A Primer on Bubble Tea
A delicious beverage of Taiwanese origin has captured the streets of London. It’s delicious, it’s fun to drink, and it’s incredibly more-ish. Ladies and gents – it’s Bubble Tea!
My first foray into Bubble Tea was in 2006, back when Oriental City in North London was still open, and back when a poor young art student such as myself would do everything in her power to obtain cheap and yummy meals. In those days, Bubble Tea stores weren’t as commodified as they are now, and usually the cheapest way was to buy tapioca balls in bulk and make it myself in my student dorms. But now – you lucky people of London – you can obtain Bubble Tea from Camden to Soho and everywhere in between.
Bubble tea (or Boba Tea, although that always puts me in mind of Star Wars) is a beverage made from mixing either green or black tea with anything from milk and honey to fruity or chocolatey flavourings, then adding a hefty dose of tapioca balls, or ‘Tapioca Pearl’, which usually sink to the bottom and are slurped up via an incredibly wide straw.
Bubble Tea can be had hot or cold, although I always feel the cold ones taste better, they’re as delicious and varied in flavour as cocktails, but without the alcohol. You can also get various different types of tapioca pearl, from the usual type, to pearls of different colours, to chewier types. Pearls don’t have to be just tapioca either. My personal favourite is taro, and you can get sago and aloe too. Alternatively, forego the balls altogether for jelly cubes of various flavours including lychee, coconut and mango. And in some places there are delicious ‘bursting balls’ which create all sorts of amazing masticational delights for your mouth. I very much recommend you give it a go!
So, if you’re interested in trying out this delicious beverage, here are a few places around London to get you started:
This bubble tea company has outlets in both Camden Lock and Wembley Boulevard, and is a small, friendly chain of stores that started in 2010. Keep a look out for their special offers!
Aside from having a cute name, MooBoo offer dairy-free bubble tea that’s suitable for vegans! Score! They have a store down Parkway, Camden (the same road that the popular Bento Cafe lies on), another store in Soho, and yet another all the way over in Liverpool, so our lovely Northern-based geeks aren’t entirely left out in the cold!
BobaJam has a nice central location in Shaftesbury Avenue – a perfect stop-off point for the geek shopper on their way to Forbidden Planet or the like! They offer sweet smoothie-style boba, and a range of delicious desserts – perfect for a hot summer’s day! In the words of their website, ‘Get your butt down here!’
This traditional bubble tea shop has stores in Chinatown and Soho and pretty much does bubble tea the way you would expect it done. High quality ingredients, no additives and no frills. Ace!
A small and lovely bubble tea shop in Newport Court, right next to Leicester Square, Cuppacha is a big hit for its decent prices and ‘Goldilocks’ tea (not too strong, not too weak, but just right!). They opened in 2012 but have proven quite popular, and offer a range of Taiwanese snacks as well.
This bubble tea store is based in the heart of Soho, and is great to pop into before hitting the town! Bubbleology has bubble tea down to a science, and is a must for you more technically-minded tea enthusiasts!
Aobaba has three stores in London. The Elephant & Castle, and Hoxton stores cater more towards Vietnamese food, with an extensive food menu, but also specialise in bubble tea, whereas the Camden store onnly deals in tea. There’s also a store in Kingston-upon-Thames, for you Greater Londoners who want to avoid Central, although it’s currently being refurbished.
Looking for something a little more upmarket? Lakwatsa is a new ‘tea lounge’ based in Notting Hill, and the perfect place to chill if you fancy a slow cuppa, accompanied by merienda (Filipino snacks).
This overseas tea retailer has recently started dabbling in the boba, and has a cafe near the Heart Hospital in Central London! New Cavendish Street (that’s partway between Oxford Circus and Regent’s Park) is the place to be if you fancy seeing how the higher class of tea-drinking takes to the life-changing experience that is bubble tea.
And, that’s it from me! Don’t forget – if you have any bubble tea outlet recommendations (especially outside of London), just let us know in the comments! Happy drinking!
image © Bubbleology London