Bubble tea is weird. It’s weird, right? I can’t be the only one who thinks this; well, apart from my bro-in-law, but he sort of doesn’t count (Kidding! You totally matter, S!) But bubble tea is bizarre.
Assuming what I’ve learned from the Internets is accurate, “Bubble Tea” was created in the 80’s in Taiwan at some teashop or another when someone decided to dump tapioca pearls into a cup of cold tea. The reaction they got was: “Hells, yes, this bev is mad awesome”, or some Taiwanese equivalent of such a statement. And it took off; wildfire! It spread from Taiwan to Asia and Australia and on to Europe and the US.
I remember hearing about bubble teas some years ago and being royally confused as to how “bubbles” made it into a glass of tea and how that was meant to be an awesome thing. I mean, what sort of bubbles are they? OR were you supposed to blow bubbles in the tea then drink it? It’s not like I ever lived in a place classy enough to have bubble tea anywhere so I remained in confusion for a long time, studying candid photos of celebrities in magazines carrying strange looking drinks with spots on the bottom.
Then someone explained tapioca pearls to me.
There are many varieties of “bubble tea”, it seems. Some are actually made with tea or coffee, with or without milk. Others are on the fruit smoothie bit of the spectrum. But the common thing is some sort of chewy bit included in the drink. That chewy bit is most commonly some version of tapioca pearls, but could also be green pearls*, jelly pieces cut into fun shapes, aloe, custard, sago, or taro. They add flavor and texture to the drink, give it a little something to set the beverage apart from other teas, coffees, and fruit smoothies.
Today: 30 January, my oldest friend decided to inflict on me bubble tea. We had a date to get some weeks ago, but those plans fell through. Today she disguised her endeavor by inviting me to a “pho place” — ok, she did say upfront bubble tea might be involved; I shouldn’t paint her as scheming (this time anyway). After our tasty Vietnamese meals, Amy ordered an Avocado Bubble Tea (pictured above… and below, for that matter) and let me try it. My very first bubble tea experience.
But, no. Weird. The Avocado smoothie wasn’t so bad, but the sticky, chewy balls were pretty, sorta, mostly gross. I kept making a face and trying to get the taste out of my mouth. I’ve only had tapioca pudding once when one of my past roommates decided she wanted to make it and it just seemed to me to be weird chewy bits in milky substance (gross). And this tapioca pearl experience wasn’t much different from the last.
Needless to say, I am not a convert. I do not belong to the Church of Weird Pudding Accessories. I have not drunk the Kool-Aid. I did test the waters, but I’ve decided not to swim. Bubble Tea is not my drink and it’s because of the chewy bits. It’s sort of like how I don’t want fruit chunks in anything other than a bowl or trail mix. There is a time and a place for chewy bits and there mostly isn’t one.
In my book.
But maybe I’m being too harsh. What do you think of bubble tea?
*I’m not sure what ‘green pearls’ refers to exactly. Best guess: Green Tea Pearls. Which might be something like this, but it might not be.