Bubble Tea - What is it like in other cities?
I'm from Ottawa, Canada and there are several Bubble Tea shops in Chinatown. I'm wondering if there is a Bubble Tea craze in other cities/countries, like there is here. If so, what flavours and does your local Bubble Tea shop offer drinks with the tapioca balls What's your opinion on the tapioca balls?. Also, is it as big of a craze there right now as it is/has been in Ottawa? Do you like/dislike it?
I'm in Taiwan, home of bubble tea, so there are tea shops on every second corner.
I find here that the bubbles themselves are less of a focus than when they get imported to other countries - bubble tea is one item in the larger category of milk tea. A typical tea shop offers a combination of iced teas, iced milk teas and iced fruit teas, with different flavours and add-ins. The tapioca pearls are one add-in, but you can also get jellies in a variety of flavours, including some herbal ones that probably wouldn't sell in a Western market, where aloe vera isn't normally considered a food.
One thing I found in bubble tea shops in Canada is that they looked at you funny if you wanted plain milk tea, with no fruit flavours added. I like it best with plain oolong or green tea as the base.
I like the bubble tea, but I think of it more like a dessert than a beverage (I feel the same way about things liked frappuchinos). My absolute favourite at the tea shops, however, is the iced green tea fresh passion fruit combination (aka 百香綠茶).
Competition is also very fierce in Taiwan, and yes there are good and bad places, but even the average surpasses the mid to top tier in the US.....
Ten Ren Tea Station in Taiwan is considered expensive, as their average drink in various parts of high real estate Taipei can run NT$70, a shade over US$2 (gasp you may say), when you can get a very decent drink for about a buck in many other places. Basically we are charged $3 to $4 in the USA for generally 1/3 of the quality (and almost x3 the price). But I must say that Ten Ren Taipei's kumquat green tea is one of my absolute favorites, and the same drink is laughable in Northern California. The Southern California Ten Ren's are generally much better quality than NorCal's.
The other thing is that the tapioca tea shops in Taiwan really know how to brew tea. NorCal Ten Ren's have a pre-brewed mix for their tea and it can either be ok or severely watered down. And you never know what you will get. On top of that, nobody in NorCal makes fresh tapioca...it's all re-hydrated for the most part, and tastes nothing like fun yuan...
Unless one has tried the original receipe of tapicoa milk tea in Taiwan's famous Chun Shui Tang
http://chunshuitang.com.tw/ or their competitor who also lays claim to have invented the drink, it is hard to know the definitive standard of how this drink should really taste like.
In Taipei, I like the chain 奉茶 (Tea Serving) - 霜乳奶茶 (Cream Top Milk Tea)... very strong brewed red tea, but the thick rich foamy cream layer at the top is amazing. I think maybe Irvine's 85C took on this concept too. The other chain Legend is not bad, but very run of the mill. Teapresso is another ok chain, trying to use espresso machines to brew tea. Mr Wish, a chain out of Taichung (I think) has some excellent fruit teas and yogurt based drinks (trying to market healthy).
I think it was a craze a while back. When I was still in Los Angeles, it was a big craze and I had no idea what it was yet. I didn't like it because I love tea and this tasted like powdered drink mix with water and sugar. This was in 2001 I think.
When I was in San Francisco, I had one in 2002 at a friend's insistence. I'm not sure how yummy it was, i just know that I could hardly stop giggling. We were going up fifty thousand flights of escalator to see a movie and I shot a tapioca bubble through the straw. it stuck to the wall and stayed for a few years. Made me giggle every time we went up those escalators!
I know people like them but I'm not a big fan. I prefer black tea unsweetened so that might be why.