In our ‘International Tea Day‘ post, we asked what type of tea you would like to drink and there were two replies:
Personally, I’m not a tea person, lol, I think I like yogurt and milk more. In China, the younger generations may take bubble tea as their first choice right now. It may be my favorite drink too if I don’t consider calories or my body shape too much.– Yang Liang
I love milk tea~– shiyu wu
So, what is bubble tea, then?
Bubble Tea is the name given to the wide variety of refreshing flavoured fruit teas and milk teas served ice cold or piping hot with chewy tapioca balls that you suck up through a big fat straw!Bubbleology
A bubble tea made in Belfast, Image@LiangWang
In Chinese, it is widely known as 珍珠奶茶 (zhēnzhū nǎi chá). 珍珠 (zhēnzhū), originally meaning pearl, here refers to the pearl-shaped tapioca balls typically used in the recipe. 奶茶 (nǎi chá) means milk tea.
Today we’d like to invite Jie Rao (饶洁), one of our QUB alumni and fan of bubble/milk tea, to share her thoughts.
To be honest, I am one of the bubble girls as I believe drinking it will help me remove all the sorrows and worries, and make me feel relieved for the time being.
Jie Rao in front of a vending machine for drinks. Image@JieRao
In Northern Ireland as well as elsewhere in the UK, when people entertain their friends with a cup of tea, they mean to serve tea with milk and sugar. While this custom differs to the thousand-year-long tradition of tea-serving in China, a new type of tea drink, called bubble tea, or milk tea, has become a fashion among the young Chinese.
People see it, get it, post a photo of it and others see it.
Instead of drinking tea at home or in a tea house, young people nowadays enjoy grabbing a milk tea while hanging out with their friends or just for refreshment. One can very often see bubble tea shops or cafes on streets, with long queues of young faces. It is also trendy that people would like to show their first cup of bubble tea through their social media, partly because of the convenience of sharing function and partly due to the showing-off human nature.
Green tea with cheese and rock salt, Image@JieRao
In fact, bubble tea or milk tea is tea-based drink, very different to the original tea drinking. It tastes milky sweet. Of course, you can choose the ice (冰 bīng) and sugar level (甜度 tián dù) according to your preference. The fundamental difference is that bubble tea has essential toppings to choose, like pearl-sized tapioca (木薯 mùshǔ), coconut jelly (椰果 yē guǒ), pudding (布丁 bùdīng), red bean (红豆 hóng dòu), taro (芋圆 yùyuán) and so on. Some variants include adding cheese and fruits, and other kinds of tea drinks even goes without using milk.
Just a few days ago, I went to a popular shop named 茶颜悦色 (chá yán yuè sè), a brand based in Changsha, Hunan Province, and I was kept waiting for almost an hour due to its long queue and time for preparation. However, it was really worth the wait if one would enjoy watching the onsite making.
茶颜悦色 adapts from a Chinese phrase 察言观色 (chá yán guān sè) meaning ‘to observe one’s words and countenance’. In this brand:
- 茶 (chá, tea) has the same pronunciation as 察 (chá, to observe).
- 颜 (yán) pronounces the same as 言 (yán, speech).
- 悦 (yuè) means to please while 观 (guān) means to look, to observe.
- 色 (sè), with the basic meaning as colour, has its connotation as facial expressions or countenance.
The brand’s name carries the meaning that good tea drink makes one wearing a pleasant look.
Despite the popularity, people are warned against the sugar content of bubble tea and other ingredients like non-dairy creamer used in the drink that can cause potential health problem. I often order bubble tea with half sugar (半糖 bàn táng) or light sugar (微糖 wēi táng). How would you like your bubble tea prepared?
We look forward to hearing your stories of bubble tea drink in the box below.