Bubble tea, boba, tapioca, and pearl milk tea, whichever name you may call it, refers to the tiny black chewy balls of starch at the bottom of tea-based drinks. Originating in Taiwan, boba has become widespread, internationally accepted, and made its way to become one of my addictions.
Although Orange County does not have as many boba shops as Los Angeles, there still is a great number of them. It is my personal mission to try all of the local boba shops in the area and find a place to call my boba home. In the meanwhile, I will provide my input of each shop and possibly a recommendation for any drinks that I find to be pretty solid.
Omomo Tea Shoppe
Originating in Chino Hills, California and rebranding the name and design, Omomo Tea Shoppe made its way to Irvine and to the hearts of many, including mine. The hype is real, and it is apparent with their 30 minutes plus wait lines. The drinks are not just aesthetically pleasing, but they are also unique with the ability to customize your sweetness, ice level, and add-ons to your liking. Pick one of their many categories of Creamomo, which is capped with cheese or tiramisu, Milk Tea, Cafe, Fruit Tea, Fresh Tea, and Specials, fit for any type of boba drinkers.
Recommendation: Omomo Matcha with Creme Brulee (80% sweet) and Oreo Brulee Green Milk Tea
A new addition to the many boba shops in Westminster with options of milk teas, slushies, and smoothies. Inside has a few picnic-looking tables and chairs, good to chat with friends or play board games but definitely not for long periods of studying since the chairs do not have any back support.
Food items are offered here other than the usual fried finger foods, such as pho. The plaza is crowded and it may be difficult to find parking. The cashier was very sweet and I had an overall great experience.
Recommendation: Pistachio Luv’n with grass jelly
Sunright Tea Studio
Originally from Diamond Bar, Sunright Tea Studio expanded its way towards the coastal shore and made its new home at OC Mix in Costa Mesa. It is a step above par from the powdered boba tea drinks because of their higher quality drink menu. You can adjust sweetness and ice levels here!
Sunright specializes in their cheese foam so it would be such a shame to go and not order that. One of the drinks that I had, the Matcha Red Bean with Creme Brulee (with no red bean because yuck) makes me reminiscent of Omomo. So come here if you want to avoid the long lines at Omomo! With no wait, comes higher prices though so be advised!
Recommendation: Strawberry Cheese, Matcha Red Bean Smoothie (no red bean) & Oreo Brulee
When cheese foam was all the hype, many boba shops were created to jump on the new fad. Tan-Cha was aimed to fill the demand of many boba enthusiasts in Garden Grove and does a great job at it. Not only does Tan-Cha offer Cheese Tea, but also Tiramisu Milk Tea, Fresh Fruit Tea, Uji Matcha, Cocoa Drinks, Brulee Milk Tea and Milk Teas. It is different from your average tapioca drinks made with tea and flavored powder, however, it is on the pricier side as well.
Recommendation: Tiramisu Milk Tea and Cheese Uji Matcha
With 2 locations in Garden Grove, Almond Haus offers competitive pricing with a large variety of drinks to choose from. Coffee, tea, milk tea, smoothies, and juice are the main options. I used to frequent this place since it was one of the cheapest to get decent drinks. The first location is a small shop with only 2 tables available for seating. The 2nd location is a larger store with tables and chairs available for studying. Ice cream and a few snack items are available at this location.
Recommendation: Almond Haus Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Coconut Thai Tea Smoothie
Originating in Orange County and now expanding to several locations outside of town and slowly making its way into other states, 7 Leaves has captured the hearts of its customers with featured drinks such as Mung Bean, House Coffee, and Sea Cream Jasmine Tea. What started in a small store of a very tiny plaza is now taking over the boba game and changing the way how drinks should be made; real tea leaves and none of that powder stuff. At 7 Leaves, there are a few snacks you could also order like popcorn chicken, fries, and macarons.
Each location has its own special accommodations. There are some 7 Leaves with drive-thrus, while others have a spacious area perfect for studying or meet-ups with a friend.
Recommendation: Japanese Matcha Soy with grass jelly
TeaArias is located in Huntington Beach inside a large shopping plaza with a closed down Toys R Us (RIP) and a neighboring Hobby Lobby. If TeaArias wasn’t so far from me, I would frequent it more often. However, I always make it a mission to drop by for Happy Hour when I’m in the area.
TeaArias is the only boba shop with a daily happy hour promotion (5 – 7 PM buy one get one free with Yelp Check-in). You can adjust the sweetness and ice level here. Quality is always consistent and the drinks are made fresh with tea leaves. They even have the tea leaves available for purchase.
For desserts, TeaArias carries the Mille Crepe Cake and Strawberry Watermelon, imitated from other well-known bakeries but for a cheaper price. The Strawberry Watermelon cake can only be ordered for pick up on the weekends. Be sure to put in your pre-order for the number of portions you want! I ordered a small, 4 portion Strawberry Watermelon cake and it set me back $21.
Recommendation: House Milk Tea with boba and Strawberry Watermelon Cake
One of the first international chains to make its way into the United States. Sharetea was established in Taipei, Taiwan, the country responsible for this bubble tea phenomenon. It has become a franchise and expanded to many countries, so everyone can “Share it, drink it – loving it!”.
You can adjust your sweetness and ice to just how you like it. I would suggest getting light ice so your drink doesn’t become watered down. Also, be mindful that some of the drinks already come with toppings.
One thing that sets Sharetea apart from other boba shops is that there are limited time offers for holiday drinks. I appreciate the creativity and having a special drink series for only a short period.
Recommendation: QQ Happy Family (no red bean for me), Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea or Oolong Milk Tea
Another boba tea shop chain coming overseas from Taiwan and has been popping up all over Orange County with a new shop every few weeks. The menu consists of a variety of drinks including fresh tea, flavored tea, milk tea, fruit juice, Yakult based drinks, latte, and coffee. Ding Tea allows customers to customize the level of sweetness and ice to create a beverage most suitable for your taste buds. The milk teas taste very silky and the flavors are usually spot on. Please note that these stores are franchised and the quality of the drinks may vary. Most Ding Teas I have been to are not ideal for large groups or for a study spot.
Recommendation: Strawberry Milk or Winter Melon Milk Tea with Crystal Boba
Cafe 3 Blossoms
Matcha EVERYTHING! 3 Blossoms is best known for their matcha drinks and Guayusa teas, which are said to provide energy. You can’t find many places where you can get flavored matcha (Original, Raspberry, and Blueberry), flavored Guayusa iced teas and matcha affogatos. This is what sets 3 Blossoms Cafe apart from other tea shops. At 3 Blossoms Cafe, there are other things that they offer such as espresso, hot teas, immortality, Thai tea, fresh citrus, and jasmine iced tea.
Upon entering, if you catch the owner, he will give you a spiel of all the products offered, the health benefits, and the history of the teas. Samples are also offered here if you are indecisive.
Recommendation: Blueberry Matcha with Crystal Boba
Nestled in a busy shopping plaza across the street from Asian Garden Mall below Seafood Cove #2, Presotea is a boba shop that freshly brews the teas to order. The drinks are individually made from separate single satchels of tea bags. There are unique flavors you can choose from within their 5 categories of drinks: fresh tea, milk tea, latte, smoothie, and special drinks.
You can adjust the ice level and sweetness to some of the drinks, but be informed that some of the drinks cannot be adjusted. Pick your drinks wisely as some drinks come out tasting very watery. I got the Okinawa Brown Sugar Milk Tea, Wintermelon and Hojicha Milk Tea with bits of Wintermelon added at the button, White Peach Oolong Tea with Lychee Coconut Jelly at 70% Sugar, and Signature Fruit Tea with 50% Sugar. The coconut flavor was not distinct in the jelly, as it seems to be mainly just lychee jelly.
What makes Presotea especially unique is that they have soft serve available in two different flavors, Matcha and Tieguanying Oolong Tea. I have never seen Oolong soft serve before and I was pleasantly surprised.
Recommendation: Okinawa Brown Sugar Milk Tea & Mango Cloud
Lollicup / Tea Zone
A classic! If you were to ask me what was the first boba shop I’ve ever known, I would tell you Teazone or also known as Lollicup. It was the only tapioca shop to open around town when boba was still a new thing. Many years ago, it was almost a monopoly, similar to Yogurtland when frozen yogurt was the new fad. Drinks at Lollicup are made up of teas and flavored with powder. Snacks are also offered here and it consists of mostly finger food such as french fries, wings, and popcorn chicken.
Now that there’s more of a selection of boba and better quality teas, Lollicup is thrown to the back end and almost forgotten about. However, after all of the new boba shops appearing, Tea Zone still holds the throne of the best popcorn chicken. It is battered and fried to perfection, seasoned marvelously with basil, and served fresh right out of the fryer. Make sure to get it spiced medium or hot to add a kick to your taste buds.
Recommendation: Royal Milk Tea Snow and Popcorn Chicken (Spicy)
A very popular tea shop across Asia with over 500 locations has now made its way into the United States. Locally, there is one location in Garden Grove and a second location has recently popped up on Bolsa Street.
The first time I had R&B Tea, I got the Strawberry Milk which tastes like Nesquik Strawberry Milk. It wasn’t bad but I would not choose to get it again. The second time I got the XL Hawaiian Fruit Tea which has large chunks of fruit inside with tea. The fruits take up a huge portion of the cup so the drink itself is very little. Overall, I enjoyed the flavor of it but I wish the fruit chunks were smaller and there was more liquid. The cups that the drinks come in are different than the usual plastic cups at other boba shops, it is a thicker plastic which you could possibly reuse. One downside of R&B tea is that they don’t allow you to order your drinks without ice. You have to at least get light ice, which I find to be kinda strange.
Recommendation: XL Hawaiian Fruit Tea
Cha For Tea
Cha for Tea offers a variety of flavored teas, milk teas, coolers, and refreshers. They also offer snacks (appetizers), noodle soup, and entrees consisting of popcorn chicken, grilled chicken, teriyaki chicken and many more. Can’t decide on what you like? Samples are offered!
Aside from Lollicup, I used to frequent Cha for Tea and remember the times where I had to drive to Long Beach or Irvine just to get boba during late nights. What I like about Cha for Tea is that they barely put any ice in their drinks, so you don’t need to say light ice to get more of the drink. You can really taste the tea flavors in your drinks and it is not overly sweet. However, I haven’t gone to Cha for Tea in a while so I can’t comment on the quality now.
Recommendation: Mango/Peach Iced Tea or Iced Milk Tea with Lychee Jelly
A tea shop originally from Vietnam has found its home in one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the United States, Westminster. A small, yet inviting store with multiple tables and the wonderful scent of teas and boba greets you as you step foot inside.
Hok Tea is one of many new boba tea shops opening on the same weekend in October. I was one of the ones that waited in line during the grand opening day with their buy one, get one free promotion.
The menu is divided up into 6 different categories: Taro Cream Tea, Tiramisu Milk Tea, Smoothie, Healthy Fruit Drink, Strawberries Series and Milk Tea. Flavors here are catered to people of Vietnamese descent with options such as Durian Cacao and Coco Smoothie, Durian Avocado and Coco Smoothie, and Red Guava Passion Fruit Green Tea. Among other unique flavors, I picked out the Tiramisu Green Tea which is similar to the new cream cheese craze but with tiramisu flavors. It is definitely unique and has the flavors of tiramisu in a cheese foam.
Tastea first originated and brewed in Southern California and is now expanding to other parts of California and the nation. It is best known for its “specialteas”, slushy freezes, and smoothies.
Special teas on the menu have real fruit bits complemented with fruit juices and teas. There are also fries and Karate chicken served at 5 levels of spices. The popcorn chicken is not as crispy as Lollicup but will satisfy your cravings.
Recommendation: Peach Me Sweetea, Peach Me Freezie, Strawberry Bananza and Karate Chicken (insane), Watermelon Heaven
A boba shop located in the Tustin Marketplace in Irvine dedicated to being health-conscious by using all-natural ingredients and not having boba as a topping. Instead, they provide “healthier alternatives” to the traditional boba, typically made of starch.
Spiritea’s specialty drink is their “cloud tea” which are blended fruit slushies topped with creamy cheese foam. They use fresh fruits to make their drinks which can be seen as less flavorful than the typical artificial drinks. People have complained that it is bland and flavorless. However, I think the drink tastes better with the cloud part of the drink. Without it, I would not even bother with it as it tastes mainly like water.
The price point is also high ($7- $8.50) justified by the quality of the ingredients. I would probably never have tried this spot if it wasn’t for their grand opening promotion (Buy One Get One Free) because, for that price, you can already buy yourself a meal.
Recommendation: Seasonal Cloud Teas, such as the Peach Cloud Tea
BooCha Taiwanese Bubble Tea House
Another new addition to Garden Grove’s overflowing boba scene, BooCha is a small shop located near the cross streets of Brookhurst and Chapman. Inside, there are a couple of tables and chairs to chat with your friends over the loud banging music.
Like most bubble tea shops, there is an LED display screen showcasing their top 12 drink menu items if you can’t decide what to order. The menu items consist of lattes, milk tea, cheese tea, slush, fruit tea, and coffee. Be prepared to spend $4-6 on each drink. Although the prices seem a little higher than the standard, the drinks at BooCha comes with toppings.
Recommendation: Blue Green Milk Tea
Eightfold Tea Shoppe
A cute little boba shop with creative drinks in hopes of winning over the people in Costa Mesa. Yes, the drinks are Instagrammable but the taste tells a different tale. Choose between loose-leaf tea, fresh milk, craft milk tea, fruit & flower, and blended. There are samples for some of their drinks upon request.
The Eightfold Signature is different than most basic house milk teas, whereas, the “pretty” drinks such as Raspberry Matcha, Deep Matcha, and blended Uji Matcha are either flavorless or leaves a weird taste in your mouth. I have given Eightfold Tea Shoppe a couple of tries to redeem itself but unfortunately, the attractiveness of the drinks is not enough for me to keep coming back.
Recommendation: Eightfold Signature
Roasting Water is popular for its cute, reusable bottles that come with every drink. It is very aesthetically pleasing, perfect for those Instagram pictures. The interior is decorated very cutesy with many opportunities for pictures, occasional themes and mugs are placed around the store for purchase.
At Roasting Water, there are cold/hot teas, smoothies, coffee, and lemonades, but absolutely no food available for purchase. The prices are higher than normal boba shops but it’s because the price of the bottle is baked into the prices. However, the drinks itself is just okay, nothing to write home about.
Located in Santa Ana in a fairly large plaza is Boba Junkie. At this boba shop, there is a very limited menu with a selective choice of teas, coffee, and slushies. I normally see a few items that I like to try everywhere I go but at Boba Junkie I was only interested in 2 items, their House Milk Tea and Matcha Latte. There are other off-menu items listed at the counter on a little board as their “specials” so make sure to give it a look if you don’t see anything you like on the board.
When I received my Matcha Latte ($4.50), it was in two layers.. the matcha on top and the bottom was milk. I appreciate the presentation but the drink was very uneven and clumpy, despite shaking the drink as much as I could. There were clumps of matcha swimming around in my drink that sometimes I would get a clump of bitter matcha and that leaves an unwanted taste. I was disappointed in my drink so I tried my friend’s Thai Tea Float. It was a tad better than my drink but it was also pretty sweet.
All of the drinks at Boba Junkie are as is. You cannot adjust your sweetness level and that’s where drinks could be overly sweet for some people. All of the drinks are available in one size only. Yelp Check-in for a free topping!
Based on its location, I think Boba Junkie will do well in this area since there is a shortage of boba shops. As for me, I will continue searching for my next boba location.
Recommendation: Not the Matcha Latte
Very basic tasting drinks that would be okay if you were in a pinch, however, with the competition so high in Orange County, Tai Tea does not set themselves apart very well. There is a wide range of drinks ranging from fresh tea, build your own favorite tea, coffee, special milk tea, ice milk drink, and slushy. If you are indecisive, there is a list of top 15 items to help you decide.
Know any boba shops worth mentioning and you think I might like?
Please comment below!