For a UCI student, the boba scene is something that is heavily touted.  From Lollicup-selling clubs with "$2 Boba!" on Ring Road to hoarding Cha For Tea coupons for a discounted drink, boba is an integral part of UCI food life.  But these places are not the only boba shops in Irvine.  There are many other spots nearby that are even better.

To make your life a little bit easier (and save time on Yelp), I've compiled a list of boba places near UCI. Most of these places should be familiar to a UCI student - or at the very least, the names should be recognizable.  Which one is the best for you?

Most Convenient + Boba-less Specialties = Snowmonster

coffee, beer, cake
Clare Kanchana

Located in the same plaza as Cha For Tea, Snowmonster is a great nearby alternative for students who are sick of Cha For Tea, just want milk tea, or don't have a car.  

Snowmonster features reusable jars and a small menu of specialty drinks.  Although it's relatively pricey for milk tea, ranging from $4-$6, there's a good reason. The most expensive drinks are Snowmonster's signature "clouds" which include freshly spun cotton candy on top of any drink.  It's within walking distance from the main campus and very delicious.

#SpoonTip: Spend the extra $2.50 for a jar (light bulb or regular).  You can bring back the jar to use in place of a plastic cup for your next drink and get it discounted (Three cheers for sustainability!).  And even if you do not bring it back to use for a drink, the jars can certainly be used for other things. 

Check out this article for more about Snow Monster outside of their milk tea.

Extremely Generous Portions + Customization = Class 302

wine, beer, tea, coffee
Julie Anne Aguinaldo

With notably huge cups that are too big to fit into a cupholder, Class 302 gives plenty of boba to last awhile.  With two locations in Irvine, boba lovers can go to their normal cafe located in University Park Center or to a self-serve Class 302 located in The Market Place where one can customize their own drinks. Class 302's normal cafe has fixed drinks and prices, ranging from $2-$3 a cup.  Its self-serve location, on the other hand, costs a little bit more, with a small cup priced at $4.50 and a large cup at an additional dollar for $5.50.  However, Class 302's large cups and the self-customization balance out the price. 

#SpoonTip: Class 302's locations in general are cash-only.

Lactose-Intolerant + Organic = Milk Box

cheese, wine
Clare Kanchana

For those whose stomachs can't handle lactose or want organic boba, Milk Box in Tustin's The District is for you.  What makes Milk Box stand out in comparison to Snowmonster (who also has an organic + almond milk drink on their menu), is Milk Box uses lactose-free milk or almond milk and organic ingredients for their entire menu.  While it is on the pricier side compared to other boba places at $4-$5 for a regular cup, it may be worth dropping that extra money to avoid gas and stomachaches.  

#SpoonTip: Milk Box may be hard to find at first because it actually doesn't have a storefront outside in The District.  You'll have to go inside Union Market and make your way through the various small shops and food places that are smushed together to find it.  It is also very small - so be prepared to weave your way through people to get to your order if there's a long line of customers (or a crowd of people in general).  

Bang For Your Buck + Fast Service = 7 Leaves Cafe

cake, beer, coffee, tea
Clare Kanchana

A hugely popular cafe, 7 Leaves Cafe's Irvine location has a line out the door daily.  While farther from UCI, its drinks are all satisfying - especially the House Coffee - making it worth going the extra distance.  It's also the cheapest, ranging from $2.50-$3 for a regular-sized drink.  Unfortunately it's an extremely small shop with a lot of customers, so it's best getting drinks to go rather than staying at their small seating area.  If you really are in a rush, don't worry about waiting long.  7 Leaves is really quick at putting out orders - approx. one minute if it's not busy, two if there's a crowd.  You'll be in and out within five minutes or less.

#SpoonTip: 7 Leaves offers a reward card that gives you a free drink after 9 stamps.  It can be used at any of their 7 Leaves locations, which are conveniently listed for you on the back of the card.  It's a good thing to take advantage of and especially rewarding if you're a regular. 

Boba Alternative + Baked Goods = Happy Lemon

juice, coffee, tea, milk
Clare Kanchana

Sick of tapioca balls but don't like your milk tea plain? Happy Lemon, located inside of Sunmerry Bakery, offers taro balls as one of their add-ons to your milk tea.  Happy Lemon is decently priced, ranging from $3-$5 for a regular-sized drink, depending on what you order.  Additionally, you can grab a yummy bite to eat from the bakery or try out their other drinks.  They have a screen next to their regular menu that lists their top recommended drinks if you don't know what to try!    

#SpoonTip: Happy Lemon is right across from the 7 Leaves Irvine location, so if 7 Leaves is super busy, this is a good alternative.

Fixed Cup Size + Adjustable Ice & Sugar Levels = Sharetea

beer, tea, coffee
Julie Anne Aguinaldo

While most of the places I've listed come with different cup size options, Sharetea in Santa Ana is the only one that has one cup size.  The price depends on your drink, ranging from $3.25-$4.25.  But honestly, it's hard to complain about this concept, because for that range you get what can be classified as a large in cup size.  That's right, a large for $3.25. Combine that with a pretty decent variety of drinks, and the fact that you can customize how much sweetness and/or ice goes into your drink, Sharetea covers a lot of bases.  Because let's face it, we've all been disappointed at some point with how the ice to drink ratio in some of our boba drinks is super uneven (looking at you, 7 Leaves) or how your drink somehow came out too sweet that you can practically taste the sugar crystals.  With Sharetea, you can find that perfect balance.

#SpoonTip:  Look at Sharetea's menu carefully.  Sharetea has colored dots and symbols on the side of some of their drink listings on their menu, and they all stand for something.  Using their legend, you can figure out which drink is recommended, which drink you can get hot, and which drink is non-caffeinated.  

If you're a UCI student having trouble choosing a boba place to go to or if you're looking for a new one to try, I highly recommend these places. They're all pretty close and also very good.  If anything, I encourage you to try them all!