More than 10 years ago, before a tea bar sprouted up on every corner in the San Gabriel Valley, I was still thankful for Tea Station, a Taiwan import connected to Ten Ren’s Tea Time. Ice milk tea flavors like taro, and Hong Kong, and Royal (Earl Grey) were all flavorful and refreshing after a Chinese food meal. At the time, I knew that they used powders and pre-made boba, but didn’t understand that it didn’t have to be that way. Thankfully, a new breed of tea bar has emerged since then featuring brewed tea, fresh fruit, and boba still warm from the machine. I’ve gone from Tea Station to Tastea and now prefer 7 Leaves Cafe.
In San Diego, the clear choice for milk tea is now a Kearny Mesa cafe called Camellia Rd from Ricky Lau and Darwin Wu featuring loose leaf tea, house-made simple syrup, real milk, and fresh fruit. As their motto says, “Great tea comes from great ingredients.” I could taste quality in their oolong milk tea, but preferred Genmaicha Milk Tea ($5) a nice change of pace with Japanese green tea and toasted brown rice delivering more depth.