9 best new Bay Area coffee and tea shops for summer 2021

The summer of 2021 will be remembered for many delicious things, including an explosion of new coffee and tea sipping options in the Bay Area.

We scoured the caffeine situation to bring you these new and expanding local businesses, from Urban Ritual in San Jose to the massive Red Bay headquarters in Oakland. And these favorites are just the beginning. On the horizon for later this summer: Boba Guys is coming to Santana Row in San Jose and Rockridge in Oakland, and Third Culture Bakery’s matcha cafe is expected to open in Walnut Creek, not far from the new Rooted Coffee Co.

Whether you prefer cold brew or boba, here are nine tasty new sipping spots.

Tellus Coffee, Walnut Creek

When it opened in February inside the brick Schroeder building downtown, this independent craft coffee shop was doing espresso drinks and pour-overs of small-batch, organic and fair trade coffee to-go. Among those cups: Ethiopian, Costa Rican, Brazilian, Honduran, Sumatran and Colombian coffee, with hopes of adding wine and beer when indoor sipping resumed.

Now, you can enjoy four craft beers, eight wines, a seasonal watermelon frosé and a variety of lattes, cortados and macchiatos. Those coffee beans are roasted in-house using a zero-emissions, electric roasting machine. And you can indulge in those sips from the comfort of the booths, stools and tables. A brick wall provides a lovely contrast to the bold black, emerald and white marble decor and massive, eye-catching plant wall.

Co-owners Ali Shahidi and Janay McCullough also offer a variety of loose leaf teas and matcha and golden milk lattes. There’s an impressive food lineup, too, featuring truffle mushroom fries, bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts and housemade doughs used to make short rib bon-bons ($8), empanadass (3 for $13), a breakfast sandwich ($8) and savory crostatas ($4.50 each). Also look for house-baked sweets, from a salted chocolate chip cookie to a dark chocolate brownie.

Tellus Coffee’s beef and veggie empanadas are a popular bite at the Walnut Creek coffee house. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) 

The cup: In the summer heat, we crave Tellus’ Cold Brew made with a light Ethiopian roast and chicory root ($4-$5). Tea and non-coffee drinkers will love the Hibiscus Infusion ($4.50-$6.50), which steeps overnight with lime and agave, as well as seasonal offerings, like the current iced horchata latte and pineapple limeade.

The eats: We love the empanadas, especially the beef and veggie and the black bean and cheese. For a sweet tooth, the zesty lemon bar ($3.50) is hard to beat.

Details: Open from 8 a.m. Monday-Saturday and from 9 a.m. Sunday at 1410 North Main St., Walnut Creek; www.telluscoffee.com.

This summer Urban Ritual is making a refreshing Raspberry Cali Mojito to supplement its lineup of boba teas. (Photo courtesy of Urban Ritual) 

Urban Ritual, San Jose and San Mateo

David Zhou’s temple of boba tea has made its way south. After launching in San Francisco in 2018, Zhou expanded to downtown San Mateo and now has opened a shop in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market.

Born and raised in S.F., this former nurse got into boba because he wanted a creative outlet. He started experimenting with drinks that would differentiate his place from other shops, deciding that high-quality ingredients, from house-made syrups to oven-baked creme brulee, were key.

His Creme Brulee Milk Tea — complete with crunchy, torched raw sugar to sprinkle as you sip — has become the signature drink. “We actually started playing with the idea in 2016, two years before we even opened our first location,” he says. “It took 32 iterations over many long nights to perfect our recipe — shout-out to our friends for being guinea pigs. The Creme Brulee was one of the first drinks in boba history to incorporate a crunchy texture. And from this concept, we knew we had stumbled across something special.”

Besides the specialty and seasonal drinks, Urban Ritual offers “everyday drinks” featuring your choice of eight black, green and herbal teas, and two coffees, one milk and dark-roasted cold brew and the other a milk tea with a shot of coffee.

The sips: After you try the decadent Creme Brulee Milk Tea, check out the Matcha Toffee, with toffee brittle made in-house. Want something fruity for summer? Boba barista Nikolas Perez suggests the refreshing Raspberry Cali Mojito ($5.75), with berries, calamansi citrus and mint. It’s especially good topped with lychee jelly, he says.

Details: The new location is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily inside the San Pedro Square Market, 100 N. Almaden Ave., San Jose. The San Mateo shop at 140 South B St. stays open until 10 on Friday-Saturday; www.urbanritualcafe.com.

Red Bay Coffee Headquarters, Oakland

Open since spring inside a former 1920s bank, owner Keba Konte’s sprawling 11,000-square-foot cafe and events space is located at one of the busiest intersections in the Fruitvale district, not far from Red Bay’s roastery. But, inside the bright, three-story building, it is a quiet, plant-filled retreat for java-minded laptop workers.

Red Bay Coffee’s newest location in the Fruitvale District of Oakland is an 11,000 square foot cafe and event space. (Jessica Yadegaran/Staff) 

“Beautiful Coffee to the People,” the Black owned- and Oakland-based company’s mantra, is scrawled everywhere, from the black and white espresso machine to the top of the building, above the marble columns crested with gold lion heads. Copies of Barista magazine cover small wooden tables peppered around the ground floor, along with modern black chairs and a long white bar where regulars enjoy single-origin pour overs and Africanos, Red Bay’s version of a macchiato made with two ounces of Slow Burn (Indonesian and Guatemalan) espresso with a dollop of milk.

Espresso drinks run the gamut from a cappuccino ($3.75) to a Saigon Latte made with sweetened condensed milk ($4.75-$5.25). Tea lattes include Chai, Matcha and Turmeric ($3.50-$4.75). And don’t forget the nibbles: Red Bay features Afro-Cuban bites from The Pleasure Principle Dining Events, based in Oakland, as well as a small selection of baked goods.

The cup: The iced Charcoal Latte ($5.25), made with charcoal, vanilla and milk, is one of Red Bay’s buzziest summer drinks. For a bite, try a flaky vegan Caribbean patty served warm with a yogurt sauce for dipping.

Details: Open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at 3136 International Blvd., Oakland; www.redbaycoffee.com.

Tiger Sugar, Cupertino

Even during the coldest winter days of the pandemic, to-go lines formed outside this Stevens Creek Boulevard shop, the first Bay Area location for the trendy Taiwan-based Tiger Sugar.

Everyone wanted that Instagram darling, the Brown Sugar Boba, the tiger-striped drink that’s always ready for a close-up.

Taiwan’s Tiger Sugar has brought its signature syrup-striped drink to Cupertino. (Photo courtesy of Tiger Sugar) 

Neither coffee nor tea, the BSB (the official menu name is Black Sugar Boba) is made with organic Straus Creamery milk and caramelized brown-sugar syrup, and Tiger Sugar’s boba baristas are masters at creating attractive streaks of syrup in the cup. Most important, they refrain from shaking and stirring; that’s your job after you take the obligatory photos.

The lineup also includes Green Tea Latte, Milo Chocolate Malt, Black Sugar Espresso, Oolong and Vanilla Tea drinks ($4-$5.50).

The sips: Uh, did we mention the Black/Brown Sugar Boba? It’s $5.50 with cream mousse.

The eats: Why mess with a good thing? Not surprisingly, the nibbles are based on the striped fun. There are bags of Tiger Sugar Popcorn ($2.75), Tiger Sugar Ice Cream Bars with boba ($2.50) and Tiger Sugar Egg Rolls ($1.50).

Details: Open from noon daily till 8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday at 19620 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino.

RareTea, Alameda

Established in Berkeley in 2016, this small boba tea chain and its “TeaSpresso” technology continue to spread throughout California, with plans to expand outside the state. Its newest Bay Area location opened in December inside the Alameda Landing, where boba-istas whip up trendy hot milk teas, refreshing iced fruit teas and more.

Menus vary by location, but Alameda’s is extensive, with a whopping 17 milk teas, including the Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea, their No. 1 best seller made with roasted brown sugar; eight fruit teas (including a decaf wintermelon with lemon), ice-blended specialties like the Mango Mango Ice Blend; teas made with Yakult; and Snow Cream Teas topped with a thick layer of cream.

RareTea’s drinks range in price from $4.75 to $5.25, come in one size (24 ounces) and sweetness levels ranging from zero to 120 percent. They also offer house-prepped snacks ($5.75-$9), from spam musubi and sweet potato fries to potstickers and veggie spring rolls.

The sip: We went with the Classic Black Milk Tea ($4.75) with 50 percent sweetness — perfection. Next time: Rose Matcha Latte ($5.75) sweetened with housemade rose puree.

Details: Open noon to 7 p.m. daily at 2670 Fifth St., Suite C, in Alameda; https://rareteaalameda.square.site.

Coffee & Water Lab, San Jose

If you’re a coffee nerd, then this sleek new shop is just the place to geek out over the science and technology of brewing.

The Mitsuwa Marketplace venture is the brainchild of Luis Petroza, who loves a fine cup of coffee, and his wife, Amy, who loves pristine, clean-tasting water. “We sort of married our passions. You need good water for good coffee and tea,” Luis says.

Coffee & Water Lab co-owner Luis Pedroza makes a single-origin pour-over in his shop on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in San Jose. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

So for all of their beverages, from pour-overs ($4.99) to ice cream floats ($6.49), they turn tap water into alkaline ionized water. They roast single-origin beans from Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, Burundi and Colombia onsite in a zero-emission, electric roaster from Bellwether Coffee of Berkeley. They brew coffee in a cutting-edge machine from Oakland’s Ground Control. They steep tea using a state-of-the-art Bkon craft machine that brings out subtle notes. And it’s an open-view process, with counter seats so you can sit and watch.

The Petrozas, having lived abroad for years, share a global perspective that informs everything about their shop, from the modern Scandinavian-Asian design to drink selections inspired by Japan’s melon mania and South Korea’s love of mojito tea.

The sips: Customers are raving about the smooth, never-bitter taste of the cold brew — it doesn’t “bite back,” one fan says — and making the Maple Cream Cold Brew ($4.99) one of the best sellers. Granitas are popular on these summer days. We’ll be cooling down with a London Fog Milk Tea Granita ($5.99), made with Earl Grey grown in Japan’s Makinohara region.

The eats: Thick slices of Japanese milk bread (from the ovens of Clover Bakery just yards away) serve as the canvas for Bacon Egg Cheese Toast ($6.49), with a properly runny yolk, Blueberry Mascarpone Toast ($4.99) and several others. Pastries come from City Bakery, and the baristas make Mochi Waffle Pops to order ($2.99-$3.49).

Details: Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at 603 Saratoga Ave., Suite 40, San Jose. www.coffeeandwaterlab.com

Love the toast menu at States Coffee x Bread’s Farm & Flour in Benicia? Come July, you can get it at all locations, including the original in Martinez. (Jessica Yadegaran/Staff) 

States Coffee x Bread, multiple East Bay locations

Put this small-yet-expanding East Bay chain at the top of your joe list. Co-owners Keith Gehrke and Brett Benzer opened their first spot in downtown Martinez six years ago.  Today, there are four locations, with a fifth — and the largest shop in the small chain — set to open this August in Berkeley in the former Country Cheese Co. at 2101 San Pablo Ave.

In addition to ethically-sourced coffees from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Mexico, Tanzania and Panama, all roasted in-house and crafted into dark mochas and gibraltars, States is known for its bread program, which includes flours from Petaluma’s Central Milling Co. baked into crusty loaves of sesame sourdough, seeded Danish rye, gruyere and rosemary and more.

The Benicia location, which opened in 2018 and is dubbed Farm & Flour, offers the country sourdough sliced, toasted and topped with everything from creamy housemade cashew butter ($5) to avocado with housemade everything seasoning, feta, mint and lemon zest ($9). Starting July 18, that toast program will be offered at the Martinez location, as well as the Oakland location on Martin Luther King Jr Way, which took over the old Subrosa Coffee in 2020.

The sip: Honey Latte ($5.25) with oat milk all the way. States’ Iced Golden Matcha Latte is also very popular during the summer. In addition to the toast menu, their sweet baked offerings are worth your attention. Their thick slice of Coffee Cake ($4) — dark as molasses, with swirls of sweet cold brew and a crest of spelt-flour crumble — is the best we’ve had.

Details: Open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. at 609 Ward St., Martinez and at 700 First St., Benicia; until 4 p.m. at 419 40th St., Oakland; and from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at 4008 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland; www.statescoffee.com.

States Coffee x Bread co-owners, from left, Keith Gehrke and Brett Benzer are opening their largest shop and bakery in Berkeley this August. (Bronwyn Kopacek) 

Wanpo Tea Shop, Palo Alto

Owner Peter Chang founded his Wanpo Tea Shop nearly 30 years ago as a tribute to the tea culture of his family’s village in Taiwan. The venture has since expanded throughout Asia, to England, to Australia — and finally to the United States, with this location at Palo Alto’s Stanford Shopping Center.

The chain’s motto: “Rather go without salt for three days than without tea for one.”

The menu’s divided into pure teas (four), fruit teas (nine), seasonal teas (eight), milk teas (15), plus Cheese Oreo and Vanilla Bean Cheese Brulee teas. All are offered in medium or large sizes except Taiwan’s popular Red Bean Jelly Milk drinks and the Brown Suga Boba, which come in one size ($6).

Summertime lines have been long, so follow the advice of savvy sippers: Arrive early in the day, especially on weekends, because they sometimes sell out of boba or brown sugar. And avoid the wait by ordering online, then popping over to Sigona’s Farmers Market or Taro San Noodle Bar until you get the text message that your drink is ready.

The sips: Try the sweet and tangy Aiyu Jelly Lemon Tea ($5.25-$5.75), crafted with fresh lemon juice and brown sugar, or the Sugarcane Baozhong Tea ($6.25-$6.75).

Details: Open from noon to 6 p.m. daily at Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; https://wanpotea.us.

7 Leaves Cafe, Campbell and other locations

How popular is 7 Leaves? For years, Northern California families were known to bring along ice chests on their treks to SoCal, where the company was founded, so they could bring back half-gallon jugs of their favorites.

Now, with three locations in the South Bay — the newest in Campbell — it’s easy to stock up or just stop by for a pick-me-up.

About 16 drinks are offered, most of them teas and all of them iced. The menu is intentionally simple, 7 Leaves execs say, because it’s a labor-intensive enterprise, with all of the drinks crafted onsite — from cooking the taro and mung beans to squeezing the passion fruit to brewing the tea.

The 7 Leaves Cafe, which has recently opened a Campbell location, has created a Summer Mint tea drink with passion fruit and fresh-squeezed orange juice. (Photo courtesy of 7 Leaves) 

The sips: The House Coffee ($4.25), sweet and creamy with a touch of hazelnut, is the bestseller on that side of the menu, although we can’t resist 7 Leaves’ version of Vietnamese Coffee. Tea drinkers gravitate to the Mung Bean Milk Tea with pandan leaves and the Sea Cream Jasmine Tea. For a summer refresher, check out the Summer Mint, with freshly squeezed orange juice, passion fruit and mint.

The eats: It’s all about the macarons. These French confections, baked by 7 Leaves, are still the only non-liquid treats offered. While you’re sipping your tea or coffee you can nibble on one of eight flavors ($1.75 each): Green Tea, Earl Grey, Pistachio, Rose Water, Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla.

Details: Open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends at the new location, 330 E. Hamilton Ave., Campbell. The San Jose/Berryessa location stays open later, until midnight Friday-Saturday; the San Jose/Saratoga Avenue location closes earlier, 10 p.m. daily; https://7leavescafe.com/.

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Author: Jessica Yadegaran, Linda Zavoral