'The best frogspawn you'll ever drink!' Cold tea with floating tapioca balls is the latest craze sweeping the nation. FEMAIL dared to taste Bubble Tea



20:02 GMT, 2 July 2012

It may have the word 'tea' in its name. But Taiwanese bubble tea is about as far removed from Britain's favourite brew as it gets.

Bubble tea is cold, fruity, comes in an array of bright colours – and it has dozens of slimy tapioca balls bobbing around in the bottom.

Yet shockingly, in this country of staunchly traditional tea drinkers where an Earl Grey tea bag is considered dead fancy, the unusual drink is catching on.

Barista Isabel Cortijo serves up bubble tea at the new branch in Notting Hill

Brewing for four: Barista Isabel Cortijo serves up bubble tea at the new branch in Notting Hill

Bubbleology, London's foremost
purveyor of bubble tea, opened its first outlet in Soho in April
of last year with 175,000 start-up capital.

There followed a concession in
the Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge, West London, and today Bubbleology opened a new outpost in Notting Hill, selling 23 flavours of the drink.

And now company founder Assad Khan says he is certain bubble tea is set to transform the way we enjoy our favourite brew forever.

‘I have no doubt that Bubbleology
will have a similar impact on the popularity of bubble tea as Starbucks
did with coffee,' he said.

Odd but moreish: Strawberry bubble tea, also known as pearl tea

Odd but moreish: Strawberry bubble tea, also known as pearl tea

'I felt like a heron slurping up frogspawn':

'The key to bubble tea is focusing on the lumps. Instead of drinking it like a normal, boring soft drink, you aim your oversized straw for the bottom of the cup, and slurp up the orbs of tapioca that bob around there.

Do it right, and you’re rewarded with a rat-a-tat sensation as you hoover the lumps up and gulp them down like a heron slurping up frogspawn.

It certainly wins on novelty factor – not since the ice cream float has there been a soft drink that’s this much fun to guzzle down.

To begin with, the sensation of icy cold blobs is a little unnerving, but once you start to chew on the fragrant lumps of tapioca, it’s actually quite enjoyable – and seems to go well paired with tea, although some flavours do take a little practice.

The fruit flavours are probably easiest to get to grips with, but once you’ve overcome the initial gag reflex, it’s easy to move on to the 'straight' green tea flavour, which has the added bonus of being totally transparent, so passers-by can watch in disgust as you slurp down mysterious black lumps with evident enjoyment' RW

'It's totally weird. Can I have some more'

Having not shaken my Bubble Tea before drinking it, I was utterly befuddled (bebubbled) as to why in the name of Early Grey it was named thus, particularly since it is neither especially tea-like nor full of bubbles.

These tiny multi-coloured gummy globules bobbing around in this sweet and creamy (yet decidedly refreshing) juice are simply not bubbles, I thought. Some of them aren’t even round!

I imagine this is what frog spawn would taste like: eerie, disturbing and slightly ghoulish. When can I have some more MDL

'Surprisingly good – refreshing and moreish'

Looking at the brightly coloured liquids and the pearls bobbing within I could think only of E numbers and sugar. Surely nothing that looks that much fun could be even remotely natural

Of course, I was wrong – the cool, refreshing liquid is nothing more noxious than chilled tea infused with natural fruits – no additives, flavourings or added sugars in sight.

It's immensely satisfying when the slippery balls stream up the straw and fill your mouth – and I found myself slurping pointlessly (and loudly) at the dregs to hoover up every last drop, so disappointed was I that the experience was over.

At first sight, this freaky looking drink could seem totally off-putting – and the frogspawn references don't help.

But give it a go – you'll be hooked at first gulp. DA

Indeed, he plans to take on the world, with plans to expand abroad afoot.

‘Bubble tea is immensely popular in parts of the world, but it is essentially a fragmented market,' he said.

'Bubbleology is already attracting interest from private equity and institutional investors.

‘With impending launches in Europe and
the Middle East this year, next year’s focus will be Latin America,
which is a key emerging market that we aim to expand into.’

The forecast turnover for the retailer for 2013 is 4.5 million.

Khan discovered bubble tea at a small cafe in New York in 2005, where he was working as an investment banker.


The name comes from the tasty froth on top of the drink, rather than the tapioca pearls within

What's in a name Bubble Tea is named for the tasty froth on top of the drink, rather than the tapioca pearls within

Who invented Bubble Tea

Back in the 80s, Taiwanese folk would look forward to buying a cup of refreshing tea after a long, hard day of work or play. Tea stands were set up all over the city and would compete for business with the best selling tea.

One concession owner became particularly popular when she started adding different fruit flavours to her tea. Soon, other concessions heard about the unique and popular tea, so they started to add flavouring to their teas.

In 1983 Liu Han-Chieh introduced Taiwan to adding juicy papioca 'pearls' into the cold fruit-infused teas, which sat at the bottom of clear cups – thus creating Bubble Tea.

owever, the name 'Bubble Tea' doesn't actually refer to the tapioca pearls at the bottom, but instead to the tasty bubbly-foam at the top of the tea which is created when shaken. 'Bubble Tea' is also known as “Boba” Tea.

What are the tapioca pearls made of

Tapioca pearls are black, but can sometimes be found to be white or transparent.

Depending on the ingredients of the pearl, the colour varies. The black pearl includes sweet potato, cassava root and brown sugar, which add the black colour.

The consistency of tapioca pearls are like gummy bears. They are the size of a small marble.

What other names does Bubble tea go by

Bubble tea is also known as boba drink, pearl tea drink, boba ice tea, boba, boba nai cha, zhen zhou nai cha, pearl milk tea, pearl ice tea, black pearl tea, tapioca ball drink, BBT, PT, pearl shake, QQ (which means chewy in Chinese) and possible many others.