A Guide to Boba in Isla Vista

Illustration by Mable Truong | Managing Editor

Victoria Penate
Features Editor

When looking at Isla Vista, just a square mile in area, one fortunate, beautiful thing that stands out about this town is just how many different options there are when buying boba.

Below is a guide to the strengths and personalities of five different spots to visit for boba in I.V. — perhaps one for each weekday that you’ll be tempted to buy delicious milk tea.

Hana Kitchen

Hana Kitchen’s distinctive extra-wide cups are instantly recognizable to many Isla Vistans. If you have been on the fence about trying out the Asian fusion spot, it is worth noting that, in addition to boba teas, this place offers a variety of meal options for meat-lovers and vegetarians alike. Most are a clean and simple combination with vegetables and rice, making it a top-tier place to meet with friends and have all be satisfied.

The simplicity of this spot’s characteristic rice bowls creates a delicious pairing with any of their milk teas, or for those seeking an even sweeter treat, any of a variety of fruit-flavored slush drinks.

Naan Stop

Boba teas are a prominent part of the overall menu at Naan Stop, doing justice to the neon “Boba” sign which illuminates their front window.

The milk tea served at Naan Stop has a distinctive flavor, blending a creamy texture with extra sweetness to make a true dessert out of the drink. Due to the richness of this tea, it holds up well as a snack on its own, or as a great milky counterpart to any spicy item on the restaurant’s menu of Indian food.

Pho Bistro

Among a menu which features just as extensive a variety of filling food–from noodle dishes, to soups and rice, all in large quantities — Pho Bistro goes on to offer a drink menu that stands out as one of the most extensive around, with a list of flavor options fit to overwhelm any.

Although Pho Bistro offers takeout, and therefore sells boba tea to-go at the counter as well, this stands out as an establishment primarily intended as a sit-down restaurant. After all, whether you’ll be walking or biking home, big bowls of steaming hot soup do not travel well.

Wake Cup

As college students, a majority of I.V. residents can relate to needing exactly two things sometimes: caffeine and somewhere to sit down with a laptop. Of all the places in I.V. where boba tea is sold, Wake Cup delivers most effectively in this respect.

Equipped with plentiful small tables, Wake Cup provides a cozy space for settling in and getting work done in a relatively quiet ambiance. This makes it the perfect spot for those who enjoy a coffee house feel to their study space, but prefer a good milk tea or slush over a latte.

Wake Cup’s food menu is consistent with its other strengths as a study spot, featuring various snack foods from popcorn chicken to squid balls, suited well to complement a drink or satisfy a light craving rather than constitute a full meal.

Ice Milk Company (Fire & Ice)

Known as Fire & Ice to most, Ice Milk Company offers one of the most unique, versatile I.V. eating experiences on this list. The hot, freshly-cooked food on the menu — where the Fire portion of the name comes from — ranges from the lightness and share-ability of potstickers to filling rice bowls featuring different styles of chicken.

However, our focus is the Ice. The drinks at Ice Milk Company come in one relatively large size, a disincentive for those who prefer their tea in smaller quantities, but I have found that the flavor and texture of these drinks — made with fresh, strong tea — is so enjoyable that many are finished with their large cup before they have even realized it.

With two full sides of glass walls, another feature of Ice Milk Company is how well suited it is for watching the hustle and bustle of I.V., or a nice day, pass by. Though it has only been here for four years, this has become a quintessentially Isla Vistan gathering place, absorbing its surrounding atmosphere to create a spot for all types of visits.