Bubble tea has exploded onto the Beijing food and beverage scene, and if like this great city, this phenomenon has also taken you by storm, you’ll want to know where you can get your bubble fix.
Originally created in Taiwan in the 1980’s, bubble tea soon spread throughout China and Southeast Asia, and can now be found upon the shores of Western regions. Bubble tea is made using boba tapioca pearls and is synonymous with sweet add-ons like condensed milk and flavored syrups. Tapioca is a type of gluten-free starch that is extracted from the cassava root, but before you go adding this sticky treat to your one-a-day gluten-free healthy snack list, note that you’ll be getting your tea with generous helpings of cream and other sweet goodies!
You may be familiar with the classic spots to partake of a cup of bubble tea—Coco, Gongcha, and Yidiandian. However, new and on trend Internet-famous bubble teas are popping up all over Beijing, some with a 30-minute wait attached to your purchase. I’ve taken the liberty of checking the top five of these Internet-famous drinks and ranked them so that you don’t waste any time in that line. In order to get the most authentic experience, I ordered everything without customization, but you can adjust sugar and ice levels in every place except for The Alley.
Ranked: #5 The White Rabbit Milk Tea, RMB 20
Honestly? This drink disappointed me. The shop is tiny, and so very crowded, there’s also no place to sit down during the 10-minute wait. The amount of tea I got was disappointingly little, and nearly half of the cup was filled with ice. The taste wasn’t impressive, either. The only thing separating this from your average milk tea was that it was slightly creamier and smoother than usual, though that ended up diluting any tea flavor that was left. I could barely taste the white rabbit. If you’re looking for a very mild milk tea, this is the place to go but if you come in search of white rabbit milk tea, you will be sorely disappointed.
Ranked #4: Xicha’s Strawberry Cheezo, RMB 32
The reason that this drink became so popular in the first place is because of its famous “cheese cap”, yet I got much less of a cheese flavor than I expected. The strawberry-ice blend is very refreshing; however, the more I drank, the sweeter it became. I would ask for less sugar next time I order. It was kind of hard to get a sip of both the cheese cap and the strawberry drink. Overall, the drink is pretty good, just not worth the 30-minute wait time and the price.
Ranked #3: Xicha’s Grapefruit Tea, RMB 25
This drink, filled with grapefruit juice and actual slices of grapefruit, was somewhat worth the 30-minute wait. The taste starts sweet, but the more you drink, the more you will get a hit of grapefruit. This drink is the perfect refresher after a day of shopping, and the slightly bitter taste will force you to drink it slowly instead of chugging the whole thing at once.
Ranked #2: The Alley’s Brown Sugar Pearl Milk, RMB 22
Often known as “dirty tea,” this drink gets its name from the beautiful gradient created as the cold milk is poured on top of a pearl and brown sugar mix. The pearls were slightly too chewy, but the sweetness of the brown sugar made them very flavorful. The milk was refreshing and allowed me to finish the whole thing without getting tired of the sweetness. My only problem with this is the price. RMB 22 is a lot of money for a tiny drink. However, the taste and the overall presentation live up to the hype.
Ranked #1: CouCou Hot Pot’s Classic Bubble Tea, RMB 20
Even though a hot pot spot isn’t where you’d expect to find good milk tea, give CouCou a try. A small stall outside of the main hotpot shop sells the tea, and there’s usually not much of a line. The drink itself is creamy and smooth but still retains the aftertaste of oolong. The pearls are a little smaller than usual, but a perfect balance between chewy and soft. This drink is everything you’d want in a milk tea drink, and honestly, RMB 20 for it is pretty good.
Photos: Riley Xiong, Pixabay