We may not all agree on the essential boba tea shops in San Francisco, but we would certainly agree that San Francisco — and the wider Bay Area — is home to the most boba-loving enthusiasts on the West Coast, outside of the progenitors in Los Angeles. The Taiwan-born drink took root in the United States in the 1990s and has bloomed into a full-fledged cultural force since. In San Francisco, there are the staples — such as hometown (and problematic) titans Boba Guys — there are the small shops funded by local rappers, and there are even those that are nothing more than a front for fenced goods. A bit further south there are San Jose residents with thousands of dollars dedicated to the drink, no doubt getting a love for the game from all the big boba bosses in the South Bay. No matter where you rep in the Bay, or which shop is your reliable go-to, these are the 14 must-hit boba tea spots in San Francisco.Read More
The 14 Essential Boba Tea Shops in San Francisco Right Now
In a region famous for the drink, these are the absolute must-try destinations
A favorite for those walking the path from Union Square to North Beach via Chinatown. Whereas other shops pride themselves on lots of options and customization, simple and straightforward is the approach at Plentea. Heavy hitters at Chinese-born Henry Tang’s shop include the Sea Salt Crema Oolong and the CoffMilk Tea made with Cafe du Monde.
Lady Luck Cafe
This shop opened in summer 2021, a relative newcomer to Grant Avenue and the boba scene writ large. One key differentiator at this venue is the coffee selection; San Leandro roaster Proyecto Diaz provides the beans for drinks like the iced boba mocha and iced boba latte.
A 2019 addition to the boba matrix of the city, two young sisters run this Mission District shop with hits that include mango green tea and jasmine milk tea, and the recent Vietnamese coco coffee. This shop even sells an at-home boba kit and half-gallon orders of their mixes ($22) for those diehards who can’t get enough.
“J,” one co-founder of this rabbit-themed boba shop, grew up in Taiwan where boba is plentiful, whereas business partner “K” moved to the United States in 2012 and is an aspiring acupuncturist. Quirky backstories aside, this Balboa Avenue has plenty of signature items, like their riff on a black sugar boba latte, the aptly named Black Bunni ($6). A classic black milk tea runs just $4.95 at this shop.
Urban Ritual Cafe
The main focus at this San Francisco original is a healthier approach to tea across the board. That means house-made syrups and lots of loose leaf options to encourage mindful consumption. But, when it comes to the main attraction, the boba tea is just as much a dynamo as any other sugary competitor; try the shop’s signature Creme Brulee Boba for $6.95.
A little over a year into business, Honeybear has become a major part of the boba game in San Francisco — especially for the city’s eastside residents. A honey milk tea costs just $4.50, not bad for an average price, whereas a signature option like Uncle Larry’s Dreamsicle costs $5.25. And if you notice Bayview rapper Larry June’s songs tilting through the air, that’s no surprise; he launched the Dogpatch business in 2021.
On just about any day of the week, but especially on Tuesdays when this business gives out deals, this Irving Street shop sports squads of teens pulling up for their daily dose of tapioca. Starting from a base of black or green tea, the main draw at this shop is the ultra customizable options. Anything from peppermint to macadamia nut to pumpkin spice to tangerine to chocolate cookie dough is on the menu.
Also featured in:
A player since 2012, this local chain now touts six shops and a loyal fanbase. Prices are a bit higher here, though — think $5.25 for a typical milk tea and $8.25 for a mango sago signature drink. This shop is one of the few to offer a robust selection of salted cheese foam-topped drinks, though, and the Rose High Mountain Milk tea is a particular high watermark for its subtle and sweet balance.
Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea
Bay Area powerhouse Yi Fang entered the game in 2018 and opened locations all throughout the area in no time at all, even opening in the Inner Sunset during the pandemic. Prices are a little bit higher than average here, but there are a number of customizable options (including cheese creamer as an accessory for 65 cents). Most ingredients here are organic, and mini taro balls are a recent addition to the menu.
My Cup of Tea
Don’t let the stripped-down facade fool you — this Ocean Avenue shop is worth a visit. Most boba teas go for about $5 here, though the options are quite limited in comparison to some of the crazier competitors. A bonus of this westside option is the plethora of food available, however, including banh mi, pho, and vermicelli.
Tea & Others
This ultra-stylish Lower Haight option is not to be missed: Coffee-infused “dirty” lattes run $4.75 here, whereas the classic black milk tea goes for $4.50. This local shop is also known for its collaborative pop-ups with other businesses, such as a late summer partnership with Telescope Coffee.
This Broadway Avenue shop has closed and reopened throughout the pandemic, but is back to serving Royal Ceylon Boba. The vibey shop hangs quirky stencils and bright paintings, making for a pleasant stop on a Chinatown (or boba) tour. The uji matcha, with tiramisu milk foam and boba, looks pretty outrageous.
Metro Hong Kong Dessert and Milk Tea
A caramel pudding milk tea runs $4.50 at this Chinatown mainstay, but a “regular” boba milk tea costs just $2.75. Coffee milk tea runs for $3.50, and a taro milk tea for $3.25. You get the idea — this restaurant has not only plenty to offer for cuisine, but loads of cheap, slept-on boba teas.
This organic-only boba shop sports three Bay Area locations and, interestingly enough, one in Houston, Texas. Fans love the Purple Kow Milk Tea with caramel, pudding, and, of course, tapioca pearls.