Best boba (bubbles) tea in DC, Maryland and Virginia
Growing up in San Francisco, I consumed boba almost weekly like a delighted child in a candy store, much to my mother’s chagrin. This slurping was not in vain; I now know my way around this tea-soaked world. The best boba shops tempt you with the aroma of freshly brewed tea, ripe fruit and milk options, and most importantly, a warm and pleasantly chewy boba. I admit it: I am a boba snob.
This summer, I set out on a hunt for the best boba tea in the DMV. I went to 20 stores (avoiding the more established chains Gong Cha, Kung Fu Tea and Sharetea) and found that to taste the best boba – or bubble, tapioca, whatever you call it – you may have to -be take the subway or grab a car and head to the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Here are 10 spots that are worth seeing.
How to make bubble tea – boba included – from scratch
AunTea Boba: Where can you have boba with a side of barbecue? Only at AunTea. Owners Jeremy Canlas and his father Juan opened a location of this local chain alongside their Truxton Circle Supreme Barbecue restaurant in 2021, marrying two of their favorite dishes. Indulge in the most decadent drink on the menu, the ‘halo-halo’ smoothie topped with mixed ube, red beans, coconut jelly and flan, inspired by one of Canlas’ favorite Filipino desserts. Or try freshly brewed teas and combinations like grain milk, strawberry matcha and Vietnamese coffee. If the Texan-style brisket with boba isn’t for you, AunTea’s Popcorn Chicken and Lumpia (which includes vegetarian options) offer a nice salty crunch. AunTea’s original location is inside Gigi’s Kitchen in Fort Washington, Maryland, and the duo plans to expand to Annandale, Virginia. $5 to $8 for a drink. Locations in DC and Maryland (Lanham and Fort Washington). auntaboba.com.
BeauTea: A full day of shopping in Georgetown can dry you out, but BeauTea’s wonderfully fruity and milky drinks can set you up for round two. BeauTea came to fruition in 2019, when Shandong-born Leopold Liao sought to introduce a taste of his homeland to a boba market saturated with Taiwanese and Hong Kong flavors. Behind white marble walls and counters, workers brew your choice of a dozen toppings in slim, sturdy mugs, which can be accompanied by a shot of tequila, rum, or vodka for $3 more. The best drinks here are passion fruit green tea with sliced fruit (pie!), royal pu’er tea (earthy!), and mixed fruit drinks (dragon fruit!). $4 to $8 for a drink. 1073 Wisconsin Ave NW. beauteadc.com.
Ben Gong tea: Founded in 2014, Ben Gong’s Tea dishes fruity and creamy drinks made to order in major Chinese cities and a handful of locations overseas. Mango Pomelo Sago is the ultimate fruit tea, harmonizing luscious tangy pomelo with sweet, creamy mangoes and creamy cold porridge. For those who prefer something creamier, try the special boba milk tea and burnt caramel cheese tea. Ben Gong’s has four locations in the area, but I recommend the Annandale location because of its convenient dining options next door: Tea in hand, you can head to K Market Food Court for a mouth-watering Korean feast. $4 to $7 for a drink. Locations in Maryland (Ellicott City and Gaithersburg) and Virginia (Annandale and Centerville). bengongstea.us.
Bobapop tea bar: Even if you haven’t heard of Bobapop, you’ve probably seen its mascot on mugs all over town: an adorable French bulldog holding up a cup of tea. bobapop sources teas from Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam and brews beverages in small batches. Gaithersburg resident Sam Lin and his wife, Susan Hsu, were inspired by the Bobapop philosophy and opened the first Bobapop store in the United States in Kentlands in 2018. Now you can treat yourself to beverages like tea at the Japanese brown rice milk, Korean banana milk and grapefruit. guava with homemade toppings and matcha latte art at four area locations. $5 to $7 for a drink. Locations in Maryland (Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Rockville) and Virginia (Falls Church). bobapopdmv.com.
Chill Zone Cafe: Origami cranes and flowers lead you inside this Arlington café that serves drinks, Vietnamese specials and an impeccably laid-back vibe. Since 2017, says owner Daniel Bui, the family business has ensured that all ingredients are fresh and organic, including his mother-in-law’s signature Vietnamese recipes, according to a interview with Connection Logs. Must-try menu items are Vietnamese iced coffee, mango smoothie, and taro lattes. Chill Zone is also the perfect place to work – patrons can kick off their shoes to relax on the café seats while sipping their boba and Vietnamese pho. If you’re lucky, a worker will teach you how to fold a paper crane to add to the café’s collection. $5 to $8 for a drink. 2442 N. Harrison St., Arlington, Va. chillzonecafe.com.
Mr. To wish:As far as fresh fruit teas go, none have been more slurpable than the Wish Special Fruit Tea, which comes with four blended fruit juices and chewy fruit and boba chunks. If four fruits aren’t enough, Mr. Wish’s Colorful Fruit Tea packs six fruits into one icy tropical sip. Try other delicacies on the menu at this Taiwanese fruit tea franchise: sparkling water with homemade fruit puree, cheesy frothy teas and classic milk tea options. $4 to $6 for a drink. Locations in Maryland (Rockville) and Virginia (Falls Church and Herndon). mrwishusa.com.
Pow Tea Shop: Customers order from large iPads and choose from fresh fruit teas and mixed iced drinks in every color of the rainbow at this shop tucked away in a Chinatown poke restaurant. Favorites I’ve tasted include the Guavicito, which features green tea, guava, and fresh strawberries, and the Rocket Pop Frozen Lemonade, which features frozen lemonade, strawberry, hibiscus, and blue raspberry flavors. that will give your tongue a fun color. For those who can’t get enough cereal milk, Pow Tea serves fruit cereal and Cinnamon Toast Crunch milk with boba. The drinks are sweeter than expected, so I recommend 50% sugar or less. $4 to $7 for a drink. 806 H St. NW. order.snackpass.co.
SecretTea: Founded in 2017, this Foggy Bottom boba shop caters primarily to students at nearby George Washington University and offers iconic drinks like Zangzang Cha (milk mixed with flavors such as Oreo or Mango) and milk tea (cheesecake flavored tea). You would think that the signature Secret Tea would contain more than sweetened milk, tea and sugar. But this sublime combination of three ingredients does not need to be added. SecreTea serves more than teas and desserts, and the ice cream, boba cuts and banh mi sandwiches will also delight. Fair warning: the shop’s website isn’t fully up to date with seasonal flavors and drinks it no longer serves. $4 to $6 for a drink. 1959 E St. NW. secretadc.com
tea stain: This mini-chain offers a few traditional flavors such as Kyoto’s classic milk tea and matcha, but expect to find drink combinations that don’t exist elsewhere in the city – this is not the boba shop of your mother. Founded in 2017, Spot of Tea began as a pop-up at farmers markets around town before finding two permanent locations in the Streets Market at 14th Street and Union Market. The trio of owners – Dillon Chai, David Cooper and Glenn Baginski – started Spot of Tea after opening a boba shop on the Rice University campus. Five years later, they’re dispensing drinks as vibrant as oil paintings: Blue Jasmine Tea, Palmer Pineapple and Strawberry Matcha blend complementary colors in clear cups and make for a stunning photo opportunity. You can’t go wrong with Spot of Tea’s fresh ingredients, seasonal flavors and alternative milk options. $5 to $7 for a drink. Multiple locations in DC drinkspotoftea.square.site.
Teas’n You: Strawberry matcha latte belongs squarely in the canon of boba tea after boba guys popularized in San Francisco. Teas’n You’s version does not disappoint: fresh strawberry pulp and creamy matcha whipped in ‘dalgona’ complete this standout drink. Other drinks to try include Vietnamese coffee, fruit-infused “SpecialTea” and anything from the matcha and strawberry series. If the drinks alone aren’t enough to draw you to Tysons Corner, order the crispy Taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil, cream puffs or mochi muffins. $5 to $8 for a drink. 8032 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, Virginia. teasnyou.com.