Bubble Tea.

It’s tea, Jim, but not as we know it

Have you ever tasted Bubble Tea? Have you ever even seen it?

Until last year, my answer to both of these questions was no. Then I stumbled across an exciting joint in Soho, which sold almost nothing else. The place was called Bubbleology and I was very much intrigued…

Bubble (or Boba) Tea, it turned out, was a tea-based drink with chewy tapioca balls. Part refreshment, part snack, it was first developed in Taiwan in the 1980s, and has since spread across the globe. Now it had arrived in London.

Sadly for me, at the time we first encountered it, the Man was not up to sharing a cup – and I was too nervous to spend almost four quid on something I might not like. My hopes of having a taste were dashed, only to be reawoken when, on the streets of San Francisco, I found a cheap vendor in Chinatown.

A couple of dollars later and I had myself a ‘Thai’-flavoured Bubble Tea. And you know what? It was rank. Clearly, I’d not chosen wisely. While I enjoyed the feel of the tapioca blobs, the tea itself was bright orange, bitter and weird.

I crossed it off my To-Chew List, suspecting I’d not done it justice.

Flash forward to a fortnight ago. I had heard there was a new Bubbleology store opening in Notting Hill – and when I found out they wanted some people to give it a try I jumped at the chance so readily that my head almost hit the ceiling.

The Man and I finally popped in last night and were treated to several intriguing varieties. There was no sign of ‘Thai’ for some reason – instead we were treated to milk-based Rose and Taro flavours, along with the fruitier Apple, as well as Cucumber/Passion Fruit.

You’ll be pleased to know (but perhaps not as pleased as myself) that it was a vast improvement on my previous Bubble Tea experience.

The Man, whose preferences usually lean towards the fruitier things in life (no comment), was not too keen on the milk-based varieties, preferring the Cucumber and Passion Fruit to all the rest.

I, however, was firmly on the side of all that is creamy and rich. The Apple was a bit too sweet for me – more like a Jolly Rancher than something you’d pluck from a tree. The Cucumber and Passionfruit-flavour (exclusive to the Notting Hill branch) was, I think, much nicer – although all I could really taste was its Jasmine Tea base.

No, sir. In this Pud-Hog’s mind, the milkier drinks were where it was at.

Trust me…

It might have looked more like frogspawn, but the Rose (another Notting Hill exclusive) was unmistakeably rosy – lightly sweetened and fragranced.

And the Taro. The Taro! A revelation.

Until that point I’d only ever heard about Taro through a cousin who lives in Hawaii (jealous? me?), but turns out it’s all the rage in Southeast Asia (and when I say ‘all the rage’ I mean ‘cultivated to the max’).

A tropically-based root vegetable, used in both sweet and savoury dishes, it wouldn’t have been my first choice off the bat – but I was very impressed.

Thicker than its rosy counterpart, it was more like a milkshake than anything else, with a flavour that’s pretty darn hard to describe. This being a blog post however, and not a store giving out free samples (sorry), I suppose I should try and describe it anyway…

Think viscous, faintly perfumed, very milky – almost nutty…

That’s probably the best I can do. But basically, if you’re a fan of things like condensed milk, this drink’ll be right up your street.

Talking of condensed milk, one thing I was seriously sad about was the lack of ‘Condensed Milk and Icing Sugar’ Toasties. I’d seen them on the Soho menu, but apparently they have now been discontinued.

They say it was lack of interest. I say, let’s start a petition…

But before we get to that let’s talk about the bubbles themselves – or ‘Boba’, as they’re also known. They were just like I’d had in San Francisco: very chewy – quite a lot like jelly (while still being vegetarian) – and fun to suck up through a giant plastic straw.

As far as I could tell, the Boba in our drinks were pretty much flavourless, but that didn’t stop them being ultra satisfying. With one in almost every mouthful, there was plenty to keep the ol’ tongue well amused.

They even made weird face-shaped shadows! Hours of fun, I tell ya!

Should even that not be enough to thrill you, however, there was also the option of paying 50p extra for ‘Popping Boba’.

Goodness knows how they’re made, but they look like caviar and feel rather like swollen segments of fruit: transparent orbs with a thin, bouncy outside which ruptures between the teeth and bursts with fruity liquid. Two flavours in just the one drink.

We tried Lychee… and both reckoned it would be ace in a cocktail…

Seems like the next logical step now I think of it: get those Bobas in some alcohol and double the fun-quota instantly.

The Man, you see, can’t fathom how these drinks can appeal as more than a novelty purchase – or ‘novel-tea’ (as he so ‘witt-tea-ly’ described it. Sorry. That’s the last pun for now, I promise).

In a way, I get what he means – they are pretty novel and not too cheap (£3.75 for 500ml/£4.25 for 700ml).

BUT…

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, that’s not too heavy and has some bite, I’d say these drinks could well fill a gap in the market.

More importantly, they could also fill a gap in your stomach.

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