The last time we took a boba census, Lollicup, 85 C Bakery, and Guppy's dominated the landscape, but things have changed so much since then. Though those three boba shops remain popular, new cafés have come along, attracting their own fanbases with drinks in pretty gradients, unique bottles, and a whole lot of sea cream.
So, in case you were wondering dear reader, those small black balls of tapioca aren't going away anytime soon. Rather, boba's spot as a Southern Californian staples means they're only going to get better.
10. TeaArias (Huntington Beach)
If you want a good crepe cake, get one at TeaArias where thinly layered crepes and cream are built on top of each other. You'll want to eat one of these with, perhaps, their house milk tea (which strikes a fine balance between sugar and milk), avocado smoothie, or other milky/fruity drink combinations.
7184 Edinger Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
(714) 596-8780; teaarias.com; Instagram: @teaarias
9. Craved Tea Lounge (Fountain Valley)
A nice addition to any boba shop is good snacks, which not all of them have. At Craved Tea Lounge, the garlic fries are the perfect partner for any sweet drink. One drink you can pair the fries with is the YOLO, which is their version of Half N Half's milk iced drink. If you want to get even deeper into their mad-scientist-like concoctions, here's as challenge for you: try uncovering their hidden menu.
16501 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, (714) 839-8919; facebook.com/Craved.Tea
8. That Boba Place (Costa Mesa)
Popping boba–the kind of boba that isn't meant to be chewed but instead bursts into liquid after each bite–isn't new in Orange County. Of all the places offering it, That Boba Place (which one? THAT one!) does it particularly well. Choose between different fruit-flavored spheres (strawberry, lychee, and mango are a few of your contenders) to add into any milk tea drink.
1534 Adams Ave, Costa Mesa, (714) 966-0188; facebook.com/That-Boba-Place-243210485707916
7. Tastea (Multiple Locations)
Everyone who lives in the county has probably stepped in Tastea at least once, but if there's a reason to return it's their Matcha Thai Tea, a–if the name hasn't already given it away–balanced fusion of green and Thai teas. Previously, the drink was a special item that just recently became a permanent menu item. But the fruity classics Tastea became known for–"Like Wow!" (strawberry and lychee), "Ohh La La" (coconut, pineapple and strawberry), and more–remain. All come with their signature green boba.
10189 Westminster Ave, Garden Grove, (714) 539-1832
1175 Baker Street, Suite E-21 Costa Mesa, (714) 634-2622
6. Roasting Water (Westminster)
Roasting Water is somewhat of a mini-boba museum, where every corner of the shop is designed to make you exclaim "how cute *insert three to four emojis here*". You might recognize their drinks from their signature bottles: skinny, long tubes of glass that accentuate the drinks' hues. You can fill these bottles with fruit smoothies, teas, and milk tea drinks and, while you're at it, peruse their walls of cute mugs (Hello Kitty ones included, just so you Hello Kitty fans know).
7925 Westminster Blvd, Westminster, (714) 893-1800
9783 Chapman Ave, Garden Grove; (714) 590-6120
5. Class 302 (Irvine)
There are certain foods that can be substituted for meals: ice cream for breakfast, having breakfast for dinner, and a gargantuan cup of milk tea from Class 302 for a midnight snack. When the cups were introduced to Southern California for the first time (through Half N Half Tea House and Class 302), they were a bit out of the ordinary, but now we're all used to them. Many of you have probably tried the milk tea here before, but if not here's Edwin to elaborate:
Milk teas will taste more of milk than tea, so you might as well get the iced milk drinks, which can be rendered sickly sweet with honey, caramel and other sugary syrups, taking away the pretense that you wanted tea at all. It's just an excuse to suck up tapioca pearls, anyway; when you do, you'll feel the familiar thump-thump-thump as the chewy balls are propelled up the straw and pummel the back of your throat like bullets meeting Kevlar.
18090 Culver Dr, Irvine, (949) 552-0555; facebook.com/class302irvine
4. Tea Station (Irvine)
An offshoot of Ten Ren Tea Company in the SGV, Tea Station comes from a long lineage of solid boba production. Though they're more expensive than other boba joints, the extra dollar is worth it if you're craving milk tea with a strong tea flavor. Their menu consists of standard milk tea options–almond, royal, and honey green milk tea–but if you want something slightly different (and exceptional, too) their brown sugar milk tea might do it for ya.
15333 Culver Dr. #430, Irvine, (949) 653-9989; teastationusa.com, instagram.com/teastationusa
3. Almond Haus (Garden Grove)
First things first: try Almond Haus' coconut Thai tea. The coconut adds to the tea's milky texture but keeps it light. The other flavors here are also noteworthy: their classic almond milk tea, Honeydew milk tea, and various takes on Jasmine tea, taro, and mung bean flavors. The best part? Most drinks are under $3.
14031 Flower St, Garden Grove; instagram.com/almondhaus
2. Zero Degrees (Westminster)
Zero Degrees doesn't just serve boba drinks; they also serve boba sundaes, which are scoops of custard topped with a ring of soft boba. It makes sense, don't it? Since custard, like milk tea, is a dairy product, the sundae is a creamier and colder version of milk tea. But if you still want a drink, the strawberry milk tea and avocado smoothie are two popular drinks to cool down with.
9822 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, (714) 839-8664; facebook.com/ZeroItalianIce
1. 7 Leaves Cafe (Multiple Locations)
When 7 Leaves Cafe replaced Fusion Tea Bar, fans of Fusion's bright, fruity drinks were were initially hesitant of the new shop. But when word spread that the owner of 7 Leaves Cafe is related to the owner of Fusion Tea Bar, there was a glimmer of hope. Their House Special Coffee, a phenomenal version of Vietnamese iced coffee, instantly became a customer favorite, and any woes about Fusion Tea Bar being gone were mostly forgiven.
9786 Westminster Ave, Garden Grove, (714) 590-2790
9111 Valley View Street #101, Cypress, (714) 229-9900
13771 Newport Avenue #12, Tustin, (714) 838-8887
9475 Warner Avenue, Fountain Valley, (714) 465-2343
7leavescafe.com; Twitter: @7leavescafe