Bubble tea, also known as boba, is a Taiwanese import that consists of hot or cold tea mixed with fruit, milk, and chewy tapioca balls. Visit San Francisco right now, and you’ll find a city in the throes of a bubble tea craze. At shops like TPumps, lines often stretch around the corner (pictured), just like at Tartine Bakery. And a couple of pop-up entrepreneurs who call themselves the Boba Guys are about to go brick-and-mortar in the new food mecca of the Mission.

Bad bubble tea is usually too sweet, made with less-than-optimal ingredients like powdered milk and cheap teas. Good boba has fresh ingredients, and strikes a nice balance between sweet and tannic—all the elements on display at these three shops that serve the city’s best, according to recent talk on Chowhound.

• Premium-quality teas and attention to drink temperature make TPumps one of SF’s finest purveyors, killersmile says.

• So-called iced milk drinks with pudding instead of tapioca boba balls are the thing at PurpleKow. Good if you like sweet, rich desserts, bigwheel042 says, plus the shop stays open late.

• A commitment to quality ingredients makes Wonderful Foods the real deal, says Melanie Wong, who likes the milk shake boba with real taro.

TPumps [Outer Sunset]
1916 Irving Street, San Francisco
No phone number available

PurpleKow [Outer Richmond]
3620 Balboa Street, San Francisco

Wonderful Foods [Outer Sunset]
2035 Irving Street, San Francisco

Discuss: TPumps – New bubble tea place in Outer Sunset, SF
Broken rice plate at Kim Son, and bubble tea at Purple Kow [San Francisco]
Lam Hoa Thuan and Wonderful Foods – Sunset

Photo by Flickr member Gary Soup under Creative Commons

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