Seattle has a fair amount of bubble tea places. But what’s the best place? Well personally, I have two – and one’s in Bellevue.
Note: this is an updated version from my archives of the now closed Seattle Dessert Geek. I’m including this as these are still my favorites for bubble tea, so there.
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 pearls (and I’ll take pretty much 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 strong 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 take the time to try them both and see what you think.
And if you’d like a summary of these two, I created a short video for you comparing the two!
Full disclosure: I am a known entity to most of the staff – at both shops. They have both given me free products in the past, but have no clue I’m making this updated post. Though making this made me consider just how large a line item bubble tea is in my budget.
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 boba chew, decent amount of boba, sugar options from 25-100%, and their tea is strong and clean without being overpowering. Their specials include an epic black sugar and the most gentle almond milk tea.
If you’re curious about their regular lineup, I covered it in this video! (The sound is… rough. We coordinated the shoot for what was supposed to be a quiet day, and they were swamped instead. It’s the draw of the black sugar with grass jelly, I swear.)
Bonus: their in-house desserts are spiffy. There’s usually some form of ice cream, mainly the ‘matchatella’ or matcha ice cream with tons of slivers of chocolate mixed in. Or hojicha, or their latest, White Rabbit ice cream.
Also, they occasionally sell this really nicely chewy QQ or Taiwanese-style mochi filled with anything from black sesame paste to strawberry shortcake. Get the mochi if it’s available. Just, just get it. It’s probably the best locally made ‘beginner’s mochi’ we have.
All that being said, for newbies going to DTB can be confusing. You must go to their Facebook before heading over to make sure they’re open, because their hours change weekly, along with their specials. (They’re generally open Wednesday-Sunday, ~12-5, but I still highly recommend going on Facebook first.) And they do run out of boba, which for some people is too much to bear.
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, can’t regularly get my mochi fix
Favorite drinks: 50% house milk with half aloe/half boba, 75% black sugar with grass jelly
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 green sign that is also super easy to overlook. (There’s an ADA compliant entrance, but I think it requires going through the Little Sheep garage to get to the elevator.) Still, it’s worth taking the time to check this tiny shop out.
In contrast to Drive Thru Boba, Young Tea has a fairly large regular menu. (And much longer hours.)
Young Tea was created by a tea geek who was asked to open a bubble tea shop. And it shows, from the quality of the tea, the limited range of flavorings, and to the fact that a lot of the tea drinks are centered on health benefits.
Yes. I just wrote ‘health benefits’ in a discussion on bubble tea. For more information, here’s my interview with Caroline about just that:
When I first wrote this review, I recommended the drink in the first photo, which is just black sugar with milk. The reason being is it tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios milk and you get to really see if you like tapioca. Nowadays I’d recommend the Earl Grey or Assam milk teas, which have the milky tea sweetness I go for. Or seriously, you should just make sure to try whatever’s on sample first.
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 hearty that will go well with tea Uwajimaya’s across the street. (Or you could be me and go get bubble tea after a meal at Little Sheep.)
They have some tables for chilling out, and I’ve seen a lot of study groups there. (And knitting groups! It looked so fun!) 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, really fast
Cons: Not obviously ADA compliant at first glance, lines can still get long
Favorite drinks: 50% Assam milk tea, 50% honey lemon black tea, 50% Earl Grey milk tea, all with boba
Feeling the bubble tea love? Have a pin!