Best Boba in the Bay Area
Boba was first invented in Taiwan in the 1980s. Traditionally it is made by first making a dough from tapioca starch, water, and brown sugar. Then it is rolled into hundreds of little balls and boiled for about 20 minutes. Since its invention, "boba culture" has absolutely exploded. Now it comes in a variety of flavors, colors, and sizes and is sold almost everywhere in the world.
I first "discovered" boba when I was 14. On the way back from practice, I would always beg my mom to stop by a Taiwanese cafe for lunch. I'd order a perfume-tasting strawberry green tea with boba and chicken katsu. Later, I got my first job across the street from my high school at a boba tea shop. I learned how to make milk tea and boba. Most boba shops, including the one I worked in, used dehydrated pre-made boba. These premade varieties often contain fake coloring and preservatives, so I have now even learned and perfected making my own boba from scratch. I think it's safe to say that I'm a boba connoisseur.
My passion and knowledge for boba has now transformed into a hobby of visiting all the boba shops I can and ranking them.
Below are some of my personal favorites and how I rate them on taste and price point.
Despite their generally more expensive prices, Boba Guys is hands down my favorite boba shop in all of California. Boba Guys was started by two Asian Americans, Bin and Andrew, in 2011 who then opened their first shop in 2013. Since then they have been gaining popularity and expanding. They use high-quality ingredients and it really shows... errr tastes. I recommend getting their signature drink, strawberry matcha latte (pictured on right), but you can't go wrong with anything on their menu (a secret caffeine-free fav of mine is the strawberry calipico).
Happy Lemon is a franchise that started in Shanghai, China in 2006. They have some unique flavors that I don't often see, specializing in sour drinks like lemon and yogurt slushies. Another unique topping is their puff cream which seems like a lighter version of their salted cheese which is made from cream cheese, whipped cream, milk and a hint of rock salt. The puff cream goes amazingly with traditional boba milk tea. Happy Lemon is definitely one of my favorites, and their price point makes it really hard to resist.
There is only one Bobaville in existence and it is located in Daly City, California. Bobaville is very unique in that their boba is made from fresh ingredients on-site every day without any preservatives or food coloring. This causes their boba to not have the trademark "black pearl" look, but have an incredible taste and texture. If we are talking just on the merits of boba, Bobaville blows most companies out of the water. They also make one of the best taro milk smoothies I've ever had. I also recommend their mango summer tea (pictured).
I love Plentea for their menu simplicity and refusal to make "custom" drinks. It makes things easier and lines go faster. They use fresh fruit in their strawberry and mango flavored teas. They also come in sealable glass mason jars to reduce waste. You can keep the jar as a souvenir or bring it back for a discount on your next order! Plentea tastes fresh and good. I recommend their strawberry green tea or traditional trusty plain milk tea.
Boba is Love, Boba is Life
I hope that you have a chance to visit one if not all of these places I mentioned if you live in California or plan to visit. With my seal of approval, I promise they wont disappoint!