An illustration of boba in the hands of a person, with Washington D.C. in the background.
The demand for boba restaurants has increased as the drink has increased in popularity. (Illustration by Ro Odendahl, Montserrat College of Art)

A Boba Lover’s Guide to the Best Bubble Tea Shops in D.C.

Love the popular drink? Consider stopping by one of these fun joints next time you’re in the nation’s capital.

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An illustration of boba in the hands of a person, with Washington D.C. in the background.

Love the popular drink? Consider stopping by one of these fun joints next time you’re in the nation’s capital.

Boba, also known as boba tea or bubble tea, has proven to be a popular drink in recent years, particularly among Gen Z and millennials. As new shops continue to pop up across the country, all with new flavors and creative drinks to try, the nation’s capital joins in on the excitement. So, whether you’re a D.C. local or a tourist, stop by one of these shops next time you’re strolling along the city’s streets.

1. Gong Cha

For an authentic bubble tea experience, head over to any one of Gong Cha’s many locations across D.C. and the rest of the DMV area. Due to its popularity as a global franchise, Gong Cha is easily recognizable by boba tea lovers everywhere. Despite its status as a franchise, however, Gong Cha does not deviate from its East Asian roots, providing a genuine bubble tea shop experience that incorporates many of the vibrant flavors native to its home continent on its menu.

These include winter melon, lychee and oolong teas, Thai and matcha tea lattes, and toppings like red beans as well as aloe and herbal jellies. Many of the ingredients found in East Asian cuisine are also included in menu items, including mangos, coconut milk, taro and Yakult, a popular Korean yogurt drink. Some locations even share spaces with restaurants that offer Asian cuisine, such as the location at 1399 New York Ave NW, which splits a storefront with Poki DC. A short walk away from the White House, this location is the perfect stop for lunch after sightseeing around the city.

2. secreTea

Unlike Gong Cha, secreTea’s single location is one of a kind, bringing a modern twist to a decades-old recipe. Housed in a gorgeous, fab-chic storefront, secreTea’s menu is an innovative fusion of elements from both the East and West, bringing flavors from both cultures together to create an intriguing menu that includes something for everyone. Its menu is home to both East Asian flavors, like passionfruit, mango, jasmine and lychee, as well as more American elements like Oreo flavors, chocolate and sea salt, marshmallows and avocado.

If tea isn’t for you, secreTea offers several coffee options, including a unique strawberry latte and an intriguing marble coffee. They also offer multiple sundaes, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Not only does secreTea offer a wide array of delicious, creatively crafted drinks, but it also serves meal options, including all-day sandwiches, banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and salad bowls, catering to any diet, from meat lovers to vegans.

Aside from its diverse, attractive menu, secreTea’s compelling ambiance is sure to appeal to many. Its location at the heart of D.C.’s Foggy Bottom area means it is always full of college students, giving it a fun, lively atmosphere. The shop itself is welcoming, with stylish sage green seating options complemented by pastel pink walls, gold accents and decorative plants.

Additionally, the shop is very active on social media, engaging with customers and providing a sense of community for those who are in on the “secret.” Aside from its incredibly friendly staff, the boba shop never gets old, with its ever-changing menu reflecting the seasons as they go by. This keeps customers coming back, as there is always a new flavor to try, providing an exciting, never-boring element to the shop. For an exclusive, charmingly rare boba shop experience, head to secreTea for your next tasty, refreshing drink.

3. BeauTea

With a sleek, elegant decor and unique ingredients, both BeauTea’s storefront and menu are, as its name suggests, beautiful. When entering the Georgetown storefront, one is immediately struck by the polished, stunning interior, with bright white marble surfaces and black leather seating, complemented by delicate gold decor and crystal light fixtures in the shapes of trees, reminiscent of the store’s logo. BeauTea’s menu includes many classic boba drinks, including taro, oolong, Thai, matcha and winter melon milk tea as well as passionfruit, jasmine, green and black tea. However, the menu also features drinks uncommon at typical boba store chains, such as their kumquat lemon tea, dragon fruit blended drink and golden ginger tea.

Additionally, their summer specials cater to everyone, with the option to add shots for a special kick to drinks; look for their lychee mojito, pina colada, passion mango lime drink and watermelon slushy, or opt for the virgin version. Another special aspect of BeauTea is their novel, especially tall cups, making their drinks easily recognizable. For a refined boba shop experience, BeauTea is the perfect choice.

4. Spot of Tea

With its emphasis on sustainability and environmental-friendliness, as well as aesthetically pleasing, Instagrammable drinks, Spot of Tea can be considered the Gen Zer of D.C. boba shops. Aside from offering branded reusable glass jars for purchase, all of Spot of Tea’s cups, lids and straws are compostable. The shop’s bobaristas stay on top of trends, and customers have the option to add sparkling water or kombucha to select drinks. Spot of Tea has a rotating menu of seasonal drinks, like the strawberry milk tea and refreshing lychee lemonade for the summer months, as well as warm cinnamon cider and peach ginger tea during the fall and winter.

While many boba shops offer alternative milk options such as lactose-free milk, almond milk and coconut milk, Spot of Tea is the first shop this writer has come across that uses Oatly oat milk in many of its drinks. With an ever-growing and always changing menu, Spot of Tea offers an exclusively modern twist to an old classic.

5. AunTea Boba

AunTea Boba blends the classic with the new, and arguably weird, just like its logo of a grandmother, or aunty, holding up peace signs. While its menu does house familiar boba tea flavors like winter melon, matcha, oolong, green tea, lychee, taro and the like, it also features shocking flavors never before seen in a boba shop. These include drinks such as its cereal milk tea, halo-halo smoothie, tiramisu milk tea and cotton candy slush, as well as toppings like green apple star jellies, mini mochi, strawberry cheese cream foam and an eye-catching sea crepe foam. Many of the drinks on AunTea’s menu can be served either cold or hot, adding to its customizable flair and intriguing menu.

Additionally, AunTea offers light snacks that pair nicely with its sweet drinks, such as popcorn chicken with varying levels of spice, as well as lumpia shanghai, a Filipino spring roll-esque appetizer. Contrary to the elderly figure on its logo, AunTea is far from old or outdated, bringing an exceptionally new perspective to the D.C. boba scene.

@aunteaboba

Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Month. Try our Halo-Halo Smoothie! #boba #aunteaboba #tiktok #fyp #Prequel

♬ pastel skies – Rook1e

Whether you prefer a traditional boba tea drink or want to try something entirely new, these D.C. boba shops are sure to meet your needs. By both holding on to classic flavors, introducing new ones, and fusing Western and East Asian elements together, these five boba shops cater to any boba lover.

Writer Profile

Salma Heram

George Washington University
Biology, minor in Korean and Public Health

Salma is a sophomore at the George Washington University and lives in Richmond, Virginia. When not juggling her college course load, she loves photography, writing, exploring different cultures and trying new foods.

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