5 Great San Francisco Milk Tea Shops That Aren’t Boba Guys

After accounts of toxic workplace culture at Boba Guys rose to the surface last week, amid claims of union busting, now’s a good time as any to edit your go-to list of SF tea shops.

Boba Guys is, at long last, in its “that’s not true, Ellen” era. Frankly? We’re here for it. For years, accounts of toxic workplace culture, which included episodes of outright verbal abuse, were commonly reported from behind the scenes. On Friday, we published a bombshell report of employees, past and present, who have experienced less-than-ideal working conditions at the hands of the tea shop (that’s quite rapidly falling from any semblance of grace it had prior to last week).

Your spending power matters. And it counts just as much in its absence as it does in its presence. So, with the accusations against Boba Guys only growing by the day, we implore you to take your dollars and crypto elsewhere in your quest to quench your milk tea thirsts.

Fortunately for us, San Francisco has no shortage of shops to choose from. Here’s a quick rundown of our five favorite milk tea shops in San Francisco that aren’t owned by Boba Guys.


Found along walking the path from Union Square to North Beach via Chinatown, Plentea’s cupped cold teas are works of art. Unlike other tea shops that have a scroll’s worth of add-ons, Plentea keeps it pleasingly simple. The Nutella Milk Tea – house-blended black milk tea with a touch of Nutella and milk — is an absolute banger; we can totally respect that they will “politely decline any modifications” on specialty house tea drinks.

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District Tea

A sister-owned tea shop, District Tea in the Mission District has lava lamp-like mango tea drinks and a taro latte that indeed looks like a lavender haze. The shop also sells at-home boba kits, as well as half-gallon ready-made tea bases for you to take home and concoct on your own. Pro tip: They have reusable stainless steel straws you can purchase on-site (to help save the turtles).

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Urban Ritual Cafe

Urban Ritual Cafe epitomizes its name. All syrups are made in-house, and all of their loose-leaf teas are picked not only for their robust, clean flavors but for their ethical harvesting practices. Y’all know they have an ube-inspired milk tea, right?

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Tea & Others

This Lower Haight tea shop has the to-go cup game on lock. Their super stylish, very sip-and-stroll-friendly cupware can hold any one of their signature drinks. Take it from us: Get the Thai latte first, then let your curiosity guide your second drink decision next time.

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Purple Kow

As a publication helmed by a former Texan, we can’t help but stan a local tea shop that has a Houston location. Purple Kow has three Bay Area stores, including one in the Outer Richmond. People can’t seem to stop raving about the Purple Kow Milk Tea, complete with caramel, pudding, and tapioca pearls.

More info.

Feature image: Courtesy of Instagram via @teaandothers

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