If you’re searching for boba—that sweet, syrupy Taiwanese drink with tapioca pearls— look no further.
Although the beverage is served aplenty around San Francisco, there's a special concentration of shops in the Sunset, along Irving Street, where the number of milk tea spots outnumbers coffee shops.
But with so many boba places, how can you possibly choose which one to visit?
With that question in mind, we tried out four Irving Street boba shops to make your decision that much easier.
Tpumps (1916 Irving) sells a wide selection of teas, pearls, slushies, and smoothies. Even though a line extended almost to the door at the Irving shop this past Tuesday, at least four employees hustled behind the counter to keep things moving. (Pro tip: Tpumps offers small and large cups of boba at identical prices on Tuesdays.)
Said one Hoodline taste tester of Tpumps’ mango, peach, and passionfruit milk tea, “It’s very smooth without being overpowering, and it has good, chewy pearls.”
Another taster said his cookie dough and salted caramel tea was “very syrupy.”
Many customers lament that this location serves overly sweet teas. As is the case with boba shops, you can tell Tpumps employees how much sugar you want in your drink. We suggest going with light or no sugar.
Wonderful Dessert & Café
Despite a wonderful selection of candy and sweet treats, Wonderful Dessert & Café's (2035 Irving) décor is decidedly lacking. Only one person worked behind the counter and seating consisted of exactly four chairs.
Unlike our other pit stops, this one was the sole cash-only establishment. That may be why drinks were the cheapest: a small boba tea cost just $2.75 versus the more than $3.50 we paid elsewhere.
Still, Wonderful's menu offers an uncontested variety of tapioca: “almond, coconut, mint, sesame, peanut, ginger, honeydew, chocolate, coffee, red bean, and many more.”
The jasmine milk tea we had was a tad too sweet, and the tapioca pearls had a firmer consistency than Tpumps' pearls — they also clumped together.
One boba enthusiast ordered a “plum puree,” which made her scrunch up her face and describe it as “very tart.”
The Sunset's Quickly menu (2116 Irving) boasts some hilariously labeled items, like “flirty milk” — a shake-like drink made with Nutella — and the option to “add a banana to your snow for only 50 cents.”
“It’s vaguely nostalgic,” said someone who sampled the "flirty milk." “It tastes like chocolate milk, but thicker.”
Another taste tester tried a peppermint tea, which he pushed away after one sip and said that it tasted “medicinal." A hazelnut-flavored drink had a similar generic, syrupy flavor.
Still, the sheer size and variety of the menu make this boba spot worth a visit — plus it offers ample seating.
We tried a caramel “pudding and pearl” with light sweetness, which had a less syrupy flavor than Tpumps. The tapioca had a good chewy consistency and did not clump together, but the pudding tasted like bland tofu.
One taster declared his tarot milk tea with no added sugar as his favorite boba drink that he tried.
Other customers have called this place one of the best spots to get boba, praising the quick service and diverse menu options (although some snipe over the $15 card minimum).
Don't see your favorite boba shop listed here? Tell us about your go-to boba joint in the comments.
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