Being Taiwanese myself and growing up in the 626, I am always on the hunt for delicious authentic Taiwanese food to satisfy my cravings. For this article, I want to focus on one particular Taiwanese dessert: boba (yes, boba is considered a dessert) [aka bubble tea, milk tea, bubble milk tea, boba milk tea]. I picked this dessert because it is becoming popular in mainstream culture and spreading around the world. So without further ado, here are my recommended places for boba in the 626.
Ten Ren is known for its tea harvesting and it is considered one of the largest tea manufacturers in Asia. It originated from Taiwan and has stores around the world. Some of its stores have a tea shop section where you can purchase fresh tea leaves while some are just tea houses where you eat and drink. They have multiple locations across SoCal and the one that I tend to go to most is in Monterey Park. It is located in a plaza where there are lots of underground parking. This location in particular does not have the tea shop, but the San Gabriel and Alhambra location does if that was something you were looking for. They offer a variety of Taiwanese food from street food to a full on meal, drink qualities are always consistent, and its one of the newest locations so it is clean.
The father of the AU79 founder was actually one of the nine founding members of Ten Ren. His son did not want to be under the Ten Ren system so he decided to branch out and start his own chain, AU79. Like Ten Ren, AU79 has deep roots with Taiwan and still manufactures its tea there. Only the original location in Arcadia and San Gabriel serves food, while the one in Pasadena is only drinks. AU79 is the only boba store on this list that serves pink boba, which tastes the same as normal boba, but it just happens to be pink!
Flour+Tea is part bakery and part teahouse. They have a variety of pastries and slices of cakes to go with your tea or boba drink. This place is more of a grab and go considering it does not have a lot of tables or chairs, but nonetheless, customers often have their drinks there and buy slices of cakes or bakery goods to go with their drinks. It does offer wifi and it is less hectic compared to the other boba places, which appeals to the teashop/coffee shop study people. Their selection of tea and drinks is on the smaller side, but it has superb quality.
Probably the most famous and popular one on this list is Half and Half. It is a fairly young boba chainstore that has been successful across the 626 area. Half and Half drinks, whether it is hold or cold, are always served with hot honey boba. Their honey boba is made in-house every day and if it is not used within the 2-3 hours, then it is tossed because the boba becomes hard and not chewable. The fact that it is fresh hot boba and honey infused is one of the reasons why it makes Half and Half unique. Another thing they are famous for are the Iced Milk Drink, which is a multi-layered non-caffeinated milk-based drink, and only served at Half and Half. The link I have provided is its original location, where it serves a variety of tasty Taiwanese food that goes perfectly with that fresh made drink.
Note: I have not personally gotten a smoothie at these boba places, but from what I have read in Yelp reviews, they are not that good. Also, the drinks can tend to be sweet so request the sugar level you want, for example none, quarter, half, light, regular, extra or double.
What are your go to boba places whether its in the 626 or around where you live?