10 Spots for Vegan Boba in Los Angeles
oba is one of the most confusing foods in terms of vegan friendliness. Not necessarily because of tapioca pearls themselves, but because of milk teas. At first glance, milk teas would seem obviously not vegan, but if you inquired a little bit, you’d find that most milk teas are actually made using “non-dairy creamer.” So that’s good right — that means it’s vegan? Well, actually no — these non-dairy creamers usually contain caseinate, a direct derivative of milk. And as if that wasn’t enough to decipher, even if boba shops do offer soy, almond milk, or other seemingly-vegan milks, their milk teas may still contain casein because most powdered flavorings added to the mix contain non-dairy creamer.
Bare with us though, because not all hope is lost. Some boba cafes make their milk teas by mixing syrups, natural flavors, or fresh brewed teas with a milk of your choice. You can combine this these with tapioca pearls made without honey (known as honey boba) and you’re in the clear! Of course, you can always order a traditional or fruit tea to avoid the complications, but that nostalgic, sweet and creamy boba experience is worth the calculations. Plus, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to search, investigate, and try out the most vegan-friendly bubble tea cafes so you don’t have to! Here’s are 10 of the top spots for vegan-friendly boba in the LA area.
Wooden decor, floods of natural light, local art, and an outdoor patio that feels like a backyard garden make TEAPOP an inviting space to meet up with friends. On top of that, most of their milk teas and lattes can be made vegan by using soy, almond, or coconut milk. Only a select few drinks, including taro, contain that infamous non-dairy creamer, so double-check with your barista about vegan-friendliness before ordering!
Tpumps puts the power in your hands by allowing you to build your own tea from scratch, including whatever toppings, flavors, and base your heart desires. Most of their flavors are accomplished by using Monin syrups, which are essentially flavored simple syrups, meaning they’re totally vegan. Just base your drink around soy or almond milk and avoid their honey boba, which of course contains honey, and instead, go with boba bran, red bean, or popping boba as a vegan option for your teeth to chew on!
Located among the complex & modern interior of Century City’s megalithic Westfield Mall, you’ll find Redstraw serving up premium loose leaf teas with milk, sweetness level, and toppings of your choice. All of their custom teas can be made vegan using almond or soy milk and agar boba in place of honey boba!
San Gabriel & Fremont
Taking a stroll through San Gabriel’s historic Mission — one of the oldest European settlements in Los Angeles county — a hip tea shop isn’t an expected sight, but it’s an accurate telling of the cultural mix now native to the San Gabriel Valley. On the outside, Factory Tea Bar blends in with the rest of the Mission, but upon entering, you’re hit with open ceilings, comfy lounge seating, urban music, and a projector playing music videos from across the Pacific. Like most boba shops, they flavor their milk teas using powders that contain non-dairy creamer, however, their Green Tea Milk can be made vegan with soy, coconut, or almond milk. And all of their plain brewed teas, fruit teas, and fruit slushes are inherently vegan. Plus, if the munchies creep up on you, they offer some of the best french fries in the San Gabriel Valley, so you’ll have something hot and salty to calm down those caffeine jitters.
5. Cafe Roule
Also featured in our “10 Vegan Friendly Coffee Shops…” article, Cafe Roule has fresh boba, and all of their milk teas can be made vegan by using soy milk, except for their hokkaido milk tea. One to note is their rose milk tea with soy milk and boba, which is velvety, floral, and pleasantly sweetened. Translucent pink boba and dried rose petals give this divine milk tea a look straight out of Venus.
Beautiful from-scratch drinks, made from loose-leaf teas, cane sugar, soy milk, and brown sugar boba, elegant interior design, and a storefront right off Pasadena’s main strip, make Motto Tea Cafe an ideal spot for a casual afternoon outing.
I Love Sweetea is a more conventional-style boba cafe that uses powders to flavor most of their of teas. However, their tapioca pearls are made without honey, and some of their drinks, such as the fresh avocado smoothie, are made without non-dairy creamer powder. Meaning that if you ask for soy or almond milk, you’re good to go.
8. T4 Tea For U
Alhambra is one neighborhood you can expect to find extraordinary boba, but finding a place that can confidently accommodate vegans is another story. Thankfully, T4 Tea For U, in the center of Main St., offers soy milk, vegan boba, and most of their milk teas can be made vegan as well. And their abundant menu, bright and playful ambiance, and friendly staff make it a welcoming visit. Just be sure to check if the drink you want is made with a powder because if it is, it’s safe to say it’s not vegan, and you’ll want to steer clear.
9. Bubble U
Downtown & Chinatown
Like most boba places, some of Bubble U’s drinks are made using powders, however, their more-stripped-back offerings are made using real tea, sweeteners, and your choice of milk, which includes soy and almond milk. They also offer a plethora of fruit teas that are inherently vegan!
10. Alfred Tea Room
Brentwood & West Hollywood
Are you ready for this? Every tea at Alfred Tea Room can be made vegan! That’s because they focus on loose-leaf teas, matcha, and natural flavors, giving you one of the purest boba experiences in Los Angeles. Order your milk tea with almond or oat milk for a creamy drink that won’t turn your stomach upside down. And with pearly pink tiles, brass accents, and vibrant neon lights, this is an aesthetically pleasing tea shop that has LA written all over it. Make sure to ask for no honey!