In recent years, boba tea—also known as bubble tea—has taken the country by storm. The drink, consisting of tapioca balls and a flavored tea, was originally created in Taiwan in the 1980s and was brought over time to the United States by Taiwanese immigrants. New boba shops have popped up throughout the D.C. area as demand has increased, especially among young people.
As avid boba consumers, we took it upon ourselves to determine which shops are the best based on specific criteria—ambiance, accessibility, price, boba, tea, ratio of boba to tea and overall variety of flavors—to give each of the six stores a grade out of 10 and rank them. When generating the overall rating, we weighted the tea and boba twice as much as all the other aspects. At each shop, we ordered the smallest size of black milk tea with boba, which is considered to be the most classic flavor, and all of the prices that we list include tax, but not a tip. Even though our rankings are based on our own preferences, we understand that other people might have different tastes, and we hope that we provide enough details that readers can decide for themselves which shops to visit.
1. ShareTea in Chinatown
519 H St NW, Washington, D.C., 20001
ShareTea is a little shop located near Capital One Arena in Chinatown. It is very close to the Gallery Place Metro stop, and there are also some bus lines running nearby. However, there was not much parking. Although the store only does online orders and does not have indoor seating, ShareTea is perfect for getting boba on the go. The wait time is not too bad—in our experience, typically under 10 minutes—especially if you order on the way there. It has a good variety of flavors, with drinks like “honey lemonade with aloe vera.” Its classic milk tea with boba was great—fresh, not too big boba and a perfect tea flavor that was on the sweeter side. Its portions are also very big for the price. The smallest size cost $6.30 and was definitely large enough for two people to split. Overall, ShareTea is a really good boba shop, and we would definitely recommend it.
Boba to milk ratio: 9.5/10
Overall Rating: 8.1/10
2. Gong Cha in Georgetown
3279 M St NW, Washington, D.C., 20007
Located in the busiest part of Georgetown, Gong Cha is a popular destination for people visiting the neighborhood. Since Georgetown does not have a Metro stop, and its buses run intermittently, the store is not very accessible. Gong Cha has many classic flavors and some unique ones, such as “lemon winter melon with basil seeds,” that are rotated on a seasonal basis. It has a good amount of seating and a nice, modern vibe with neon boba signs on the wall. The workers were really friendly and helpful. Gong Cha’s classic milk tea with boba was $6, and we thought the boba and milk were really solid. Our only criticisms were that the boba were a bit too chewy and the milk tea was a little too sweet. We would recommend Gong Cha to anyone, but especially those who are trying boba for the first time because of its welcoming vibe and easy-to-understand menu.
Boba to milk ratio: 9.5/10
Overall Rating: 7.9/10
3. Möge Tee in Glover Park
2428 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 20007
Möge Tee is a solid boba spot situated on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park. It is not very close to a Metro stop, but there are some buses close by, so it has decent accessibility. The shop has an interesting and modern decor as well as a lot of seating. Möge Tee offers many different flavors and toppings other than the classic bubbles, and the flavor we found most interesting was “cheese foam osmanthus oolong tea.” Its classic milk tea with boba was $6.33. The tea was one of the best that we had out of the six stores’; it had the perfect, not-too-sweet flavor, and we would drink it on its own. The bubbles were definitely good, but some of them had a strange consistency—their insides were hard and their outsides were falling apart—and there were a few too many of them.
Boba to milk ratio: 8/10
Overall Rating: 7.7/10
4. Teaism in Dupont Circle
2009 R St NW, Washington, D.C., 20009
Teaism is a D.C.-based teahouse, and the location we visited was in Dupont Circle, close to the Metro station and a lot of bus routes. The interior had an earthy and warm vibe and was decorated really well. It also had a cool and stately facade on the outside. Teaism is primarily not a boba shop—it mainly serves other foods and drinks. (Nico also bought a bento box, which was a 7.5/10). The teahouse did not have too many flavor options for boba, but it had all the classics. We thought that the tea was high quality but the crushed ice diluted it over time. The boba was okay, but the texture was slightly off. If you are in the neighborhood, we would recommend visiting Teaism (for boba or for other food and drinks).
Boba to milk ratio: 9/10
Overall Rating: 7.1/10
5. BeauTea in Georgetown
1073 Wisconsin Ave NW 1st Floor, Washington, D.C., 20007
BeauTea, like Gong Cha, is located in a pretty busy part of Georgetown, also with below-average accessibility. Although the inside looked clean and modern, it smelled putrid. You can order at a digital kiosk or at a bar. Unfortunately, BeauTea had the most expensive boba out of all the shops we visited. There wasn’t a black milk tea flavor, so we got chai, which was pretty good. However, the boba were way too chewy and not solid enough. There was a decent variety of flavors; a notable one was “spooky pumpkin milk tea” (Nico had tried it in the past, and it was terrible). We did notice that you can add a shot of alcohol to your tea, unlike most shops, which is a plus depending on your age. BeauTea could be worth a visit, but it definitely has some issues.
Boba to milk ratio: 8.5/10
Overall Rating: 5.4/10
6. Pow Tea in Chinatown
806 H St NW, Washington, D.C., 20001
Pow Tea is situated in Chinatown, a little bit further than ShareTea from the Gallery Place Metro station, but there was parking outside of the shop. It is in the same building as a poké bowl restaurant, so there is also a food option. There were lots of tables with stools and modern decorations, and there was a kiosk where we digitally ordered. Its menu offered all the classic boba tea flavors, plus a lot of interesting ones like cereal-flavored boba drinks. For some reason, its classic milk tea only came with lactose-free milk, which normally tastes slightly different from normal milk. But this particular milk tea tasted really strange, and the bubbles themselves were pretty big and stale. The size of the boba meant that there was a disproportionate ratio between the tea and boba. There are far better boba places, so do not waste your time going here.
Boba to milk ratio: 5/10
Overall Rating: 5.2/10