 9 p.m. https://m.facebook.com/bubblyteabar/about/

Kwench Juice Cafe offers juices, smoothies, fruit and snacks as well as boba tea. Photo credit / Kwench Juice Cafe

Kwench Juice Cafe

Cheerful, quick-service cafe serving boba tea, juice, smoothies, and light snacks. Bubble tea $5-$6. Menu highlights: brown sugar milk tea, Taro milk tea. 3499 Thomasville Rd., Unit 3; 850-329-6211. Hours 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 on Saturdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. https://kwenchtallahassee.com/

The menu at Natural Kitchen includes poke bowls and burritos as well as bubble teas. Photo credit / Natural Kitchen

Natural Kitchen

Casual counter service eatery serving bubble teas, sushirritos and poke bowls. Bubble tea $6-$7. Menu highlights: pudding milk tea, grapefruit slush. Two locations: 699 W Gaines St., #110; 850-329-2790.  1525 W Tennessee St., Suite 205; 850-727-4563. The Tennessee location is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. The Gaines street branch is open the same hours except that it is open later, until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. https://naturalkitchenusa.com/index.html

Paris by Night is a popular boba tea choice at Paris Bahn Mi. Photo / Tallahassee Table

Paris Bahn Mi

The cafe serves a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine, offering boba teas and slushes, banh mi and other sandwiches plus French pastries.  Bubble tea: $4.50-$6; signature drinks $7. Menu highlights: Taro milk tea, Paris by Night or matcha crème brulée. 1875 N Monroe St.,  Suite 100; 850-270-9611. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. https://www.parisbanhmi.com/order-website/view-menu

Boru Boru

Inspired by Japanese cuisine, the restaurant specializes in sushi bowls, poke bowls, rice bowls, sushi burritos, bao sandwiches, boba tea and ramen. Bubble tea: $5.50-$6.50. Menu highlights: Go Go Mango, matcha ice latte, Taro Coco Creme. Varsity Plaza, 1861 W. Tennessee St., 850-270-9253. Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Twenty percent off boba tea on Fridays. https://boruboru.com/tallahassee/

UR Bowl

Cozy and elegant counter service eatery serving boba tea and smoothies, plus customizable ramen, pho and poke bowls. Bubble tea: $5.75. Menu highlights: Thai tea, red bean milk tea. 1800 W Tennessee St.,  #3; 850-765-6186. Hours: from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; Closed Tuesdays. https://urbowls.squarespace.com/

The honeydew with boba is one of the choices at Pong’s Boba Tea. Photo / Moriah House

Pong’s Boba Tea

Pong’s Boba Tea is my personal favorite bubble tea spot in Tallahassee. The cute cafe serves boba teas, slushes, sweet drinks and light desserts. It’s attached to Roboto’s Tokyo Grill on Tennessee Street, so customers can grab a hibachi dinner to perfectly pair with the refreshingly delicious bubble tea.

Pong’s offers a variety of tasty beverages, from matcha milk tea to mango tango fruit tea, plus fun seasonal specials such as pumpkin spice milk tea. Customers may select their preferred sweetness level. For non dairy drinkers, alternative milk options include soy and almond. Most drinks come in 16 and 24-ounce sizes and can be served iced or blended. I love the blended option because it creates a thicker, milkshake-like texture and means you don’t have to go digging around in ice with your straw for the boba.

Most 16-ounce boba drinks fall between $3.50-$4.50. Even if you go for the 24-ounce option and add an extra topping or two, you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $6-$7 on one drink. My go-to order is honeydew with boba, blended, at 50 percent sweetness. 1350 W Tennessee St. B; 850-425-2406. Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. https://pongsbobatea.square.site/ Top photo credit / Pong’s

Moriah House is a senior at Florida State University, majoring in anthropology. I’m happy to say she is also writing for Tallahassee Table.

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