Omaha’s best bubble tea shops: RANKED

0
1263

Kamrin Baker
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Inside Yumchaa on 74th and Pacific. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

From electric scooters and poke bowls, to Democratic politicians elected to office, it seems like Omaha is always last to see and embrace the trends of other large cities. Boba—or bubble tea—is one of the more well-established trendy markets in the Midtown area.

A refreshing sip of fruity tea with the surprise of a delightful popping bubble or smooth jelly can really make a summer day for me. While there are a few boba shops in Omaha, the five I visit the most are the closest to the university—in fact, they’re all extremely close to the university.

I decided to revisit my favorite spots for a few sips to make a loose ranking of the best establishments in the small radius of 78th and 67th streets—between Dodge and Pacific.

Before we dive in, a history lesson is required reading. While we can all continue to pretend bubble tea is just a millennial trend from surfer dudes on the West Coast, it’s important to remember that boba originated in Asia and should be honored for its role in Taiwanese culture.

According to Food and Wine, boba was introduced in the 1980s in Taipei (though many cities in Taiwan claim to be the masterminds) when shaved ice and tapioca balls were already well-established desserts.

During a hot summer, an inventive street food vendor combined those popular ingredients into one treat, and thus, bubble tea was born. Its foray into American food culture came with widespread immigration and has now infiltrated the modest Midwest.

A couple more guidelines: I am not a culinary expert, but these shops are listed in order of my least to most favorite. However, it was extremely hard to rank these establishments, so probably just go wherever the wind takes you. They’re all a win in my eyes.

Ready, set, spill the tea!

1. Jones Bros
Address: 2121 S. 67th St.
Distance from UNO: 1.6 miles

Jones Brothers has excellent food and dessert selections, but I was not super impressed by their boba. It’s tasty but costs about a dollar more than most bubble teas in Omaha– probably because it does come in a fancy little lightbulb cup. This is definitely a “do it for the ‘gram” kind of beverage.

Sipping on a Light Bulb Boba from Jones Bros with my boyfriend. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

2. The Tea Smith
Address: 345 N. 78th St.
Distance from UNO: 1.9 miles

The Tea Smith is amazing and one of my favorite study spots, but I think this may be a better destination for unique loose-leaf drinks than a trendy slush. They have many flavor options (and super cute tea accessories in store), but it just doesn’t make the top of my list.

A raspberry boba tea from the Tea Smith. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

3. Kung Fu Tea
Address: 1110 S. 71st St.
Distance from UNO: 1.9 miles

I had a wonderful experience at Kung Fu Tea; all of the employees complimented me on my glasses and were friendly during my wait. There are quite a few options to choose from when ordering, but there is not a lot of seating in the establishment, and it costs just slightly more than my top two picks. It’s also a chain restaurant, and I’m partial to shopping local. However, my sips were all satisfying.

A raspberry lemonade drink at Kung Fu Tea. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

4. Thirst Tea Cafe
Address(es): 200 S. 31st Ave. #4105
7616 Dodge St.
Distance(es) from UNO: 2.5 miles or 1.6 miles

The 76th and Dodge location of Thirst Tea is not yet open, but if that new location helps the crowded traffic of the Midtown Crossing shop, Thirst Tea might move into #1 for me. Thirst Tea was probably the first boba-specialty cafe in Omaha, and with a perfect pun for a name and refreshing drinks, it keeps me loyal. The only thing that make Thirst Tea challenging is its long waits, but we might have to blame busy summer events in Midtown Crossing for that one. My order is the Lovely with strawberry popping bubbles– every time. They also sell some yummy snacks like edamame and gyoza.

A regular Lovely from Thirst Tea Cafe. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

5. Yumchaa
Address: 1018 S. 74th Plaza
Distance from UNO: 1.6 miles

Yumchaa won over my heart immediately when I walked in and had my order taken by the owner’s kiddo. I was greeted with happy smiles from both the owner and her son, and my tea was delicious and affordable. The drinks are very customizable, as the customer can choose its sugar level, toppings and flavors. There are also options to add a cream cheese foam layer– or even try a customary waffle.

From what I can tell, Yumchaa is the most traditional bubble tea shop in the area, and it has the quality to prove it. The shop is also simplistic, clean and spacious, and I think I’ll be popping in with friends for my next “coffee date.” The only thing– the shop is tucked in a corner between Eileen’s Cookies and Lighthouse Pizza, so keep your eyes peeled.

A lavender milk tea with boba from Yumchaa. Photo by Kamrin Baker/the Gateway

Comments

comments