I have a confession to make. I never had bubble tea until very recently. Somehow, the thought of tapioca balls in tea just never appealed to me. I’m still trying to figure out who came up with the idea and where the idea came from. It’s not really intuitive – “Hmmm … what shall I do with my tea? I know! I’ll make some globs of tapioca and put them in the bottom of a cup, then invent a really big straw to slurp them up with! Everyone will LOVE that!” I just don’t see where that came from.
However, since it’s so popular and since a new boba tea lounge just opened near my dry cleaner’s, I thought I’d try it. First, let me say that the shop (The Tea Lounge) is really cute – kind of a hip little Asian-style lounge with groups of people hanging out, playing Jenga and other games, or just chatting. So for atmosphere, I give it a thumbs up.
When I got up to the counter to order, though, I was slightly overwhelmed. There were about a million flavors, very few of which had any actual tea in them. There were fruit drinks, cream drinks, and some green and black tea drinks. I ended up ordering passion fruit green tea, which seemed innocuous enough. I noticed a durian-flavored drink, which made me giggle a bit, having tasted durian when I was in Asia. That is definitely an acquired taste, although I’m not even sure how many Asians have acquired it, since many hotels ban it because of the – shall we say – “strong aroma.”
So after a few minutes, my drink was ready. It looked interesting – kind of like a strongly brewed green tea over ice, with some kind of dark stuff at the bottom. After a moment of idiocy in which I couldn’t figure out how to get the straw through the plastic covering the top (I grew up after juice boxes), I put the straw in and took my first sip.
Glub! My first sip sucked up one of the tapioca balls at the bottom! I gamely chewed it until I could get it down, then took another sip. This time, two tapioca balls came up, and before I could react properly, I had swallowed them whole. Not a good idea! The tea itself tasted pretty good, reminiscent of Southern sweet tea with some kind of fruit flavor. But I just couldn’t warm up to the tapioca.
I hate to say it, but my verdict was “Why mess up a perfectly good glass of tea with tapioca balls?” I may try it again, this time with the fruit gels instead, but for now, I’m happy with the pot of tie kuan yin I made after I came home.