milk tea

Chinatown in LA

The morning I got back from Sacramento, I went to my niece’s and nephew’s birthday party without coffee. For some odd reason, I was pretty much feeling strong and awake even though I only got four or five hours of sleep. After the party, I tried to rest at home but was eager to just go out. I realized the travel bug was in me and it was real. It was so real that I had to go somewhere to explore.

With a few friends, we grabbed dinner at In-N-Out and then we were off to a spontaneous trip to LA! I’ve been wanting to check out Chinatown in LA to see the Chinese lanterns lit up and simply to explore the area since I always drive by it whenever I’m in the area.

When my friends and I got there, it was pretty dead. It was nice to have the whole town to ourselves!

Chinatown can easily be explored in less than 30 minutes but we took our time taking pictures and enjoying the bright neon lights. Next time, I’m going to have come here in the afternoon when it’s busy and have some dim sum!

Thanks Chinatown for temporarily curing my travel bug!

Since we were near Little Tokyo, we decided to grab some milk tea from one of my favorite boba shops! I got my usual Brown Sugar Milk Tea which was perfect as always!

We hung out at Ozero for a little bit before heading out to our last adventure!

Favorite Boba Shops of 2014

Between 2013 and 2014, I think I may have gone overboard with my milk tea craze. In 2013, I discovered my love for milk tea after experiencing it in the 626 area aka San Gabriel Valley aka the home of milk tea.

You’re probably thinking, “What? You’re Asian. How is it that you JUST discovered your love for it?” Well, let’s see… I’ve tried homemade milk tea before at my friend’s house and I wasn’t too much of a fan of it back in high school. That was probably my first and last time ever trying milk tea specifically. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely tried boba drinks before like those fruity slushy ones but I wasn’t a fan of them at all.

Flash forward about 8 years later after my first real milk tea encounter, my life changed. Everything made sense now. I guess my tastebuds had changed but now I understood why people loved milk tea! I too was in love with it and just wanted more! Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I knew I had a problem but didn’t want to fix it. Anywhere I went especially after lunch or dinner with friends, I would do research to see if there were any boba shops nearby for dessert! I grew so curious how all the milk teas tasted at the various boba shops and enjoyed comparing the differences.

After countless boba adventures, this brings me to share with you my favorite boba spots of 2014 in no special order but alphabetically because I have OCD:

1. 7 Leaves

  • Yelp: 4 stars with 1144 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Jasmine Milk Tea
  • This is probably one of the more hip boba places to hang out at in Orange County because of their interior design. A lot of boba shops are more for to-go drinks but here, they want you to hang out with your friends and enjoy your drink!

2. Almond Haus

  • Yelp: 4 stars with 498 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Almond Milk Tea or Hazelnut Iced Coffee
  • One summer, I came here every week for three months in a row and they started to remember me. I know, it was a little embarrassing but the drinks were that good.

3. Cafe Brown 

  • Yelp: 4 stars with 85 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Golden Milk Tea
  • Hidden in the edge of Fullerton, they’re known for their Golden Milk Tea. Once you have a sip of it, you experience an eye opening golden moment. You will not see life the same afterwards.

4. Cha For Tea

  • Yelp: 3.5 stars with 1047 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Honey Green Milk Tea or Mango Green Tea
  • There’s great customer service as they are always willing to make all sorts of adjustments to your drink without additional costs. They’re usually more on the sweeter end compared to other places but there’s nothing wrong with anything being too sweet!

5. Champion Food Co.

  • Yelp: 4 stars with 140 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Milk Tea or Almond Milk Tea
  • This little mom and pop shop was probably the first boba shop that opened up in Irvine. I’d like to consider them the OG of boba in the bubble tea town of Irvine. The bobas here are affordable at $2.50 and it hits the spot!

6. Factory Tea Bar

  • Yelp: 4 stars with 950 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Honey Green Milk Tea or Nom Nom Milk Tea
  • I come here mainly for two reasons, the drinks and the ambiance. This is probably one of the biggest boba places I’ve been to where there’s a lot of tables and couches. Sometimes the place isn’t big enough that there’s a wait to get seated!

7. Ozero

  • Yelp: 4 stars with 529 reviews
  • Favorite drink: Brown Sugar Milk Tea
  • Located in the heart of Little Tokyo, this place is one of my go-to places when I’m in the area. The Brown Sugar Milk Tea is similar to the Cafe Brown’s Golden Milk Tea but it’s just a tad bit bolder and sweeter.

8. Tea Station

  • Yelp: 3.5 stars with 339 reviews
  • Favorite drink: House Special
  • There’s honestly something special about that House Special drink, hence the name. Tea Station is a little more on the pricey end for milk tea but hey, they won’t disappoint you!

I wish I could have given you a list of 10 of my favorite boba places because 10 is more of a wholesome number compared to 8. (This is the OCD in me.) Because I take milk tea pretty seriously, I just don’t think it’s right to add 2 mediocre boba shops just so I can list out 10. So there you go, 8 of my favorite boba places in 2014!

Do you have a favorite boba place in Orange County or LA County area that I didn’t list? If so, feel free to share it with me! Comment below or tweet me! If you end up checking out one of these places, take a picture of it on Instagram and hashtag TinaTalksToday!

Throw Back Thursday : Foodie Adventure

Happy #TBT aka Throw Back Thursday! I look forward to TBT’s because it makes me reminisce about all the good times in life. Today, I’m throwing it back to Saturday, November 23, 2013 when I gathered a bunch of friends together for a “Foodie Adventure” as I called it to explore San Gabriel Valley. I’ve been there once, twice, but three times! Yet, I still can’t get enough of San Gabriel Valley because it has too many good places to eat.

The one place I had been wanting to try out since forever ago was Newport Tan Cang. This place has more than 1,500 reviews on Yelp with 4.5 stars! I had to take everyone here because I knew it couldn’t be a disappointment except the wait! The last time I tried to go there, the wait was 2 hours long! I knew that if I wanted to try that place out, I had to have a better game plan next time.

So I tweeted 626 Foodettes for some help since they are knowledgeable of the 626 area, hence their name. (Side note: This is why I love social media!)

With that, I thought it was best to leave from Orange County at 3:30PM. Even with some lag time, my friends and I were able to get there on time before the crazy long wait started. We got there a little before 5PM and waited for 30 minutes to get seated which wasn’t too bad compared to the normal 2 hour wait.

Girls were seated on one side.

Of course, the boys were on the other side.

Luckily, Doug was there to help us order some good Hong Kong style food. Thanks Doug! Everything we ordered was family style because we’re a family! Ok, I know that was cheesy…

We first got the House Special Lobster which is one of their most popular items on the menu. It was messy to eat BUT it was definitely the winner on the table for all of us.

Another popular item we ordered was the Beef Loc Lac – French Style. Now this was tender meat that melted in my mouth!

We also got the lettuce wrap, deep fried tofu, and some clams.

There was a point where no one said anything because the food was seriously that good. We were too focused on enjoying the food rather than each other’s company! We didn’t even realize the silence until someone had mentioned it!

We each paid about $15 including tip and tax for everything we ate. We were all stuffed but I’m sure we could have eaten a tad bit more because that darn lobster was one of a kind. Actually, everything on that table was darn good!

As a tradition when I’m in SGV, I have to end the night with Factory Tea Bar. It’s a hip boba place to hang out with your friends. The atmosphere is great but of course, the drinks are good! According to Yelp, this place has more than 700 reviews with 4 out 5 stars! Because we had dinner at an off hour, we arrived to Factory Tea Bar at an off hour also which worked out perfectly. We got seated pretty quickly around 8 or 8:30PM. Factory Tea Bar can get really busy just like Newport Tan Cang so definitely get there early especially if you want the good seats like the couches.

We played a lot of games there like Jenga and various card games.

I ordered my usual Honey Green Milk Tea. It’s the drink that never disappoints me or anyone else! If you end up not liking it for whatever reason, Factory Tea Bar is always good about customer satisfaction. They will adjust your drink accordingly as many times as necessary!

We hung out for awhile until food coma started kicking in. So we had to prepare ourselves for the hour long drive back to Orange County. It was a lot of fun eating good food and ending the night with some sweets and fun games!

Thanks Andrew, Anne, Annie, Daniel, Doug, Elaine, Eric, Josephine, Shawn, Stacy, and Victoria for joining me on this Foodie Adventure! Big thanks to those who drove!

Sorry but not sorry if this post made you hungry.

Diabetes Hang Out

After work, my plan was to go to UCLA to see an old friend perform his cello solo. Due to heavy traffic, I never made it sadly. To turn that sadness around, I decided to explore Little Tokyo. For a small little area, there’s quite a lot of places to eat! My friends and I started out at Weiland Brewery which is across the street literally from Little Tokyo’s main plaza. It’s an American food kind of restaurant where you can customize your burger. So there, I made my own cheeseburger. Well the only main special thing about it was that I added egg to it!
Cheeseburger with egg.

Nope, it was not a breakfast burger. It was a cheeseburger with egg for dinner! Adding egg to a burger brought a homey feel to it. I think egg with anything is good. Kind of like spam. Spam solves so many problems. The burger was so big that I got lost. Lost as in, I didn’t know where I had taken my first bite. So I ended up eating on the opposite end of my first bite. I almost thought I was going crazy since I couldn’t find that first bite.
Two bites on opposite ends.

I was so hungry that I was able to finish the whole cheeseburger! I mean, it took awhile though to finish. Slow and steady wins the race!

Because I have a major sweet tooth, we had to get dessert. Also, it was a Friday night and we were in Little Tokyo! So it was basically gave us many good good reasons to get some kind of dessert. We first went to Cafe Dulce, a little coffee and bakery shop that is mainly known for their green tea donut. We got the green tea donut, blueberry roti bun, and a bacon donut.
Three donuts.

The green tea donut was good as always. The green tea flavor is actually pretty light that you can barely taste it. The filling in the donut had a vanilla pudding flavor that wasn’t too strong. The green tea donut itself has a subtle taste to it.
Green tea donut.

I want to say that Roti Buns were originated from Northern California. I only say that because it was in San Jose area several years ago that my friends who live there introduced them to me. My experience with Roti Buns has never disappointed me ever! When they’re fresh, oh man. It’s game over. The warm crispy edges of the bread but the softness inside, and the slight sweetness of it makes you easily addicted to them Roti Buns. Ever since my last visit to San Jose, I was never able to find them here in Southern California for some odd reason.
Blueberry roti bun.

When I found out that Cafe Dulce had Roti Buns, I got extremely ecstatic. But. I was a little hesitant about the blueberry roti bun because I was afraid the blueberry was going to be overpowering. It was actually nowhere close to overpowering. It wasn’t too sweet or too sour. It was right in the middle. Cafe Dulce does a great job of keeping the flavor of the pastries well balanced out.

Now, the bacon donut. It was my first time ever trying a bacon donut. It really threw off my taste buds because it was sweet and salty. It’s a combination that does and doesn’t work. Would I recommend it to you? Eh, most likely not. I’d stick with the green tea donut and the blueberry roti bun.
Bacon donut.

After trying Cafe Dulce, I wanted to get some milk tea of course. Wherever I go, I’m always on the lookout to try milk tea at different places. We found Four Leaf. There we ordered honey green milk tea and Going Banana crepe that has vanilla ice cream, nutella, and banana.
Four Leaf.

Service there was unfortunately not the best, only because they forgot about making our order. It’s ok, the kids behind the counter were young. The honey green milk tea was flavorless. It was barely sweet. Probably more on the plain end. The crepe was messy but sweet. I think the sweetness from the crepe made up the lack of sweetness from the milk tea.

Since we tried 2 dessert places, we said to ourselves, “Hey, it’s Friday. Let’s try one more dessert place.” So we went over to Mikawaya and tried a mochi. With this Orange Gyuhi Mochi, I was hesitant again to try it because I was afraid it was going to be too tangy. Luckily, it wasn’t tangy at all. The mochi had a good balance of sweetness to it like the pastries from Cafe Dulce.

After dinner and trying 3 plates of dessert, we had to stop ourselves from getting one step closer to diabetes. So we called it quits after two to three hours of eating continuously. After so many intakes of sugar, we all had a sugar crash.

But it was all worth every bite because it was Friday!

Thanks Derek, John, and Irwan for the fun filled diabetes tour in Little Tokyo! Let’s not do it again… Special thanks to John for putting this fun video together!

The Lost Bean

I was looking for a cute coffee place to meet up with Amy. Somehow, last minute I was able to find one thanks to Yelp! We met up at The Lost Bean which the name itself is cute! It’s located very close to the border line of Tustin and Irvine.
The Lost Bean

It’s an area that I have yet to explore surprisingly. I don’t think people know about this place only because I don’t know how no one has ever brought up The Lost Bean before! So it is in this plaza where the stores are old fashioned with coned roof tops like castles. It stands out when you’re driving by the area.
Tustin

The Lost Bean has a mom and pop shop feel to it where there is a comforting feel to the place and even from the interaction of ordering drinks. The set up of the place is pretty creative. You go to the “LOST” area to order drinks. Then to pick up your drink, you go to the “FOUND” section.
Inside.

Amy and I both got the Peach Milk Tea and shared a spinach and egg bagel sandwich. The Peach Milk Tea tasted healthy and refreshing. The sweetness of the drink reminded me of those Korean peach drinks that kids usually drink. The breakfast sandwich definitely made me feel healthy especially because of the spinach that they packed in.
Drink and food.

The Lost Bean has two sections that are connected. The left side of the store is where you order and you can sit there too. It’s a tad bit cramped but I like the lay out of it. Then to the right of the shop is where there’s more seating arrangement like mini couch area, high bar stools and long tables.This area is where they do wine tasting and classes that take place throughout the week. Cool, huh? The Lost Bean definitely has a different concept of how they carry themselves compared to various coffee places. It makes them unique and stand out easily from coffee chains. I’m glad to see a coffee shop like this one nearby!
The other side of The Lost Bean

Thanks Amy for checking this place out with me! By the way, you need to check out the wedding dress store in that plaza!

7 Leaves Cafe

When I first went to Fusion Tea Bar, my friends and I had talked to the manager before we left. He mentioned how the owner of Fusion Tea Bar was brothers with the owner of 7 Leaves. I actually had never heard of 7 Leaves Cafe until then. After he brought up 7 Leaves, I took a mental note of that and told Briana about it since she and I like to try new places together.

The day that Briana wanted to try Fusion Tea Bar for the first time ever, it was closed! We were pretty bummed about it. Really bummed actually. I was craving honey green milk tea that whole week and I never crave anything really. And Briana waited patiently for a week to try Fusion Tea Bar. We just wanted to treat ourselves to some good milk tea. But it wasn’t meant for us to have Fusion Tea Bar be that day. It just wasn’t.

We went over to Kean Coffee to make up for not getting Fusion Tea Bar but the place was just packed. It discouraged us from getting anything. Somehow in the midst of our disappointment of failed boba adventure, Briana suggested 7 Leaves out of nowhere. So we quickly found directions and immediately left!

Here are some notes to keep in mind before you go to 7 Leaves Cafe. One. Bring cash. Two. Location is no bueno. It’s almost hidden. Parking is bad. So carpool. If you can’t carpool then you may have to park in the neighborhood. Three. You can’t really hang out at 7 Leaves. There’s just only two small tables. You’re not going to want to hang outside either. There’s no really no space but the sidewalk. Just an FYI. There may be an intoxicated homeless person sitting in front of 7 Leaves Cafe. Not sure if he’s always there but if so, be careful. He came inside of 7 Leaves Cafe and came up to me and Briana and asked for money. He said a lot of scary nonsense that I will not share here. Please be careful.
7 Leaves Cafe

Though their menu is actually quite small and selective, it took awhile for me to decide what I wanted because they simply did not have honey green milk tea. I ended up getting the Jasmine Milk Tea which was a safe pick. The other drinks seemed a little too out there for me. I wasn’t ready for that. My main focus was to get some kind of drink similar to milk tea.
Jasmine Milk Tea

When it comes to drinks that are flower names, I can’t help but to think that I’m drinking poh-pur-ree. With that said, Jasmine Milk Tea tasted like popery. It wasn’t as sweet as Fusion Tea Bar’s milk tea. It had a light taste with a hint of popery. Would I go to 7 Leaves Cafe again? Eh, I wouldn’t go out of my way like I did this time around to go there. The drink was ok. I don’t think Jasmine Milk Tea is too much of a popular one, but the Mung Bean Milk Tea and the Sea Cream Jasmine Tea seem to be so instead.

Briana, I’m glad you were able to randomly think of 7 Leaves Cafe! Even though our experience was quite an interesting one, I’m glad we can check it off our list!

Fusion Tea Bar

Fusion Tea Bar has confirmed even more that I like milk tea a lot! When I was a kid, I liked those slushy boba drinks a lot. I would only get those slushy drinks because as a kid who wouldn’t want a slushy drink? Naw mean? Then later in life at some point, I was against boba. It was just too much sugar for me. For about 6 to 8 years I didn’t drink boba at all whatsoever. Then through social media, I got into it really recently. As recent as this year. Ever since I saw the Fung Brothers and their music videos on boba and going to San Gabriel Valley, I had more respect for boba drinks.
Fusion Tea Bar

Since then, I’ve been on the hunt for some good milk tea. I heard about Fusion Tea Bar from a few friends who really liked the place a lot. It’s in Tustin, California. Right in that plaza with Gen the Korean BBQ restaurant, Souplantation and the hipster coffee shop, Kean Coffee. They’re fairly new. They opened in November of last year.
Fusion Tea Bar Inside.

I got their honey green milk tea with mini boba. Mini! It was my first time ever trying mini boba. The honey green milk tea was good. Not too bland or too sweet. Just at the right level. Customer service was beyond great. The manager really cared about our experience there.
Honey Green Milk Tea

As Fusion Tea Bar was closing up, my friends and I were the last ones there. Though they were cleaning up, they encouraged us to stay longer. They really didn’t mind us staying past their closing time. So my friends and I were there until 11:30ish at night. As we were about to leave, the manager asked us about our drinks. One of my friends was honest and said he didn’t like his drink because it wasn’t sweet enough. Right then and there, the manager insisted several times that he could give him a new drink and make it sweeter. But my friend kept saying no because it was late at night and the tea would keep him awake. The manager said that in general they could at anytime make adjustments to our drinks for free! So he said next time to tell the boba makers to make it sweeter.
Briana and Honey Green Milk Tea

I really liked Fusion Tea Bar the first time that I went there again the next day. The customer service and the drinks were still great!