Bubbling Up the Tea While in the O.C.

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.

Lambada

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 may be difficult to find parking. The cashier was very sweet and I had an overall great experience.

Lambada

Recommendation: Pistachio Luv’n with grass jelly

Almond Haus

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 snacks items are available at this location.

Recommendation: Almond Haus Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Coconut Thai Tea Smoothie

7 Leaves

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 their 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.

7 Leaves Japanese Matcha Soy

Recommendation: Japanese Matcha Soy with grass jelly

TeaArias

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). Quality is always consistent and the drinks are made fresh with tea leaves. They even have the tea leaves available for purchase.

Recommendation: House Milk Tea

ShareTea

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 special drink series for only a short period.

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Recommendation: QQ Happy Family (no red bean for me), Okinawa Pearl Milk Tea or Oolong Milk Tea

Ding 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 tastes 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

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.

Lollicup

Recommendation: Royal Milk Tea Snow and Popcorn Chicken (Spicy)

R&B Tea

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.

R&B Tea

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.

Cha For Tea

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

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 the 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.

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Recommendation: N/A

Tastea

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 complimented with fruit juices and teas. There is 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)

Roasting Water

Roasting Water is popular for their cute, reusable bottles that comes 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.

Roasting Water

Recommendation: N/A

Boba Junkie

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

Matcha Latte at Boba Junkie

Know any boba shops worth mentioning and you think I might like?
Please comment below!

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