Naomi Blair rounds up the best of the Asian phenomenon that is Bubble Tea
Bubble tea emerged in Taiwan in the 1980’s, as a milk or fruit based tea mixed with chewy ‘bubbles’ of tapioca, adding an edible dimension to drinks. Its popularity spread and now bubble tea bars can be found all over London. Being a bubble tea novice, I wanted to find out more about the craze for this drink that is apparently “a party in your mouth”…
Must Try: Peach green tea
Good for: Authentic Taiwanese bubble tea
Overall: Great for a sweet treat
Launched in the UK in 2012, the international chain Chatime has 4 stores in London, all open until around 11pm. They have a vast range of drinks with everything from smoothies, coffees, fruit teas and even mousses. All drinks are customisable with a variety of toppings available including aloe vera, tapioca pearls and flavoured jellies. You can adjust the sweetness, and even how much ice you want. Drinks start from £3.25; my personal favourite was the peach green tea with aloe vera, as I found it less cloyingly sweet than some of the others.
4 London locations, including The Brunswick
Must Try: Coconut milk tea
Good for: Creative drink flavours
Overall: Fun drinks with a scientific twist
Opened in Soho in 2011, Bubbleology has 6 outposts in London, serving up their colourful confections.Their chemistry gimmick is kitsch and fun, with the staff wearing lab coats and safety goggles whilst they concoct your drink. With a more limited menu than Chatime or Biju, they nonetheless offer some quirky options like Banoffee pie and strawberry & cucumber flavours. Again, the sweetness is adjustable, something I recommend doing if you don’t like things super saccharine. Ensure you stipulate your toppings, as I was automatically given tapioca pearls. Drink prices start from £3.45, and you can choose to have your drink serxved hot or cold; perfect for the wintry months ahead. Bubbleology also offer a loyalty card, so if you’re a bubble tea super-fan, you’ll save money (eventually), with the tenth drink being free.
6 London locations, including 49 Rupert Street, W1D 7PF
BIJU BUBBLE TEA
Must Try: Lychee coconut water with popping fruits
Good for: Refreshing, healthy pick-me-up
Overall: A modern take on classic bubble tea
My personal favourite, Biju prides itself on using all fresh ingredients and no artificial flavours, colours or chemicals. Every tea is made to order, so nothing is reheated or left stewing. Subtle flavours make for refreshing teas and plenty of healthy options- like coconut water, almond milk and basil seeds- are on offer to create the perfect guilt-free drink. The hot chai latte with the classic tapioca pearls was rich, warm and comforting, and the lychee coconut water with popping pineapple balls was light and clean tasting. There’s something for everyone, with the sweet and savoury mousse teas being perfect for the more adventurous! Biju is a relative newcomer to London but the owner Nick knows his stuff; he’ll happily assist in the concoction of a perfect bubble tea. The drinks are of high quality and start from just £2.95. Whether you’re a die-hard bubble tea fan, or a complete newbie, a visit to Biju is seriously recommended.
45 Old Compton Street, W1D 6HQ
Featured image credit: Biju Bubble Tea