Many in Hong Kong, our office included, suffer from a bubble tea addiction.
This Taiwanese milk tea with tapioca pearls will fill you up for hours in a handy drinkable snack. We tried a few from around town to get a feel for the options out there with a consistent order of 50 per cent less sugar black milk tea with pearls served cold but without ice.
The second biggest of our contenders was a thick, creamy number that had a silky smooth texture. There is definitely a great disparity on the standards of less sugar as this one was very sweet and bordered on too sickly to drink more than a few sips for all of us bar one of our tasters who possesses an extreme sweet tooth (it was her favourite). This tall cup housed a very milky flavour that wasn’t overly tea-rich and the tapioca balls that wait on the bottom were gooey on the outside but quite hard and chewy on the inside with a slightly wheaty aftertaste.
Verdict: For those who like to walk on the sweet side.
Ten Ren’s Tea
Sheung Wan, Eslite Causeway Bay,
This old school tea retail shop frequently boasts long queues, perhaps on account of the free samples it dishes out daily, and sells traditional teapots as well as Hong Kong’s favourite textured beverage. This offering was both the smallest and the most expensive but effuses quality with its real tea mixes and fresh milk option. With a nice, frothy top, the first sip has an excellent balance of milk, tea and tapioca. The pearls have a nice consistency, though are slightly al dente in the inner core. Not too sweet, not too milky, this one was just right.
Verdict: For those that like to taste the tea in their bubble tea, this one is tops.
Our favourite Gong Cha location was taken over by a Sharetea, so we thought we’d give it a go and see how it measured up to our previously frequented chain. We all liked the branding on this one and it proved to be the biggest of the bunch, which isn’t necessarily what you look for in your bubble tea treat, but represents good value either way. The taste wasn’t overly sweet and tasted neither milky nor tea-strong but a bit powdery with a biscuity aftertaste. The pearls were the nicest of all with a silky, perfectly chewy density and richer caramel essence.
Verdict: Pearl-addicts will appreciate these balls best.
Shop B, 75 Castle Peak Road, Yuen Long
Our furthest competitor came to us from far-flung Yuen Long and tasted like it was from another planet. Darker and richer in colour, this one appeared more like yuanyang coffee with a completely different flavour to our other three. We didn’t dislike it completely but it was a shock with its sweet, thick, artificial twang that coated the mouth and left a slightly chalky residue behind.
Verdict: For those who like a little something different.
An extreme bubble tea lover started a worldwide website for locating this tasty treat at www.findbubbletea.com. On a handy little map of Hong Kong it will prove that you’re never far from a spot of bubble tea.