Splashing the UK with a serious dose of retro revival, bubble tea has slowly but steadily been making a comeback. With Taiwanese origins from the 1980’s, bubble tea has more recently propelled to popularity resulting in bubble tea cafés and bars popping up all over the place. Quirky and colourful, bubble tea can be either milky or fruity and contains boba (bubbles) or ‘pearls’ made from tapioca or fruity jelly.
Milk Tea and Pearl have headed up London’s bubble tea revolution with their eye catching branding and young, fun innovative approach. They have a super cute website with an addictive popping noise (trust me, these things are important) and a quirky little video with nearly 4000 Youtube hits.
With a plethora of flavours, Milk Tea and Pearl has bought the best of bubble tea from the Far East to the not so far east, settling in Shoreditch’s Boxpark. One frosty Friday afternoon, I popped in to give my verdict on the drink of the moment.
With a whole host of flavours to choose from, I felt slightly intimidated as a bubble tea newbie. Marketing Coordinator Ning revealed how western customers tend to go for a coconut milk tea, whereas a classic would be the Assam Black. Naturally, I asked to try them both as it would only be right for an accurate comparison. Ning also suggested I try a fruity tea for a contrast of flavour- I of course obliged.
The general idea is that you pick the flavour of your tea and then choose one or more ‘extras’ for the ‘bubbles’ for your ‘bubble tea’. The choices for these ‘bubbles’ were tapioca (gummy balls made from yam, sweet potato and cassava- whatever that is), or fruit boba; flavours including lycee, strawberry and passion fruit. Having no clue which flavour boba would go with which tea, I opted for:
Equipped with a huge straw big enough to transport the boba from the bottom of the cup onto my tongue, I worked my way through the three flavours um-ing and ah-ing about which was my favourite, trying to get my head around the unusual concept of lumps in your drink being a good thing. The tapioca were gummy and chewy, definitely more about texture than flavour and the boba were fruity, bursting deliciously when I bit them. It was all strangely addictive.
The coconut was immediately my favourite but it quickly gave way to the Assam Black, which was equally as tasty and milky but not quite as sweet. The fruity-ness of the Blueberry tea was really refreshing but in my humble opinion, it couldn’t beat the Assam Black which I sipped on enthusiastically for the duration of my visit.
Loaded up with a little bag and three different flavours for my journey home, I must admit I felt like I had discovered a whole new drinking experience. Polishing of the last flavour the following day was equally tantalising for my tastebuds, and I decided sitting at Boxpark in the sun with a chilled Assam Black will be top of my list of things to do this summer. Forget fads! If you ask me, the bubble tea bonanza is here to stay. Move over coffee! I’m a bubble tea convert now.