Aside from coffee, I probably drink boba milk tea the most. Back when I would still go into the office, I got boba maybe once every two weeks and it was the perfect pick-me-up. And over time, I’ve accumulated a list of my favorite places to get boba in San Francisco. Boba so essential to my livelihood and productivity, and I also love it because of my Taiwanese roots!!
For those who’ve never tried boba milk tea, it’s a type of beverage that originated in Taiwan (although some will argue it started in Hong Kong), and is typically a mix of tea, milk, and some sort of solid like tapioca (also known as “boba”). Since the original boba milk tea was invented, hundreds of other variations have been created and all fit under the boba category. So a boba drink could be anything from apple infused green tea to a red bean and matcha smoothie with tapioca. If you want to learn more about food and dining in Taiwan, read my ultimate guide here.
Enough about the history of boba though. Let’s get on to some of my favorite and unique spots to get boba in San Francisco!
Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea
A relatively new spot in San Francisco, Yifang specializes in fruit teas. The Yifang Fruit Tea includes fresh apples and oranges and is super refreshing to have in the summer. Their Brown Sugar Pearl Matcha Latte is also really popular, and is essentially a sugared up Matcha Latte with tapioca. The downside to the Brown Sugar Pearl Matcha Latte is that you can’t adjust the sweetness, so be prepared for a sugar kick if you’re going for this crowd favorite!
Wanderer Tip: At most boba shops, you can adjust the ice and sweetness level of your drink. Most stores will list out the options you have, and it’s usually a percentage (e.g. 25% sweetness) or a generic quantity like “less sugar” or “more ice”. If I’m visiting a new boba shop, I like to ask what the recommended sweetness level is because each boba shop’s average sweetness level can vary.
I first had Boba Guys in Berkeley, where they opened their first pop-up and served soju-infused boba. They no longer make those, but their high quality drinks still keep me coming back. If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll know that there is a difference between high quality tea and tea that is meh. To save the cost of making boba, some boba shops definitely skimp on their tea quality, and it’s not hard to tell after just one sip. Well Boba Guys does not! So if tea quality is more important to you and you don’t mind a stronger tea taste, then Boba Guys is your place to get boba in San Francisco.
Some of my favorites from their menu include the Classic Milk Tea, Matcha Latte, and Strawberry Matcha Latte. But everything on their menu is so good because of the tea they use.
Over the years, Plentea has moved down my list of top boba shops because better ones just keep opening up in SF. But their boba is still solid, and they offer some unique selections like Sea Salt Crema Oolong and Honey Citrus Green Tea.
One of my favorite things about Plentea is that it’s centrally located in San Francisco’s Financial District and there’s seating upstairs. The seating makes it a convenient place to meet up with friends. So I recommend Plentea if you’re planning to hang out there for a while and need a place to sit and talk.
Teaspoon is pretty high on my list of boba places in San Francisco. And I will admit — it being walking distance from my old apartment made it much more accessible than other boba places, and it often gave me a boost during my lazy Sundays at home.
Some of my favorite things to order from Teaspoon are Grasshopper (lychee green tea topped with cucumber juice – so refreshing!), Liquid Gold (honey oolong tea with classic cream), and Grapefruit Garden (grapefruit green tea with grapefruit juice). I’m scared to think of how much money I’ve spent at Teaspoon, but for the extra endorphins their drinks have given me, I think it was worth it.
Sharetea is conveniently located in the Metreon, and I love grabbing a drink here if I’m in the area or right before a movie. My favorite drink to get there is the Matcha Red Bean Milk Tea, but they offer many other choices so I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
I was reading their reviews on Yelp and was surprised by how low the ratings were. Because they are located in a super busy area, I think their wait can be long. Keep that in mind if you’re in a hurry and don’t have a lot of time to wait around!
This is one of those places I frequented while I still worked in the Financial District. They not only serve delicious boba, they also have egg puffs! The lines can get pretty long during the work day, especially in the afternoon when everyone’s looking to take a quick break. So budget your time wisely if you’re coming here during rush hour.
My favorite order here is the Tofuhua & Red Bean Milk Tea, which is more of a desert than a drink based on how much solids are in it lol. I recommend this if you’ve been drinking classic milk tea with boba for a while now and are looking to try something new.
I would go to E Tea a lot on my way home from work. I’ve tried a few of their drinks, including their classic milk tea with boba, and the Fresh Taro King is by far my favorite. A few other co-workers of mine have also gotten it before, and they can vouch for me that that their taro drink is indeed second to none.
Happy Lemon is the only boba shop (that I’m aware of) that has a ton of locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, which is amazing because I know I’ll be able to get good boba where I go. I’ve tried their Jasmine Green Tea with Salted Cheese and it was pretty darn good. I could also tell they used good tea because I was pretty caffeinated after drinking just half of it.
Asha Tea House
Last but definitely not least is Asha Tea House! This place is up there with Boba Guys in terms of their tea quality. I love getting their Matcha Latte. They also do a good job with their other Matcha drinks (Matcha Fresco, Matcha Sparkler and Matchaspresso). Their Matcha must be super premium quality too!
Wanderer Tip: according to their Yelp page, they’re temporarily closed in 2021 due to COVID. But they do have a Berkeley location too, so definitely check them out if you’re ever in that area or support them by ordering their teas on their website!
Writing this guide has made me super warm and fuzzy inside, and not just cuz I love boba, but also because many of these boba shops are local to San Francisco and they deserve our support especially during these uncertain times! If you’re in San Francisco and craving boba, check some of these out. And I hope you discover new boba flavors along the way!