I’ll admit it: I’ve become somewhat of a bubble tea snob since the beginning of my UW undergraduate career. Having tried numerous spots around the U-District offering the popular beverage, each with different tastes and levels of sweetness, I have distinguished a favorite and commit myself to it religiously.
But after Sharetea opened in late January on Northeast 45th Street and 11th Avenue Northeast, where I’d sometimes see a crowd of people trailing out its door, my curiosity got the best of me. What was so great about this place anyway?
Sharetea, it turns out, is actually a well-known bubble tea franchise from Taiwan, the birthplace of the beverage itself. “Taipei No. 1” is proudly mounted in colorful letters on its wall. The franchise has hundreds of locations throughout the world, and the U-District store is the first U.S. location outside of California.
But does it live up to the hype?
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I went to investigate. The store was buzzing with people, but luckily I had missed peak business hours; according to the staff, that’s usually after dinner time, particularly Fridays and Saturdays.
Sharetea’s white layout, accented with colorful lights and wall decor, created a clean and fun atmosphere, and the staff was patient and friendly. Though the shop has a few tables, the store seemed catered to a more grab-and-go experience, providing mostly standing room for customers awaiting their orders.
The most notable aspect of Sharetea, however, was its customizable drinks menu. It lays out a selection of milk tea flavors, as well as more unique drinks, like Creama (drinks topped with a layer of sweet and salty cream), Fresh Milk, and Yakult drinks. Many of the drinks can come hot or cold.
From there one can choose a “topping” (which includes the standard tapioca and jellies, as well as more unique ice cream and red bean), an “ice level,” and a “sweetness level” (at 100, 80, 50, 30, or zero percent). As someone who can’t handle overly sweet drinks, this last feature was especially appreciated. To be fair, I have been able to customize drink sweetness at other local boba joints upon request, but this is the first place here to offer the choice on its menu.
A classic black milk tea with tapioca pearls, less ice, and 50 percent sweetness amounted to $4.38 after tax.
The drink also came with a 20-minute wait, unfortunately. But the wait was worthwhile. The beverage featured a perfect balance of flavors, having neither too much milk nor too strong of a tea presence. Even more importantly there was just enough sweetness to complete the melange, comparable to that of Mee Sum Pastry’s milk teas. The tapioca tasted fresh as well, with a soft and chewy texture throughout.
Needless to say, I’ll certainly be back.
The verdict: Sharetea’s tasty, customizable drink selection is definitely worth sharing. Just avoid peak hours to limit wait time.
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