Over the last two years, Alberta’s bubble tea scene has undergone a major transformation. For the uninitiated, bubble tea is a Taiwanese drink with some variation of tea, fruits or other flavoring, milk, and classically, tapioca ‘bubbles’— also known as boba and pearls. These days, bubble tea can be ordered with a slew of different add-ons, including pudding (in this case, a firmer custard-like jelly), aloe vera pieces, and grass jelly (an aromatic unsweetened jelly made of the platostoma palustre plant.) Take a Savour tour of some of Calgary’s favourite bubble tea shops, fully capable of satisfying any bubble tea craving.
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Chatime (multiple locations): The first of the major bubble tea chains to land in Alberta, Chatime offers a ton of drink options, with a signature milk tea that’s hard to beat. Chatime also offers up a version of the Instagram-friendly brown-sugar milk tea, where rich caramel strands give the tea an extra dimension of flavor. For those who like a bit of savory and sweet, Chatime also offers salt-cream lattes, where the tea is capped with a salty rich foam. Recommended drink: Chatime Triple (roasted milk tea with pudding, grass jelly, and tapioca pearls)
Gong Cha (multiple locations): Following on the heels of Chatime, Gong Cha has established itself with long lines, creative drinks, and a wicked seasonal menu. It offers a bevvy of traditional milk teas and interesting toppings including basil seed, sweetened oats, crystal boba (made of agar-agar jelly), and sweetened adzuki beans. Recommended drink: Mango Pearl Green Tea (mango slush, green tea, and mango-flavored tapioca pearls)
Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea (multiple locations): As the name suggests, Yi Fang specializes in fruit-based bubble teas. But don’t worry, they still have many milk tea options. While their drinks tend to be less sweet, one can always request an increased sugar level to their heart’s content. Recommended drink: Yifang Fruit Tea with tapioca pearls, and Aiyu Jelly Lemon Green Tea
The Alley (Unit 103, 233 Centre St. S.W.): Located in the heart of Calgary’s Chinatown, you will find high school students at The Alley’s door at all hours. The Alley has a somewhat confusing drinks menu with their signature Deerioca drinks (each with fresh milk and tapioca pearls cooked in brown sugar) and Snow Velvet series (teas finished with a cream cheese foam). Recommended drink: Royal No. 9 milk tea (milk tea with a hint of blueberry) with tapioca pearls
Bubblemania (455 16 Ave. N.E.): Bubblemania is a Calgary gem that has been around for more than 20 years and it’s still going strong, with an assortment of signature smoothies, slushes and milk teas. During COVID-19 times, their sister shop, Mango Mania has also been doing weekly pop-ups in the same location, offering delicious mango-based bubble tea drinks. Recommended drink: Pink Dragonfruit Real Fruit Smoothie with tapioca pearls