When it comes to boba (aka bubble tea), the landscape is constantly changing. Gone are the days of generic tea flavors, powdered drinks, and stale tapioca pearls. To survive in today's boba scene, one must offer something truly unique and spectacular that can't be found anywhere else. Growing up in the bay area, it’s no surprise that boba culture consumes our everyday lives. Located in almost every corner, it’s hard not to come across a boba shop, especially among the San Jose and San Francisco areas.
Listed below are 5 bay area boba shops that are an accurate representation of boba at its finest in 2020:
1) Urban Ritual (San Francisco & San Mateo)
For such a new boba shop, Urban Ritual has made quite a huge splash during their short time here. Located in San Francisco within the Hayes Valley district, this is easily the go-to spot when visiting the city. As of mid-2019, they have opened their brand new 2nd location in San Mateo. What separates Urban Ritual from the rest of the pack are their unique flavors and high quality ingredients. Instead of bombarding their customers with extensive and confusing menu options, they like to keep it short and simple. Simply put, they favor quality over quantity.
With roughly 10 choices to choose from on their specialty menu along with a separate customizable menu, there’s no need to ponder for several minutes on what to order. If you are a matcha lover, go with the Matcha Toffee (my personal favorite). Want something a bit more adventurous? Go with the Creme Brulee. In the end, no matter what you decide on, be assured that you will walk away satisfied with your purchase.
2) 7 Leaves Cafe (San Jose)
Originally from SoCal, 7 Leaves Cafe has opened their first bay area location in San Jose. Since their grand opening, the hype has been mind-blowing with lines out the door consistently on a weekly basis. Their popularity is due to good reason. They are one of the few shops that are able to effortlessly offer a huge variety of drinks including regular teas, fusion teas, milk teas, and even artisan coffee. During each visit, there will always be something new to try.
The one drink that keeps me coming back over and over is the famous Mung Bean Milk Tea. Consisting of Jasmine Tea with Mung Bean and Pandan Leaves, this is a drink unlike any other. 7 Leaves Cafe is the one place that I can always count on whenever I need that weekly boba fix.
3) Boba Guys (San Francisco, San Carlos, San Ramon, Palo Alto)
When the first Boba Guys store opened up during the summer of 2013 in San Francisco, the initial hype went through the roof. Literally everyone was talking about them and there were always insane lines going out the door. You may wonder… what makes them so special? First of all, quality is their main mission. They put their heart and soul into their ingredients, service, and overall aesthetics. Second of all, their daring approach helped them to change the way people viewed boba and tea.
What keeps customers coming back is their ever-evolving menu. The main specialty drinks will always be available, but they are also constantly adding new seasonal flavors to the menu to switch things up. When it comes to their drinks, they are far from ordinary. You can find flavors such as the strawberry matcha latte, dirty horchata, black sesame latte, and Japanese Coffee Cola (seasonal item). If you are feeling ambitious, this is the spot to be at.
4) Black Sugar Boba (San Francisco)
One of the newest boba shops on the scene, Black Sugar Boba has garnered extremely positive reviews in a short period of time. Located between Union Square and the Tenderloin, this is a small shop that packs quite a big punch. They pride themselves with high quality ingredients that include organic teas, Straus Family Creamery organic milk, and black sugar-soaked boba. Their menu can be seen divided into the following categories: Milk Tea, Fruit Tea, Fresh Milk, Matcha, and Coffee.
When it comes down to options, there’s literally something for everyone. As a matcha enthusiast, the flavors that mainly caught my attention were the mango matcha latte, taro matcha latte, and sesame matcha latte. Not to mention, the prices are extremely reasonable. If you haven’t checked out this shop yet, what are you waiting for?
5) Sinceretea (San Jose & Walnut Creek)
San Jose has always been known to be a major hot spot when it comes to boba. Driving down the street, you’ll often see up to 5 boba shops across from one another. When competition is so fierce, it’s hard to decide where to frequent. With Sinceretea, they make it easy.
Located nearby Japantown San Jose along with a newer 2nd location in Walnut Creek, their specialty lies in offering a diverse menu of tea options. You can find everything from creamy teas, floral teas, bare teas, and signature “Specialteas”. What makes them stand out even further are the unique snack options. Their mochi egg puffs are simply game changing. The matcha and sesame flavored mochi egg puffs are highly addicting and made to perfection.
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