New boba shop “Kuma Cafe” bubbles up in downtown San Rafael


Corina Karr

Kuma’s Classic Milk Tea (left) and Strawberry Cheesecake Slushie (right) waiting to be enjoyed.

Got a boba craving that simply isn’t satisfied by nearby cafes? Head over to 1128 4th Street in downtown San Rafael, where Quickly’s vacancy has been replaced with a new boba bar, “Kuma Cafe.” Just down the street from Shiro Kuma Sushi, Kuma Cafe opened Oct. 8, serving as the sushi bar’s sweet sister. Kuma Cafe offers a variety of delicious teas, fruity syrups, and exciting toppings to make carefully crafted, high quality, specialty drinks.

Kuma Cafe opens daily at 11:30am and closes at 8:30pm, a later schedule than your typical cafe. However, this timing is refreshing and caters to customers who prefer an afternoon or nighttime boba.  

As soon as you step into the boba shop, friendly staff greet you with welcoming words and smiles. You’ll see a comfortable waiting bench lining the shopfront: this is a perfect place to wait while your drink is crafted. The interior of the cafe is decorated with adorable plants, and is refreshing, sweet, and clean, especially in comparison to the greasy Quickly shop that previously claimed the building.

When it comes to ordering, there are several classic teas, such as thai, earl grey, and brown sugar milk tea. In addition to the many classic options, Kuma Cafe offers original specialty drinks, such as lychee dragon fruit, honeycomb latte, and dajo fresh milk. Next, you’ll have to decide between every boba topping you can imagine, such as egg pudding, popping boba, red bean, pomegranate seeds,  a marvelous homemade cheese crema, and vegan friendly options of soy and oat milk. Kuma Cafe also serves a selection of shaved ice dripping in authentic flavors such as coconut, salted egg lava, and hojicha. 

During my first of two visits to Kuma Cafe, I ordered a “big” thai tea boba with 75 percent sweetness. The thai tea was mediocre, it was a typical thai tea but the flavor was lacking and extremely milky tasting. The drink was $6.75 plus tax, which was pricey, especially compared to the prices at Royal Ground Coffee just a few doors down from Kuma, which serves a superior large thai tea boba for under $5. 

My second visit exceeded expectations. I ordered a small strawberry cheesecake slushie for $6.50 + tax, and it was a marvelous beverage. Although it is labeled a “slushie,” the drink is similar to a milkshake and tastes like quality strawberry cheesecake ice cream. The cup was drizzled with strawberry syrup and topped with a light frozen cheese whip, fresh strawberry slices, butter cookie crumbles, and cheesecake bites. 

My additional order was a small Kuma classic milk tea boba for $5.50 + tax, topped with the cafe’s homemade cheese crema (an additional $2). The tea itself was quite milky, lacking a strong tea flavor. However, the boba was spectacularly soft and chewy with a strong and distinct sweet tapioca flavor – quite possibly the best boba pearls I’ve ever tasted. 

The homemade cheese crema topping on my milk tea was caramelized to perfection with a culinary torch. The top was like a delicious caramel crisp, under it a subtle foam similar to Starbucks’ cold foam. Although the cream is a delicious addition to the milk tea, I wouldn’t order it regularly due to the outrageous extra price of $2.  

While the drinks are expensive, you are paying for quality. And, the extravagant, photo-worthy product is well worth the 15-minute wait.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Kuma Cafe, from its comfortable setting to its delicious boba drinks. If you’re willing to spend a few extra dollars to receive beautiful, quality boba, then Kuma Cafe is the place to go