With a dry and sweltering atmosphere, only two words can describe this Bay Area moment – disgustingly hot. Out comes the cargo shorts, bro tanks, and flower crowns. No, we’re not at Coachella. We’re in San Francisco, and it just hit 72 degrees. The sun’s blazing rays make me feel grimy and parched. During these unusually hot SF days, drinking boba is the best way for me to beat the heat.
Milk tea, also known as boba, a pearl drink, or bubble tea, is a refreshing mix of milk, sugar and tea. The result is a smooth and creamy taste. The drink comes in a variety of flavors and can be served either hot or cold. From tropical flavors like passion fruit and mango, to stronger ones like earl grey and Oolong. This popular tea drink, which originated from Taiwan, contains sweet, gummy tapioca balls made from cassava root. The boba hype has been huge in the city, so I searched for the best boba cafes.
1. Boba Guys, 3491 19th Street
Boba Guys is not your traditional boba joint. For starters, they have interesting flavors like horchata, coconut green tea, and muscat oolong. The cafe’s minimal interior design is very Tumblr-esque with its white walls, wooden countertops, and chalkboard menu. Drinks cost around $3 to $4, which is a bit pricy for boba, but you’re getting high-quality milk tea. Forget the powder tea packets. Boba Guys brews all their drinks with real tea and mixes them with Straus organic milk. I’ve been there multiple times, so it’s safe to say their drinks have a perfect consistency. The tapioca balls are not overcooked, not too chewy, and the tea is never overpowering. It’s not too creamy, not too sweet, just right. If you want a sweeter drink, you can adjust the sweetness by asking a “bobarista,” (seriously, that’s what they’re called) they’ll adjust the drink.
Drinks to try: Horchata Milk Tea, Iced Matcha Latte, Hong Kong Style
2. Plentea, 341 Kearny Street
Instead of using sugary syrups, Plentea blends fresh fruit in their drinks. This creates sweet, light tasting milk teas, and you can actually taste the fruit. The tapioca is soft and not too chewy. You can choose from a variety of toppings like aloe, honey boba, lychee jelly and more. Like other boba places, you can adjust the drink’s sweetness. All drinks are served in glass bottles that you can keep. Bring yours back and you’ll get a discount on your next drink. Word of advice: ask your server to go easy on the ice. Too much ice waters down the flavor.
Drinks to try: Brown Sugar Ice Milk With Pudding, Sea Salt Crema With Honey Boba
3. Tpumps, 1916 Irving Street
Like Plentea, you can adjust the sweetness of your drink and add honey flavored tapioca balls. But with Tpumps, the combination of flavors are endless. You can mix up to three flavors together and add a variety of boba and jellies. There are many flavors to choose from: peach, passionfruit, lychee, mango, blueberry, the list goes on! Flavors are consistent and the tea is well-brewed. The teas are not strong, and they do not taste diluted as compared to other places.
Drinks to try: Lychee Raspberry Rose Milk Tea, Mango Peach Milk Tea With Honey Boba
4. Sharetea, 5336 Geary Blvd
Matcha red bean, brown rice milk, and taro are just a few of Sharetea’s unique flavors. Their tapioca is too chewy in my opinion, but their flavors are on point. Drinks have a good milk to tea ratio. My personal favorite was the Hokkaido pearl milk tea. It had a rich caramel toffee flavor. It was a bit salty, but also sweet. If you’re looking for some authentic tapioca drinks, Sharetea is the place to go.
Drinks to try: Hokkaido Pearl Milk Tea, Mango Milk Tea
5. Purple Kow, 3620 Balboa St
Purple Kow has a ridiculously long wait, but that is ok, because their drinks are worth it. And $3 to $4 gets you a huge cup (it will NOT fit in your cupholder). This place has hands down, one of richest flavors of milk tea. The drinks are really sweet and creamy, which is great, because I have big sweet tooth. The texture reminds me of a milkshake. Warning: if you’re not fond of the creamy texture and extreme sweetness, you might get a stomachache, but you can always ask your server to adjust the sweetness or opt for a light flavored milk tea to still enjoy this tasty treat.
Drinks to try: Matcha Green Milk Tea, Honey Milk Black Tea