Sharon Meets Bubble Tea
TBK Magazine has two wonderful, amazing friends that live in Canada. We had the joy of meeting them last year at a convention. We quickly fell in love with them and claimed them as our own. (Sorry, guys! You are stuck with us now.) One of these lovely ladies often mentions bubble tea in her social media posts. I had no idea what bubble tea is. We do not have bubble tea down here in Northeast Arkansas. We have sweet tea, herbal tea that you can buy at a store, and that’s about it. I imagined bubble tea being served in a fancy tea-cup with lots of bubbles on top – almost like bubble bath bubbles. Ridiculous, I know.
Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked what bubble tea was. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in 1983. It is a cold, sweetened drink made typically with some type of tea as the base drink. However, not all bubble tea contains tea. Some are more like smoothies. Additional ingredients such as sweetened condensed milk, fruit, and flavored syrups are added. Finally, black tapioca pearls that have been boiled in brown sugar and cooled are added. It is served in a clear cup so you can appreciate the tapioca or “bubbles”. It is also necessary to use a fat straw so that the tapioca pearls can be sucked up and eaten. My Canadian friends tell me that it can be made with whatever your favorite tea is. During my research I found a site that recommended using green tea, black tea, or fruit teas.
Bubble tea became a popular fixture in Canada in the 2000’s. From our conversation, it seems that they have many authentic Asian shops that whip up the drinks. I was sad that I could not try it. They gave me a general recipe. I found that I could order black tapioca pearls through Amazon. I made a mental note to give it a try sometime.
After doing a little more research, it seems that there are some places that bubble tea is available here in the United States (If its near you, don’t laugh at me for not knowing what it was). Mainly in big cities but it is slowly trickling down to some of the smaller ones as well. This brings us to the exciting end of this story. I was visiting a small tourist town one weekend. My family and I were causally walking along the street, looking at little shops, when I came across a little snack stand. One the side of the stand was a big sign that said “Bubble Tea Sold Here!” I couldn’t believe it! Here was my opportunity to try bubble tea! I stood in line waiting anxiously for my turn. $6.50 was kind of expensive for a drink but this was not just any drink. It was an experience! Finally, it was my turn and I ordered a strawberry bubble tea. The girl making it told me that they just started selling them the week before. That made me a little nervous. Then I watched her pour half and half cream in it. That made me a lot nervous. My Canadians had said sweetened condensed milk not half and half creamer. I took my bubble tea and cautiously took a drink. And then another. It was lukewarm with a faint strawberry taste. Very sweet, watery, milky black tea. I wanted to like it. I took another drink and got a gooey, slimy tapioca pearl. Not chewy like I expected. My youngest son took a drink and also got a tapioca pearl. Unprepared, he gaged. I sadly carried the cup with me for a few blocks. “You can just throw it away, you know.” my husband said. I replied, “But its bubble tea… and I paid almost $7 for it.” Finally, I gave up and threw it away.
I told my Canadian friends about my experience with bubble tea and they were disappointed. As I suspected, they told me that it sounds like it was not made correctly. So while my first experience with bubble tea was terrible, I am still really excited that I found it in a small town in Arkansas. I am hopefully that I will see more shops with better prepared bubble tea so that I have the opportunity to enjoy the drink that my friends and so many other people around the world love.