Friday, 10 October 2014

Anyone for Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea from Bubbleology
When I was fifteen, before I discovered the hedonistic world of booze, my friends and I would spend Friday afternoons in Adelaide city centre doing one of two things; going for coffee (an influence of the large Italian and Greek population) or exploring different flavours of bubble tea - a 1980's Taiwanese invention and now a popular beverage worldwide.

Given the proximity of Taiwan to Australia (in relation to the UK) and the large Taiwanese population in Australia, I probably came across bubble tea long before many of you in the UK.

It's only really been in the last five years that bubble tea has become more widely known throughout the UK, and more accessible to a bigger crowd.

What is bubble tea?

Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, pearl milk tea or tapioca tea amongst other things, is perhaps most recognisable by its clear packaging displaying vibrant colours, a fat, colourful straw and 'pearls' gently resting on the bottom.

Most bubble teas are made from a tea base, mixed with fruit flavour or milk depending if you want it fruity or milky. Bubble teas can be made with a variety of teas including Assam Black Tea, Jasmine Green Tea and Ceylon Red Tea, all which work well as a base for adding additional favours.

Though its often thought that the 'bubbles' in bubble tea are the small, chewy tapioca balls, also referred to as 'pearl balls' at the bottom of the drink, it's actually tradition that the tea is shaken to blend so a beer-like head forms at the top.

What bubble tea flavours can you get?

There are now many, many variations on the original concept which was in essence a cold black tea with a sweetened tapioca pudding thrown in. Like most beverage groups there are different styles to suit different palates, and you may prefer yours fruity, or milky and creamy.

Popular flavours include (though are not limited to);

Flavour pumps at Bubbleology



Black Milk Tea
Lavender Tea

So what does it taste like?

Granted it can be a little overwhelming when you first come across some bubble tea outlets - not only can you choose which base flavour drink you'd like, you also have the option of different flavoured 'pearls'.

Though the traditional bubble tea uses tapioca you can also now find flavoured jelly, nato de coco (jelly-like from fermentation of coconut water) or aloe vera. I once tried a mango flavoured tea with passionfruit-flavoured jelly pearls; a fruity overload in comparison to the sweetened black milk tea with traditional tapioca balls which I tried a few weeks later.

The sensation of the pearls can be an odd one to bubble tea newbies. They are slippery, chewy and just a little bit odd, but weirdly, its addictive to suck the balls through the oversized straw and feel them pop into your mouth!

Where can you find bubble tea?

The Bubbleology store in Soho, London
Roll the clock back ten years and you would be hard pressed to find a bubble tea shop unless you travelled into Soho and Chinatown in London and searched the little alley ways off the beaten track.

Now you can find bubble tea outlets all over the country - from smaller, pop-up bars in shopping centres and hole-in-the-wall shops on High Streets to bigger bubble tea chains like Bubbleology which has bars in London and Eastern Europe.

If you're in London you're in luck as Bubbleology has six London locations!

Their flagship store is in Soho, but other locations include 5th Floor, Harvey Nichols and Topshop's flagship store on Oxford Circus.

If this sounds like your tipple and you're walking past a Bubbleology store, but sure to stop by and give it a go. Bubbleology also have a Specials Board with flavours including Banoffee Pie, Passionfruit & Cucumber, Rainbow Ripple and Jasberry so you can venture even further into the world of bubble tea. I'd highly recommend the Banoffee Pie. Enough said.

 Can you make bubble tea at home?

I can't guarantee that yes is the answer to that question....yet. I've never tried, however I've heard it's really easy and I will be trying it, so keep your eyes posted.

Essentially it consists of two main steps; preparing the boba (slightly bigger tapioca balls thatn you'd use for tapioca pudding, available at most Asian grocers) and preparing tea (which I do every day!).

The boba simply needs to be cooked in water, then soaked in syrup to preserve, and finally added to tea. I'm feeling optimistic that I can get it right....if not, I'll just keep going to Bubbleology!

Bubble tea images taken from Made With Pink's photostream on Flickr under the Creative Commons license.


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