Seattle has a fair amount of bubble tea places. (Well, compared to five years ago. We’re still not at Vancouver levels.) But what’s the best place?
Personally, I have two – and one’s in Bellevue.
Okay, this is super subjective, because what makes for a good bubble tea? Honestly, whatever you like. Here’s what *I* like:
- A moderate chew on the tapioca (and I’ll pretty much take any topping but coffee jelly)
- 50-60% sugar in general, 75% for black sugar
- The option to go as low as unsweetened when I feel like it
- A clear tea flavor, with milky sweetness
Is there a ‘winner’? No. They’re both good, and I like them for different reasons. Young Tea doesn’t replace Drive Thru Boba, and vice versa. I’m mainly hoping you get to try them both and see what you think.
Bellevue: Drive Thru Boba
10435 NE 4th St, Bellevue, WA
I go to Drive Thru Boba, or DTB, a lot, even though it means going to Bellevue, because they make excellent bubble tea. Good chew, decent amount of boba, sugar options from 25-100%, and their tea is strong and clear without being overpowering. Their specials include an epic black sugar and the most gentle almond milk tea.
Also, they occasionally sell this really nicely chewy Taiwanese-style mochi filled with anything from black sesame paste to strawberry shortcake. Get the mochi if it’s available. Just get it. It’s probably the best locally made ‘beginner’s mochi’ we have.
For newbies, going to DTB is super confusing. (Even for regulars it can be a bit of a hassle, so if you’re feeling lost, roll with it.) Their hours change constantly, along with their specials, so you need to go on Facebook and check before you head over. And they do run out of boba, which for some people is too much for them to bear.
Also, I’ve had more than one person feel underdressed going in. There are some fancy people stopping here for boba. (Lots of startups and women with fancy purses.)
To have the best possible visit, go on Thursdays. They’re usually less packed that day, so if you go early you’ve got a good chance of a short line and getting whatever your boba heart desires.
Pros: Tasty bubble tea, good boba, nice range from 25-100% sugar
Cons: Awkward hours, all the fancy peeps, can’t regularly get my mochi fix
Favorite drink: 50% house milk, 75% black sugar
Seattle: Young Tea
609 S Weller St, Seattle, WA
Young Tea is easy to overlook, since it’s up a flight of stairs and the only easily visible sign is a sandwich board. (I wish it was ADA compliant. I’d send everyone there.) Still, it’s worth passing Oasis to check this tiny shop out.
In contrast to Drive Thru Boba, Young Tea has a huge regular menu, with over twenty options. And they even offer a pot of their house made syrup in case the sugar level isn’t to your liking.
I go here a lot because Young Tea sells my favorite beginner bubble tea drink: a black sugar bubble tea that tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios milk with a tea afternote, and tons of tapioca. (Chris considers it to be too much tapioca. It’s seriously like half boba.) Their tea is awesome, the boba has a good chew, and you can tweak the sweetness. You can’t go wrong.
(Also, they have the best narrow bags for taking boba to go. I think they’re adorable.)
Unlike DTB, they almost always have treats available, usually egg tarts and cookies. Some are made in house, some aren’t, but if you need something that will go well with tea Uwajimaya’s across the street.
They have some tables for chilling out, and I’ve seen a lot of study groups there. (Probably because it’s generally quieter than Oasis or Gossip.) But during busy times it’s quickly standing room only. Thankfully they’re pretty fast, so you won’t be waiting too long.
Pros: Tasty bubble tea, good boba, good space to study in, more treats
Cons: Not ADA compliant thanks to stairs, lines can get long
Favorite drink: 80% Black sugar bubble tea