Monday, 1 December 2014

Food & Drink Review: Hii-Tea's Bubble Tea


You may not have heard of bubble tea before. It originates from Taiwan and is also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea. According to Wikipedia, the term "bubble" is an Anglicized imitative form derived from the Chinese bōbà (波霸), meaning "large". The "bubble" refers to the chewy tapioca balls added to the drink. The drink itself is usually a tea base mixed either with fruit or milk.  I'm afraid that my photograph was taken on the run and isn't great, however you can see the 'bubbles' at the bottom of the drink.

I was introduced to bubble tea by a Taiwanese-American friend living in Chicago, where it seems to be very popular. I initially tried an iced milk tea without the tapioca balls. Unfortunately, even asking for only half the sugar syrup (as recommended by my friend) it was still way too sweet for me.

Logo taken from Hii-Tea's website


On traipsing into The Oracle in Reading today to start my Christmas shopping, I noticed a new concession opened on the lower floor of the mall called Hii-Tea. Their website  explains that Hii-Tea, a "UK based bubble tea brand, partners with East Asian (Taiwanese) drink and desert experts, focusing on delivering delicious and trendy drinks/desert to Europe."

I talked to the man serving behind the counter and he was extremely helpful in explaining the options.

First, I was told to choose the drink I wanted. There was a choice of coffee, tea, chocolate and yoghurt drinks and included both hot and cold options. I chose a passion fruit iced tea. Whilst tasting strongly of passion fruit, there was a definite green tea twang to it which ensured that it tasted like iced tea rather than squash/cordial.

I was then advised about the different types of boba and jelly that can be added to the tea. There was a sign displayed which helpfully gave suggestions as to popular flavour combinations, such as passion fruit iced tea and mango boba, classic milk tea and tapioca pearls, honeydew iced tea and lychee jelly etc...  I chose to add mango boba to my passion fruit iced tea.

I was not asked about ice or sugar levels, however I note on the companies website that you can ask for this to be tailored to your own personal taste. There was no ice in my drink, which I prefer, and the sugar level was about right.

Finally, paying for the tea, I had the regular size and whilst I cannot remember the exact cost, it was around £3.50. This is relatively expensive, however it was too large for me so in future I would get the small size.

To drink the bubble tea, you use a very large straw which allows you to suck up the balls whilst drinking the tea. The 'bubbles' vary in texture. Some tapioca balls are chewy all the way through and have a slightly caramel taste which compliments the coffees and milk teas. Other boba balls 'pop' and release liquid flavour. You can also choose to have coconut water fruit-flavoured jellies in the tea rather than the bubbles.

The bubbles that I had were popping boba balls. The mango flavour complimented the passion fruit flavour of the iced tea.

I have to say that I quite liked this bubble tea. It's probably not something I would have on a regular basis since I don't visit Reading that frequently, however I'm interested to try some of the other flavour combinations when I'm next there.

Are you a fan of bubble tea? If so, let me know what flavour combinations you would recommend for my next visit!
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