San Diego, CA

The Best Bubble Tea in San Diego


Ah, boba. If I were to write about our love story, it would encompass an entire book. You’ve been there for me during my hardest times, during my ups, during my downs, always providing the tartness I longed for after a heavy session of all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. Boys have come and gone, but you know who’s never left me? Boba.

I first became infatuated with bubble tea in high school. My friends and I would head to the mall and grab our drinks before going ‘shopping’, which would really just be perusing clothing we couldn’t afford and giggling over things we found at Spencer’s. After graduating, I headed off to college in Baltimore, which was a boba wasteland. There was absolutely nowhere to get decent drinks. For four years, my thirst for bubble tea slowly built up until I moved to San Diego, where I proceeded to get boba 3-4 times a week to quench my deep desire. I would also get 2-4 drinks each time (not a habit I recommend but I have no regrets). All in all, I have tried at least thirty different boba shops in San Diego (that I can remember!) Which leads me to believe that I am, at least somewhat, qualified to tell you about the different shops here. Please keep in mind that this list is subjective because at the end of the day, we all have different tastes and preferences. When I first started my boba journey, I loved drinks that were super sweet, and artificially flavored. Now that I’ve gotten older, I prefer drinks that taste more ‘natural’ and tart. So if you don’t find your favorite boba place on this list, please don’t murder me.

1. Dayung Tea

I still remember the very first drink I got from Dayung when they first opened approximately a year and a half ago. It was their Pink Beauty, made from fresh grapefruit. I was SHOOK at how refreshing and tangy this drink was. It tasted exactly like a grapefruit, but better somehow. It was the perfect balance of sweet and sour, with grapefruit pulp mixed in. We then got their fresh fruit tea, which is exactly what it sounds like: a brunch of fresh fruit juice stuffed with fruit in a cup. It includes grapefruit juice, orange juice, and lemon juice. You’re given a fork with that one so that you can eat the fruit slices! I rank Dayung the highest because you can really taste the quality of the tea and fruit they put in their drinks. There are no artificial flavors or powders added. They’re perfect for a hot summer day or when you’re craving something tangy after a fatty meal (KBBQ, hot pot, etc). I HIGHLY recommend the strawberry fresh milk (strawberry pulp mixed with whole milk, no caffeine!) and their jade lemon, which is a green tea based drink. Did you know Jade lemons actually look like limes and originate from the humid regions of southeast China? I’d like to think they’re the fancier version of regular lemons. I also ADORE their wintermelon lemon drink. If you have never had wintermelon, I recommend trying it at least once! It has a smoky, caramely, almost butterscotchy flavor. You’ll either love it or hate it! I honestly would recommend any of their fruit drinks. The only one that I personally have not liked is the papaya fresh milk. All in all, Dayung really elevated the fruit tea game in San Diego. They have plenty of non-caffeinated options, which is a big plus for me. You can find them in Convoy and Scripps Ranch.

2. Tan Cha

I first became obsessed with Tan Cha when I was in the bay area- besides that they had good boba, they had FLUFFY PANCAKES! That’s right, they have multiple flavors of soufflé pancakes, the jggly, wobbly pancakes from Japan that are taking the world by storm! If you don’t know what they are, just google them. Those things are taking over the internet. At Tan Cha you can get them for $8 and choose from crème brulee, original, brown sugar boba, mango, strawberry and tiramisu. My personal favorite is the brown sugar boba. Speaking of brown sugar boba, Tan Cha has my favorite version of this drink in all of San Diego. This liquid gold has exploded in popularity in recent years and almost all boba shops offer it now- it’s essentially boba pearls that have been steeped in brown sugar to produce a caramely flavor. It’s typically paired with regular milk, though Tan Cha does offer a version with tea as well. Tan Cha really packs theirs full of brown sugar so that the flavors BURST in your mouth. This drink is essentially a dessert stuffed into a cup, so first-timers beware. Other drinks that I have found delightful include their Uji Matcha (arguably the finest type of matcha, and a rare find in San Diego) and their white peach oolong with cheese foam. Now I know what you’re thinking- CHEESE FOAM? WTF? But do not fear dear readers, it’s not actually made of straight cheese. Usually it’s a mix of cream cheese and milk, sometimes condensed milk. Salt can be added as well. Some boba shops *cough* Happy Lemon *cough* CAN taste a bit cheesy, but Tan Cha’s is more on the creamy/sweet side. Oh, and Tan Cha’s top seller, the royal Ceylon Milk tea, comes with tiramisu flavored foam on top! They even give you a tiny shovel to scoop it up to eat if you’d like. All in all, Tan Cha has really raised the bar when it comes to high quality drinks. And soufflé pancakes are a MUST. I don’t care what your argument is, you HAVE to try them. You can find Tan Cha in Convoy and Mission Valley.

3. Happy Lemon

Ah, Happy Lemon. They serve my favorite twist on the milk tea out there: the oreo milk tea with puff cream. This milk tea embodies one of my favorite morning activities, which is having bitter black tea with a dessert on the side. I get this drink at 50% sugar, so it’s essentially bitter milk tea with sweet oreo and dense sweet cream mixed in. CHEF’S KISS. They also serve an amazing mango matcha drink, which my boyfriend and I quickly started fighting over (and he claims to not like matcha!). Overall, Happy Lemon has a strong portfolio of milk teas, fresh lemon teas (you can get flavors such as kumquat and yakult!) smoothies, and salted cheese teas (not for the faint of heart, but I recommend you trying at least once! That’s the drink they’re most known for) There are locations in Del Mar, Convoy, UTC, and East Lake.

4. Good Moments Tea Bar

The true maverick of boba shops out there. Hailing from Chula Vista, GMT’s menu boasts of a swath of boba drinks with combinations you would have never thought of. Peppermint and matcha? Dark chocolate and strawberries? Thai tea and lemonade? They’ve got it all. My personal favorites include Kyoto in Summer, which is matcha mixed with strawberry puree, and the Benimo, which is made of an ube/taro like mixture. They’re an amazing local business and when dine in is allowed, they serve good desserts and savory items as well. The dessert I would die for is their mango sticky rice with coconut ice cream, served with cream. TO DIE FOR.

And now for the honorable mentions!

-Matcha Maiko for their matcha lemon drink (FEEL THE SOUR)

-Gotcha café-overall good quality drinks!

-Rare Tea- they have a great wintermelon drink!

-Camellia rd- pricey but VERY high quality teas. Their Scottish Caramel is quite amazing.

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram page, foodventurewithanna, for more delicious bites. Check out my youtube worldventurewithanna if you need something to laugh at!

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Covering the latest and greatest in San Diego! Follow me on instagram for more food porn! My food page is foodventurewithanna, my personal is worldventurewithanna. You can also find me on youtube under worldventurewithanna :) Thank you for your support!

San Diego, CA

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