Boba, or bubble tea, is a popular beverage originally from Taiwan that’s taken the US — particularly the Bay Area — by storm. Boba tea is traditionally black or green tea paired with small tapioca pearls made from cassava starch. Boba pearls have a chewy texture, almost like jelly but a bit tougher. Many shops offer more complex teas, with cool toppings such as lychee or strawberry jelly. For example, matcha (ground powder of green tea leaves), is a popular item in boba drinks along with other flavors such as taro or Thai milk.
Fremont has many boba shops that have everything from mango smoothies with tapioca to a popular brown sugar-based beverage called Tiger Sugar. Boba chains, such as T4 or iTea, are also popular for their consistent quality and many locations around Fremont. Personally, living in the Bay Area lets me try a lot of teahouses, and before I had thought of writing this article I was already privately rating them so I would know what to get at each one. Through trying lots of different drinks, I’ve found that while a majority of shops have great teas, there are still a few I would stay away from. Additionally, for boba lovers like myself, I wanted to search for the best boba in Fremont so I could really see where I should go for my next drink.
I decided to choose 5 popular boba places to review: TeaZenTea, Mr. Greenbubble, TECO, iTea, and T4. My friends WHS junior Raghav Sharma, MSJ junior Noah Francisco, and Moreau junior Penny Semko helped me review these different shops. At each location we would ask for the most popular drink and rate the store based on 5 factors: flavor, toppings, appearance, price, and customer service. Each factor could receive a maximum of 20 points, with the total for each drink being out of 100.
TeaZenTea – Strawberry Matcha Latte
At TeaZenTea Fremont (located on Mission Blvd), I got a Strawberry Matcha Latte with 25% sugar, 50% ice, and pearls. The fresh strawberry puree was warm and fruity, the tapioca was warm and had a perfect level of chewiness. The milk tea was cold, topped with matcha that could have been stronger. I went at 11 in the morning, so that’s probably why there was fresh tapioca and warm strawberry sauce. I recommend getting 100% ice to balance the warm strawberry flavor and tapioca pearls. The different layers of the drink all came together to create a unique taste. At $6.76, this drink was a bit more expensive than other shops. I rate it as a 19/20 for flavor, 20/20 for toppings, 20/20 for appearance, 18/20 for price, and 19/20 for customer service.
Mr. Greenbubble – Osmanthus Oolong
At Mr. Greenbubble (located on Decoto Rd), Noah got an Osmanthus Oolong Tea with 100% sugar and ice. The tea was a strange, bittersweet Oolong tea with only a little milk. The boba tasted good and wasn’t too chewy. Overall, the drink seemed more of an acquired taste rather than something a first-timer might get. While it was still watery, the tea was heavy and filling. At $6.59, this boba tea seemed a little expensive for its size and quality. The location had online ordering only, but was quick with making his order. Unfortunately, Noah didn’t like this drink and wouldn’t recommend this drink to others. He’d rate it a 5/20 for flavor, 19/20 for toppings, 19/20 for appearance, 10/20 for price, and 15/20 for customer service.
TECO – Potted Milk Tea
At TECO Tea & Coffee Bar (located on Paseo Padre), I got a hot Potted Milk Tea with 30% sugar, pearls, and mango jelly. The toppings were too chewy, but the tea was a flavorful and warm black tea with the perfect level of milk in it. I would have wanted it hotter, but most “hot” boba drinks are only warm. The drink was topped off with whipped cream and Oreo crumbs, but the cream tasted slightly spoilt. For $6, the drink was more expensive than I’d imagined. While this drink seemed eh, I’ve gotten others at TECO that were a lot better. The wintermelon milk tea or strawberry matcha latte are both great options if you go to TECO. For this drink though, I rate it as a 12/20 for flavor, 15/20 for toppings, 19/20 for appearance, 16/20 for price, and 20/20 for customer service.
99% Tea House – Tiger Sugar Milk
At 99% Tea House (located on Thornton Ave), I got a hot Tiger Sugar Milk Tea with 30% sugar and pearls. My drink was a piping hot black tea with a caramel/brown sugar flavor. The tapioca pearls were a nice level of chewiness but I would recommend adding lychee jelly. At $4.75, this drink was pretty cheap. The tea itself though, was too milky and didn’t have enough brown sugar syrup (would’ve gotten 100% sugar). The black tea flavor was diluted, and it honestly just tasted like hot milk. If you do go to 99%, I would recommend ordering either the Panda Caramel Milk Tea or Hokkaido Tea instead. I rate this drink as a 7/20 for flavor, 20/20 for toppings, 19/20 for appearance, 15/20 for price, and 18/20 for customer service.
T4 – Caramel Milk Tea
At T4 (located on Fremont Blvd), I got a hot Caramel Milk Tea with 100% sugar, pearls, and lychee jelly. The tea had a great caramel flavor and had the perfect level of sweetness. The pearls were too chewy though, it kinda felt like I was chewing gum. Like many other stores, the drink was warm, but not actually hot. I got bored and found out that this is actually because of the 1992 Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants lawsuit, in which McDonald’s served really hot coffee to a woman who suffered burn injuries from it. Eventually, the case made commercial stores lower the temperature of their “hot” drinks. Anyways, this drink is a great choice for someone who hasn’t tried boba tea before. I rate it as an 18/20 for flavor, 15/20 for toppings, 18/20 for appearance, 19/20 for price, and 19/20 for customer service.
iTea – Hokkaido Milk Tea
At iTea (located on Fremont Boulevard in Artist’s Walk), I got a Hokkaido Milk Tea with 80% sugar and ice, pearls, and lychee jelly. Its light, warm flavor of black tea reminded me of coffee. I’ve found that lukewarm boba tea is always bad, so I got 80% ice which made my drink the perfect level of cold. The pearls were chewy but not tough, and my drink had more toppings than usual which was nice. This is also a great drink for someone new to boba or anyone looking for a solid milk tea. The fountain and seating area at Artist’s Walk make iTea a great boba shop to go with friends. Raghav said his drink, Jasmine Milk Tea, was great too. I rate this drink as a 19/20 for flavor, 20/20 for toppings, 19/20 for appearance, 18/20 for price, and 18/20 for customer service.
After perusing Fremont’s various boba shops, I finally ranked them all on my original scale of 0 to 100 points. All of the stores I tried are on the map above, most are close to Washington but a few are further away. If you have some free time, definitely go to the top rated shops and try my recommendations! Links to Google Maps pages for each of the stores are in their descriptions, and the map shows their locations as well. Because the Bay Area is so crazy for boba, most places in Fremont will be good, but some stores have special and unique drinks that are worth trying. I didn’t even know some of these stores existed before working on this review. If you or someone you know is kinda nervous about trying boba, get a simpler drink at a store like iTea or T4. Because Fremont has so many stores, I wasn’t able to review all of them — but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a try. New boba stores are popping up all the time, and shops in San Francisco or Berkeley have even more interesting combinations for you to sample. Let me know if my recommendations help and enjoy discovering all the different boba tea drinks that Fremont has to offer!