Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bubble tea, Taiwan's popular drink

11/18/2010 Taiwan Explorer
Cute bubble tea girls in Xinpu from the shop near my home.

Did you ever try bubble tea or pearl milk tea? If you haven't, it's really a pity. The first time I tried bubble tea was in Batu Pahat in 2008. You can get good bubble tea in Malaysia, actually all over Asia and even in the West. But nowhere is bubble tea as abundant and as popular like in Taiwan. This is a uniquely Taiwanese drink, it was invented in Taiwan some 30 years ago (precisely in Taichung) and its popularity has spread all over the world (source).

My girlfriend prefers black tea, but I always drink bubble tea.

WHAT IS BUBBLE TEA? Bubble tea is milk tea, that comes in big plastic cups with a huge straw, which you pierce through the sealed top of the cup and slowly push down. At the bottom are the "pearls", made of tapioca, which is a starch extracted from a plant. These pearls are like small candies, a bit chewy but sweet. It's something like jelly, just a bit harder. So while you drink the bubble tea, you can also suck out and eat those tapioca pearls. I usually drink the tea and eat the pearls at the end. And hereby the mystery of the huge straw is unraveled: It's so big, because it's not only meant for drinking the milk tea, it's also for sucking out those tiny little bast... tapioca pearls.

My 2nd fav bubble tea in Taipei. See the pearls at the bottom? They are bad swimmers.

The bubble tea above is from the night market in Xinpu (5min away from my home), which is part of Banqiao, which is part of Greater Taipei, but not Taipei City itself, but that's another story. For me it's all Taipei. Period. The thing with bubble tea is, once you start, you can't stop drinking it. There were days, where I drank one cup every day, usually in the evening. Pretty quickly my tummy became a bit bigger, but I had no clue why, until my girlfriend told me that bubble tea makes you fat! OMG, that's so unfair. Why are the best things always making us fat?After giving it a bit of a thought, I started to drink less bubble tea and usually took the half-sugar version (btw, I'm still fat and now also grumpy, cuz I can't drink bubble tea like I used to...).

HOW DO YOU ORDER BUBBLE TEA?

You: 我要珍珠奶茶. (Wǒ yào zhēn zhū nǎi chá.)
I want pearl milk tea.

Bubble tea girl: 冰度? (Bīng dù?) - 甜度? (Tián du?)
How much ice?/How sweet?

You can choose:

Ice: 去冰. (Qù bīng.) - 少冰. (Shào bīng.) - 正常. (Zhèng cháng.)
No ice. - Less ice. - Normal.

Sugar: 無糖. (Wú táng.) - 少糖 (Shào táng.) - 半糖 (Bàn táng.) - 正常. (Zhèng cháng.)
No sugar. - Less sugar. - Half sugar. - Normal.

My favorite bubble tea would be: 去冰甜度正常. (No ice and with sugar).

BUBBLE TEA WITH REAL MILK: Usually the milk in the bubble tea is not real milk, but a substitute, a kind of a creamer (I heard that's because many East Asias are lactose intolerant, source). But there are few shops who offer bubble tea with real milk. And since I grew up with real cows and regularly drank fresh cow milk, is my favorite bubble tea of course the one with the real milk. Read here about my favorite bubble tea shop>>

I love bubble tea! How about you? If yes, which is your favorite shop?

FUN FACT: Other names for bubble tea are: 泡沫紅茶, 泡沫奶茶, 波霸奶茶, 버블티, タピオカドリンク, Trà sữa trân châu, boba milk tea, tapioca milk tea drink, tapioca smoothie and frubble.

[My TAIPEI post][Bubble Tea Wiki][All photos by MKL, 2010]