During our recent adventure at the 2012 Chinatown Summer Fair in Chicago, we just had to seek out Rhonda’s favorite drink from Taiwan – bubble tea. Ok, so bubble tea is very common. Many Asian restaurants in big cities worldwide like Chicago have this delicious beverage on their menus. As someone who had been mostly oblivious to Asian cuisine for my entire life up until that day, I found it to be a very bizarre drink. I drink green tea all the time. I love green tea. But this is no ordinary green tea.
Taiwan is credited as the creator of this culinary masterpiece. Since Rhonda lived in Taiwan for two years, the thought of indulging in a glass of this beverage made her face light up like a Christmas tree. She nearly jumped for joy as the glasses were delivered to our table. I had it once at a stand before, but didn’t really know what I was drinking. Sure, I’ve had those strange Asian smoothies with tapioca in it before, but never anything like this. It only took one sip of my first real bubble tea to realize why she was so obsessed with it. Ok, so maybe not quite as obsessed with it as her baozi infatuation…Rhonda sure does love her baoCan you see just how in love she is with bao from this embarrassing picture? (Sorry again Rhonda) But it was the best non-alcoholic drink I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. I will admit, my first time wasn’t pleasant. Not only did I not know what I was drinking, but it usually comes with an over-sized straw, and if you aren’t careful, there is a really good chance you will inhale and choke on the tapioca balls. To describe the taste, it’s like an iced green tea with milk (sounds wierd but really good combo) and balls of tapioca.
Rhonda’s Commentary: Yep, I love bubble (boba) tea and baozi (that picture is somewhat hideous, but also was taken after I drank quite a bit of plum wine). I am not going to deny it. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s, though there are arguments about which stand or tea house in Taichung invented it first. Some people love the drink (like me, obviously) while others have a difficult time with the texture of the tapioca balls (Harrison almost choked the first time he drank a cup). My older brother, for example, hated the texture when he first tried milk bubble tea while visiting me in Taiwan. There are many, many variations of bubble tea. I prefer regular tea infused with the tapioca balls and jellies instead of the smoothie-like shakes or milk teas. Colored “pearls,” little cubes of jelly or jelly shapes, (takes some getting used to), pudding, pieces of fruit/fruit flavorings are also commonly added to bubble tea drinks. The options are endless, if you find a good stand. Note: My first experience with bubble tea was probably 15 years ago at a little stand in a shopping mall. These stands are completely Americanized and do not taste like the real thing very much.
Bubble Tea Recipe:
3oz tapioca pearls1c brewed tea (Chinese black tea or lychee tea)
Sugar to taste (optional)
Place the tapioca pearls in a large glass. Let the tea cool to room temperature and add the tea and milk in a cocktail shaker. Shake well. Pour the mixture into the glass, and add ice cubes to desired coldness. If you prefer a sweeter tea, add sugar to taste and stir.