Best boba tea in San Diego

Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista –
Kung Fu Tea is a boba tea chain with locations throughout the U.S.

Boba tea is becoming increasingly popular in San Diego, as evidenced by the countless tea shops that have opened up in the last decade. Most of them are situated around Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa. With its large Asian immigrant population, Kearny Mesa has some of the most authentic boba tea around.

For those of you that have never experienced the unique Asian drink that is boba tea, it is typically a sweet, black milk-tea drink with gummy tapioca balls at the bottom of the cup. “Boba” itself is the Chinese name for the small balls of tapioca, which are placed in a multitude of tea and coffee drinks.

This list features five of the best boba tea shops in San Diego, all of which are within a 10 to 15 minute drive of campus. The list is in no particular order, and all five have different specialties and are worth a try.

1. Up2You Cafe II ($)

The editor’s pick of the five, Up2You Cafe II is a short drive from campus and is located just down Linda Vista Road. The milk-tea quality at Up2You is up there with the best, and the ambiance is relaxed and trendy. USD students rave about the honey toast, and the cafe is also known for its crepes and other desserts. In addition to the regular milk-tea with boba, the black sugar milk-tea is worth a try—it’s sweet with a hint of caramel. Up2You has board games that you are able to check out, and there are almost always groups of young adults playing them on weekends. There is also another Up2You location in the heart of Convoy, but it’s much smaller and usually more crowded. For good boba tea that’s super close to campus, you can’t beat Up2You Cafe II.

2. Square Bar ($)

Square Bar is a place that seems to be struggling to find its identity, although it boasts some standout coffee and tea drinks. A fairly new spot in Convoy, Square Bar launched itself into the boba tea scene through its social media campaign, notably on Instagram. The black and white sleek walls and decor at Square Bar are perfect for backgrounds for Instagram posts and Snapchat stories, and it is fairly obvious that the cafe is hoping to bring in younger customers.

Square Bar also has some great drinks, one of the most popular being the “Fifty/Fifty,” which is iced milk with egg pudding, caramel, and honey boba. However, the service can be spotty at best, and it can take a long time to get your drinks due to out-the-door lines. Yelpers have also complained that Square Bar is trying to do too many things at once by offering ice cream, pastries, boba, popcorn chicken, and other menu items. However, the drinks are definitely worth the wait—they really are that good, which is why it makes the top five list. Despite the complaints about the service at Square Bar, the quality of their drinks is arguably the best of all the places in this list.

3. Kung Fu Tea ($)

Kung Fu Tea is a chain store with many locations across the United States. Despite not having the same charm as a mom-and-pop cafe, it does serve delicious boba tea. Kung Fu Tea is always consistent, and they never run out of anything or mess up your order. Essentially, it does exactly what it advertises: serve some good tea. Popular choices include the Kung Fu green milk-tea with boba, taro milk-tea with boba, and mango slush. Also located in the heart of Convoy, the shop is clean and simple, but perhaps does not have the same charm as some of the others. For consistently good boba, Kung Fu Tea is always a solid pick.

4. Infinitea ($)

Possibly the most authentic store out of the five, Infinitea serves quality boba tea, and also features a selection of ethnic Chinese and Hong Kongese foods. The matcha green milk-tea is a fan-favorite, as well as their popcorn chicken, which are menu items most people are likely to enjoy. For the more adventurous, or those looking for authentic cuisine,  check out the curry fish balls or noodles with soybean paste. Infinitea also has a selection of games that you can play, and people often hang out there and relax for an extended period of time—the employees don’t shoo you away if you’ve been sitting for awhile. If you want to experience some authentic boba tea, stop by Infinitea.

5. Sharetea ($)

Sharetea is also a chain, but unlike Kung Fu Tea, it is an international brand—founded in Taiwan in 1992. Sharetea has locations all over the world, and it is quite popular in Asia, as well as in the United States. The closest location to us is in Convoy, and is also worth a shout out for its authenticity, given that it is an Asian company. Sharetea has all the typical drinks, milk-teas, slushes, and variations of boba, and is very consistent. Perhaps not exactly a unique find, since there many Sharetea stores, it is still one of the better places around San Diego to grab some boba tea.

All five of these shops offer different variations of boba tea, and some are better at certain things than others. That means you should try all of them and find your favorite of the bunch. These are all worth giving a chance if you already like boba, or if you have never tasted it before. They’re all close to campus as well, so there’s really no excuse not to check them out.

Written by Walker Chuppe, Arts & Culture Editor