Boba tea, bubble tea, milk tea — whatever you call it, you probably love to drink it. And if you haven’t tried it yet, we promise you won’t be disappointed — especially if you try your first customized drink at one of the spots on this local list!
But first, a quick history lesson. Boba tea originated in small, Taiwanese tea shops in the 1980s. The drink itself is made from a tea base; anything from Earl Grey to matcha will work. Then, you add milk and top the drink off with boba which are small, chewy balls made out of tapioca that provide an Instagram-worthy beverage every time.
These local spots — which began right here in San Francisco — are taking that simple process to the next level with one-of-a-kind additions, unique flavors and handcrafted processes. Next time you’re on the hunt for boba, start anywhere on our list.
Ten Bay Area locations | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Teaspoon
The team at Teaspoon loves tea. To prove it, they craft their made to order, one-of-a-kind drinks using an espresso machine specifically designed to brew tea. From the organic cream to the key lime and the mint leaves, every ingredient is chosen for its top quality and exceptional flavor. And when it comes to boba, they cook theirs fresh every other hour to ensure yours is warm, chewy and perfect! They have ten locations in cities throughout the Bay Area so track them down to satisfy your next craving.
Wonderful Dessert & Café
Wonderful is the OG of boba tea in San Francisco. Serving up café drinks and self-serve candy, it’s the hidden gem that everyone seems to know about. Over the years, their handwritten menu has grown to include tapioca flavors like coconut, peanut, honeydew, red bean and chocolate. Good luck narrowing down the options next time you visit! But after your first sip, you’ll know right away why this is a San Francisco favorite.
Hayes Valley | Instagram
Inspired by the unique nature of their hometown and their customers, Urban Ritual is proudly unique. For their craft teas and boba cocktails, they only use loose leaf tea, all natural, quality ingredients, and house-made syrups prepared from scratch. When building your own tea of the day, you’ll start with a base of Earl Grey, Matcha, Jasmine, Honey Oolong, White Grape Oolong, Hibiscus or Thai Tea. Then, steps two through four will add milk, a sweetness level and a topping! As Instagram-worthy as they are delicious, each and every drink at Urban Ritual is a must-try.
Seven Bay Area locations | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Boba Guys
The Boba Guys are famous in San Francisco (and now across the country) for good reason. The story begins with founders Bin and Andrew and their favorite local boba shop in the Mission. When that shop closed and they found themselves without boba, the two friends quickly adapted and learned how to make their own, perfect boba. Cue Boba Guys. Driven by a desire to share the process and the experience of making boba with all their customers, this cozy tea shop has quickly grown into a country-wide phenomenon with locations throughout the Bay Area, the Los Angeles area and even New York.
Chinatown | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Steap Tea Bar
Using only premium, loose-leaf and organic teas, local, organic milks and sugars, fresh, organic produce, and house-made toppings, Steap Tea Bar crafts some of the best drinks in the city. Those housemade toppings include boba, tea jelly, cream, coconut shavings and more! And you can infuse your customized drink with things like CBD, activated charcoal and other revitalizing additions. Paired with hip-hop and R&B beats on the speakers, the atmosphere here is as fun as the drink menu.
Four Bay Area locations | Instagram
Tpumps has a bit of a cult following. Their fans flock to shops throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles to sip customizable tea beverages that are flavorful, handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. Their famous honey boba takes two hours to cook and is marinated in honey and sugar for a perfect, mochi-like texture and a honey sweetness.
Delivery in SoMa, Financial District and Mission | Instagram
Photo courtesy of Sweet a Little
Based on the motto “Live a little, sweet a little” this milk tea delivery service combines delicious with healthy for a treat you don’t have to feel guilty about — and they deliver it right to your door! Using only premium, loose leaf teas steeped in small batches, Grade-A milk free of rBST and antibiotics, and low-glycemic, organic agave nectar, this is a quick and easy service you need to try next time you find yourself living, working or lounging in SoMa, FiDi or the Mission. Simply start with the menu, order online and your barista will arrive within thirty minutes.
Two SoMa locations | Instagram
Begun by a lover of boba and Thai-inspired specialties, STEEP provides handcrafted rolled ice cream and milk teas from two SoMa locations. And though we definitely recommend a bowl of rolled ice cream, the star of the show is the tea. Each and every brew is prepared using only organic and top of the line varieties. For example, their ceremonial grade Uji Matcha is one of the most popular choices on the menu. Pair that with organic Straus milk and red bean for the craveable Matcha Red Bean Milk Tea!
Two Bay Area locations | Facebook
Photo courtesy of Plentea
Founder and milk tea connoisseur Henry Tang began Plentea from a desire to provide his family and his community in San Francisco with the authentic, wholesome and sustainable taste of real milk tea. Today, Plentea serves over 20 types of bubble tea, each one handcrafted to order and made from ingredients that are sourced from the Bay Area and around the world, including organic loose leaf teas, real cane sugar and fresh, seasonal fruits.
Inner Richmond | Instagram
This cozy, inconspicuous coffee shop in the Inner Richmond neighborhood is a must-visit whether you’re on the hunt for coffee, tea, boba, WiFi, or just a simple, minimalist atmosphere. But if boba is what you’re craving at the moment, make sure you stop by after 12 p.m. After noon, you can add boba to any drink on the menu! The specialty tea latte comes in flavors like matcha, jasmine, chai, honey coconut, classic black and lavender Earl Grey. And, at any time of day, you’ll also find Ritual Coffee served alongside locally made baked goods.
Three Bay Area locations | Instagram
Purple Kow began right here in San Francisco in 2011 and quickly expanded to both Berkeley and San Jose. Today, they still operate with the same local, family principles they began with. They use organic ingredients to create classic drinks. Stop by your nearest location to snag a dessert, coffee or tea and taste Purple Kow for yourself!
Do you love boba?
Share your favorite boba spots and milk tea hangouts in the comments below!