O.C.’s Best: Boba!

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Photo by Priscilla Iezzi
Photo by Priscilla Iezzi

Just when you thought boba tea—also called bubble tea or milk tea—was old news, it’s back and tricked-out with all kinds of mix-ins. Dozens of new and hip tea shops are opening all over Orange County. Here are six spots to take a sip.

1

Milk Box
This Union Market favorite offers adorable miniature boba balls with its assortment of organic milk teas and loose-leaf iced teas. The stylishly appointed shop also promises that no artificial powders or synthetic syrups are used in its drinks. Don’t miss the Mustache Iced Tea ($5), a black tea topped with a fluffy layer of almond foam. The foam itself is addictive—and you can add it to any drink. If you’re a fan of green tea, try the Japanese Matcha milk tea ($5), a pretty parfait of deep green matcha tea layered atop milk and black tea. You can also opt for your drink in a cute glass bottle (to keep) for an additional $1.50. 27741 Crown Valley Parkway, Mission Viejo, 949-420-9191, milkboxbar.com

2 Bloomz
This shop is a surprising little oasis in an otherwise dated strip mall on the edge of Little Saigon. Inside, the bright space feels homey, with high ceilings and modern touches. But what really makes it stand out is that all of its teas are brewed to order, a remarkable difference you’ll taste with each sip. We love the refreshing Honey Mint Tea ($3.70) with added coconut jelly. The Assam Toffee Milk Tea ($4.25) with chewy honey boba is another winner, laced with pleasing caramel notes and the right amount of creaminess. You can adjust the sweetness level for any of the drinks. 8532 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, 714-620-9818

3 TeaArias
Those seeking variety will appreciate the 25-plus unique tea beverages on the menu, including a selection of traditional teas mixed with fresh fruit purees—such as the delicious Lychee Oolong ($4) and Tasty Colada ($4.50) with jasmine tea, pineapple and orange juices, and almond milk. The milk teas also are worthy; try the Lavender Milky ($4), made with a floral lavender black tea and milk. Besides boba, other add-ons include basil seeds and chia seeds for 45 cents each. 7184 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-596-8780, teaarias.com

4 Meet Fresh
Known for its traditional Taiwanese herbal jelly bowls, this curiously named cafe offers beverages that provide a terrific departure from the usual boba drinks. The Winter Melon Tea ($4) with mini taro balls and grass jelly is a cool-you-down delight—the melon has a distinctive, refreshing taste with a subtle sweetness. Be prepared to wait a bit as the line often goes out the door at this popular spot at Diamond Jamboree. 2710 Alton Parkway, Irvine, 949-955-9236, meetfresh.us

5 Sharetea
One of the fastest-growing milk tea chains, Sharetea is becoming a local favorite with two locations in O.C. The Kiwi Fruit Tea with aiyu jelly ($4.25) is a top seller; the bits of jelly provide a terrific kick of citrus flavor. You can customize your sweetness level; we like it half-sweet. The Hokkaido Milk and Okinawa Milk teas ($4 each) are two other standout sips, both with hints of caramel. Mix-ins here are plentiful, with mini and regular boba pearls, egg pudding, aloe vera, red bean, herb jelly, and lychee jelly. 3940 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, 657-266-0111; 2445 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, 714-626-8898, 1992sharetea.com

6 Zero Degrees
Another beverage hot spot in Little Saigon, Zero Degrees nails the presentation with slick branded glass bottles and offers unique flavors such as the Matchata (premium matcha mixed with horchata) and Coffee Horchata
($4 each). But it’s the simple Jasmine Milk Tea ($3.50) that shines brightest, with a fragrant and strong tea flavor; get it with boba, natch. 9822 Bolsa Ave., Westminster, 714-839-8664

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