August 10, 2008

Bubble Tea

Last week, Ryan and I visited a small restaurant in Lowell called the Eggroll Cafe where we both had Bubble Tea for the first time.

An invention of Taiwan, I'm gathering that "Bubble Tea" is a name that began when the drink was originally only tea, made by a process which included bubbling. Tapioca "pearls" (aka "boba") are added to the drink, and these pearls also have a bubbly appearance.

What we had was not tea at all. I ordered lychee juice, and when the waitress asked me whether I wanted the pearls, I sad yes. Ryan followed my lead. I wish I'd taken a picture. I didn't, so I'll have to describe it for you. (Although a Google Image Search might help, too)

Picture a clear plastic cup containing a slightly cloudy (but not like milk) juice and some small ice cubes. At the top of the cup there is a snappy cellophane-like plastic seal which is apparently glued or heat sealed on. In the bottom of the cup there are 20 or so black-colored spheres the size of chickpeas.

You're given a thick straw which is cut so it has a pointy end. The straw is thrust through the plastic cover so that you can drink the juice and also suck up the dark tapioca pearls. Lychee juice is sweet and the pearls are like soft gummy bears, with very little flavor of their own. They're there for the unique texture. Slightly slick on the outside, slightly chewy.

I really like lychee, and I hardly ever get it, so I was happy. Ryan seemed to enjoy his as well. The older workshop participants got their drinks without the boba and just looked at us funny. Don't knock it 'till you try it.

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Posted by James at August 10, 2008 6:07 PM
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I had bubble tea for the first time about six months ago. It is pretty odd the first time. However, I do like tapioca, so I actually enjoy bubble tea. I do think it is an acquired taste. I had adzuki bean once. I liked it, but (again) I think it would take some culinary open-mindedness to like.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at August 10, 2008 10:46 PM

I've seen bubble tea many times, but I still doubt that I'd like having chewable things in my drink.

Though I supposed that'd be better than having unchewables in my drink. Hmm.

Posted by: Julie at August 10, 2008 11:43 PM

Since I like lychee-flavored gummies, I figured I;d like tapioca boba in lychee juice.

I think I'd like them in any juice, or in tea. I don't know if I'd like them in milk.

Posted by: James at August 11, 2008 12:05 AM

I was thinking you'd just be drinking your tea and then suddenly have a mouthful of tapioca. But I guess with the straw, it's not as though you HAVE to deal with the tapioca while you drink. You could drink the drink and then have the bubbles for dessert. That might not be too bad. Hmm... there's a tea place at Harvard Square and I was thinking I would need to go to HS soon anyway...

Posted by: Julie at August 11, 2008 12:48 AM

I think the Chinese for Bubble Milk tea is actually translated into "the bomb diggity".

I've only had this a few times out here, but it's a wonderful invention. I find the tapioca pearls end up in quite a few drinks, and I'm OK with that.

However, what is way better than lychee (in my opinion) is lianwu, or wax apple. It's a mysterious fruit that looks like a pear, acts like an apple, claims it's a berry, and is crazy-delicious.

Also, a crazy awesome Taiwan invention is the ice cream burrito. I have no idea what its real name is, but it's ice cream, it's peanut shavings, it's a burrito and it's also crazy-awesome.

Posted by: Derek at August 11, 2008 4:52 AM

The tapioca won't come up the straw easily without the liquid (this is described on Wikipedia as "a common problem"). But you could eat it with a spoon once you were done.

Found a pic of the wax apple:

I'll look for it.

Posted by: James at August 11, 2008 9:39 AM

You should be able to score a number of these things at a Super88.

I've been doing research on where I can get some of this stuff when I get home, because they're just too awesome to not have anymore.

Posted by: Derek at August 11, 2008 2:33 PM

Chewable things that are acceptable in a drink:
*chocolate chips
*chocolate chunks
*chocolate sprinkles
*heath bar bits
*peanut butter cup bits

You know, or any chocolate. I'm not sure about tapioca. The whole thing looks fantastic and sounds disgusting. :-)

Posted by: Maggie at August 11, 2008 6:39 PM

They don't feel or even taste like tapioca, it's almost like flavorless gummy bears hiding at the bottom of your drink - ready to usurp the castle that is your mouth. But then you're like "yah, this regime doesn't seem so bad."

Posted by: Derek at August 12, 2008 3:08 AM

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