In my native San Francisco Bay Area, boba — or bubble tea — has become somewhat of a staple among both high school and college students. Whether you enjoy it ice cold on a summer day or hot on a winter evening, this flavorful and aromatic drink is the perfect go-to.
Elena already gave you the lowdown on what exactly this drink is. Here, I’m listing seven must-try bubble tea cafes around Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. If you’re ever in the Bay Area, I hope that you have the chance to check them out!
Location: 4229 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA.
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11AM – 11PM; Fri and Sat, 11-AM — 12AM.
Price: $4 (Any flavor milk tea with pearls)
When I visit Mr. Green Bubble, I always stick to Earl Gray, Jade, or Jasmine Milk Tea. The texture of the pearls themselves has a perfect combination of firmness and chewiness. Though the pearls are on the sweeter side, they actually do a great job of complementing those three flavors of milk tea that I order.
Mr. Green Bubble also happens to have free WiFi and lots of board games, making it a great spot for hanging out. If you don’t want to sit, then its location on Piedmont Avenue – lined with various shops and restaurants — is perfect for strolling about.
Location: There are actually A LOT in the Bay Area.
Hours: Mon-Sun, 11AM – 9PM.
Price: Under $4 (Any flavor milk tea with pearls)
Quickly has a ton of locations within Northern California, so depending on where you are in the Bay Area, you could easily find one. Relative to the other bubble tea cafes on this list, Quickly produces among the least expensive milk teas.
While great for your wallet, the milk tea and the boba at Quickly tend to be a little bland for my taste. If you’re just making a quick stop in the Bay Area, however, it’s still worth a visit!
Location: 1314 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA.
Hours: Sun-Fri, 12PM – 10PM; Fri and Sat, 12PM-12AM.
Price: $3.65 (Black Milk Tea with pearls)
At BB Tea Station, I typically order traditional black milk tea with tapioca pearls. While the pearls, like at Quickly, are blander compared to that of Mr. Green Bubble, the milk tea is on the sweeter side, making a good combination for an overall balanced flavor.
In terms of set-up, BB Tea Station is really similar to Mr. Green Bubble. There’s plenty of seating inside while board games are available for you to use while enjoying your drink.
Location: 341 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11AM – 11PM; Sat and Sun, 12PM – 11PM.
Price: $4.95 (Any flavor milk tea with pearls)
Located in San Francisco’s Financial District, Plentea is pretty accessible if you’re in the Bay Area for just a quick visit. What’s most special about the Plentea experience is the fact that they serve their boba in a 1950s glass bottle!
The fun packaging does make the milk tea a bit more expensive. For this reason, some of my friends find Plentea overrated. I’d say it’s worth visiting at least once. Plus, saving your bottle and bringing it in the next time you’re around entitles you to a discount on your milk tea!
Location: 2440 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA.
Hours: Mon – Fri, 11AM-11PM; Sat and Sun, 12PM-11PM.
Price: $3.75 (Any flavor milk tea with pearls)
Sharetea is a Taiwanese bubble tea chain that came to California fairly recently. My two favorite flavors: Oolong milk tea and Okinawa Pearl milk tea (a brown sugar concoction). In my opinion, the boba here has a pretty high quality for a good price. Another plus: You can choose the amount of sugar that you want for certain flavors (0%, 30%, 50%, 80%, 100%).
While Sharetea has a couple of locations in San Francisco, I find its Berkeley location particularly appealing. Right next door to the UC Berkeley Campus, Sharetea has a lively atmosphere as a result of all of the college and graduate students that frequent the café.
Location: 2523 Durant Ave, Berkely, CA.
Hours: Sun-Fri, 11AM – 12AM; Fri, 11AM – 2AM; Sat, 11AM-1AM.
Price: $3.50 – $4 (Any flavor milk tea with pearls)
Sweetheart is only a few blocks away from Sharetea with late hours that make it perfect for students pulling all-nighters. Here, I find that the tapioca pearls are much softer compared to the pearls served by Mr. Green Bubble and Share Tea. This is neither a good nor a bad thing; texture really boils down to your own personal preference.
What I like most about Sweetheart is its portion size. At Mr. Green Bubble and Plentea, the standard size of bubble tea is 24oz. At Sweetheart, the standard is 16oz, which I feel is just enough to hit the spot.
Location: 2164 Center Street, Berkeley, CA.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10AM-10PM; Sun, 10AM-6PM.
Price: $4.24 (Any flavor milk tea with pearls)
What makes Purple Kow unique?
Its signature “chubby cup”. While they look enormous, chubby cups hold 25oz of liquid – just one ounce more than the containers at Sharetea, Mr. Green Bubble, and BB Tea. The packaging, just like at Plentea, makes drinking bubble tea here a fun experience.
There you have it! If you’ve never had bubble tea and just so happen to be in the Bay Area, then be sure to give one of these bubble tea cafes a try.
Photo feature: Toby Oxborrow