As someone who’s easily been to over a hundred boba shops across the globe, including the birthplace of boba milk tea, it’s no surprise that when I travel, one of the first types of food places I look up are boba shops. A few years ago, there weren’t too many options for bubble tea in Seattle, but now there are quite a few available. Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, I go over my top recommendations for the best boba in Seattle so that you can get straight to drinking.
Before jumping into my recommended boba shops, for those who don’t know what boba is, here is a primer.
Boba is a topping (although I prefer the term addition) added to drinks. It’s often made from tapioca flour and brown sugar which gives it its dark brown color and chewy consistency.
Balls of tapioca flour and water, are mixed and rolled together before being cut into the recognizable ball shape. Because of its weight, the tapioca balls often float to the bottom the drink. The balls are often cut so that they fit through a thick straw. They tend to come in 1 centimeter diameter but many places also serve boba that is around half the size.
Whereas most drinks are liquid, the chewy consistency of the boba mixes with the drink to provide a new and refreshing experience. Just think of the boba as speed bumps and don’t drink too fast, otherwise you might end of like this guy:
Strictly speaking, bubble tea is different from boba tea though many people use the words interchangeably. Bubble tea is used to refer to tea that is shaken in a way that it causes bubbles to form. The bubbles aren’t so much the tapioca balls, but instead the result of agitating the sealed drink.
So, you can have a bubble tea drink that doesn’t have boba balls added to it.
Additionally, instead of saying tapioca, boba, or boba balls, some people also refer to the balls themselves as pearls. Some places that have “pearl tea” or [some kind of drink] with pearls means that it includes the boba. In many cases, you can choose to omit the pearls or even swap them out with other additions. Some people sometimes even refer to getting boba, as just getting a tea drink.
That’s enough rambling. Now to my boba shop recommendations!
Best from Hong Kong
When planning for a trip to Hong Kong, I remember bookmarking a boba tea shop called “Don’t Yell at Me.” When I saw this name come up in my local search, I was super excited to give the boba a try. We got the Rose Milk Tea (玫瑰鮮奶茶 / mei gui xian nai cha)and Osmanthus Milk Tea (桂花鮮奶茶 / gui hua xian nai cha) with brown sugar pearls.
The drink itself was nice. I loved how the floral notes came right through and the tea flavor was prominent. The boba was above average: not too soft, not too hard, and not too sweet.
They also have sweet potato & taro balls as well as golden honey pearl as toppings that you can add to your drink. I would be down to give these toppings a try next time.
Located a stones throw from Cal Anderson Park in the Pike/Pine neighbhorhood of Seattle is an unassuming shop bubble tea shop called, Atulea. What it lacks in looks outside, it more than makes up for it inside with decor that will take you straight to that tropical paradise.
Tropical foliage, paired up with white tile creates a vibe that is as refreshing as their drinks. They’re known for their wide selection of instagrammable matcha drinks (including the eye-catching Ube Matcha with homemade ube halaya and ceremonial grade matcha).
We elected to go a little lighter on the caffeine side and got the Lychee Rose and Jasmine Milk Tea. Both were great to drink. The flavors were subtle and the boba was pretty good as well.
Best After a Night on the Town
Long ago, when I wanted boba, Oasis Tea Zone was one of the few options available, especially near Capital Hill. That said, I have fond memories of eating dinner in the area, possibly getting molten chocolate cakes from Hot Cakes, and finishing off with an almond milk tea with boba.
I would put this place above Quickly. If you’re looking for a smoothie or slush with boba, this is probably a decent place to drop by. There is also a location in International District, if you are in that area.
Best Tea Selection
Located on University Way, Tea Republik is a relatively small and dark cafe that often has students studying. What it lacks in flashiness, it more than makes up with its wide selection of teas. It’s the kind of selection that will have you staring at the menu for a while.
Want a black tea? There are at least nine choices.
Perhaps you want a white tea? You have your pick of six different kinds.
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that though people consider this a boba shop (in the sense that they have milk and fruit teas), they don’t actually have pearls—something to be aware of if your looking for the QQ.
Best Boba Shop Near Lake Union
20 OZ Tea is my pick for best boba near Lake Union, east of the lake to be exact. It’s a small, no-frills shop that is bright and airy. Their menu is simple, but they take care in making their drinks using quality ingredients.
We got a strawberry milk tea and black jasmine milk tea with boba.
I couldn’t taste the vanilla in the black jasmine, but the black tea and jasmine tea flavor stood out to me. The boba was also a nice consistency as if it had recently been made.
Best for Rice Drinks
Maybe this drink shop shouldn’t be in this list, but I’m going to put it here anyway. Yomie’s Rice & Yogurt is a shop specializing in rice and yogurt drinks over in Bellevue. I’ve previously had purple rice as a topping in milk tea, but this was a little different as the drink was more thick.
We got the Yomie’s Purple Rice Yogurt (their number one best seller) and mango yogurt.
If you’re planning on enjoying this drink after a meal, think again. The yogurt is pretty thick (like a smoothie) and the rice, is well, rice. Despite its small and cute size, this drink might be best enjoyed as brunch or a small meal supplement. Even though it was different than other drinks I had, I still enjoyed it.
Best Chain Boba Shop
When it comes to larger chain boba shops in Seattle, there are a few. My top choice has to be Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea.
Yifang has a broad selection of boba drinks to choose from, including the Brown Sugar Pearl Latte (which is a fresh milk drink with brown sugar drizzle and boba) and Yifang Fruit Tea (an assortment of cut fresh fruit with passionfruit puree).
Like quite a few bubble tea shops on this list, Yifang does not use artificial ingredients or syrups. For quality tapioca pearls, this is probably my top choice. The boba is almost always fresh which in turn makes for boba that is warm, chewy, and just the right amount of sweetness.
Best Paired with Dim Sum
Any place that calls itself the best of anything, I’m always a bit dubious about. Seattle Best Tea does a pretty good job living up to its name. For me, although its not my top boba pick overall, it is great in the sense that the tea is brewed well and brewed strong.
If they were able to mix some of their unique teas with milk and boba, that would be something. Instead, for milk bubble tea options, they have black, jasmine, and a slew of flavors like kiwi and honeydew. It seems a little weird to have so many teas and yet to default to black and jasmine tea.
Anyway, if you can skip the tapioca pearls and go with some nice tea, it makes a great accompaniment to nearby takeout dim sum. I got a Dong Ding Oolong and was instantly transported back to Taiwan.
Jade Garden anyone?
Best Boba in Seattle Overall
My pick for the best boba in Seattle has to be Young Tea.
As a tea lover, I love boba drinks that have a noticeably strong tea profile. I also love boba shops that try to accentuate the flavor of a tea versus hiding it. Young Tea hits it out of the park with these and the following plusses:
- Their boba is great
- There’s a wide variety of drinks to choose from
- The tea is brewed strong
- Any kind of fruit drink doesn’t use syrup to achieve the flavor
- The care they put into their drinks is noticeable
One more thing. Who doesn’t love an endearing auntie figure—making sure that you’re well taken care of and that your drink order is all that it can be?
Best Right Outside of Seattle
Unique bottles are gimmicky, but when done right, they can enhance the drinking experience. One place that turns your drink order into a canned drink (if you wish) across Lake Washington and that does it well is Tra Tea & Juice Bar.
What makes this shop stand out from others in the area, is the Vietnamese influence. This influence shows up in terms of drinks that are refreshingly fruity. Where else can you get a Vietnamese coffee ice cream float with black boba also?
We got a Lychee Tea & Chia, Strawberry Milk Tea, and Mixed Fruit Lemonade. Would get any of these drinks again. They were all great, though I would probably aim for lower sweetness levels personally.
Other Quality Options in Bellevue
If you’re in Bellevue and want to give another boba tea option a try, I have two recommendations. The first is Coco Fresh Tea & Juice. They are a pretty large chain with a formula that works well. I feel like the drinks from Coco taste fresher in Taiwan, but I also haven’t been able to determine this definitively.
Regardless, I haven’t been disappointed with any of my drink choices from Coco Fresh Tea & Juice.
This particular time, I got a grapefruit green tea.
My second recommendation outside of Seattle proper is Mr. Wish.
I first experienced Mr. Wish in Taiwan while eating my way through Fengchia Night Market. Ever since, I’ve been hooked. My favorite drink to get is the Colorful Fruit Tea. If you enjoy fruit teas with your boba, and love the ability to suck up bits and pieces of fruit, colorful fruit tea is where its at.
Unlike many boba shops that use large pieces of cut fruit to flavor and make drinks more visually appealing, Mr. Wish cuts up their fruit so that it can be sucked up through a boba straw. I’m a huge fan.
As I check out more boba shops in Seattle, I hope to update this list. If you have a favorite I should check out, don’t hesitate to let me know!
Still on my list to check out:
- Boba Bar
- DIY Tea Lab
- Boba Up