There's been an explosion of bubble tea in Melbourne in the past couple of years, so much so that I needed to do a redux of my last article! Whether it's warm or chilly out, there's never been a better time to sip on some of these tasty beverages, which can be drunk hot or cold.
With origins in Taiwan, bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba tea (in the States) has taken off worldwide.
Though the basic concoction of freshly brewed sweet milk tea with chewy tapioca pearls is still popular, bubble tea shops have started to sell an increasing number of fresh and delicious drinks for all to enjoy, from fruit teas to tasty taro milk, and the latest trend, cheese foam tea.
Despite the weird and gross image that brings up, cheese foam tea is surprisingly delicious. It's a combo of icy cool tea topped with a layer of frothy, creamy foam with a cream cheese flavour – not unlike whipped cheesecake, or ever so slightly salted cream or buttercream. It's a luxuriously tasty addition to a refreshing tea drink.
Bubble Tea shops became popular in the early 2000s, with shops like Bubble Cup selling their sugary confections, in areas like Box Hill, Springvale and the CBD. It soon became a trend to hang out after school with one of these.
The recent explosion of newer and more varied shops has brought back this trend in full force for young and old. Here's a quick guide to some of the best.
Cha Time Probably by now one of the biggest chains in Australia, Cha Time is a well-known franchise with many locations across the city and in suburban shopping malls around the country. With beginnings in Taiwan, the chain has now streamlined its menu down to a selection of its most popular flavours for Aussie tastes. Which is a bit disappointing if you enjoyed the variety of authentic tea flavours of the original store, but if you prefer something easy on the palate and quick to go then it's just fine. The original tea flavours are good, but some of the other flavours can be a bit sugary or artificial – the taro milk tea barely tastes like taro.
A newcomer to the bubble tea scene, Tea Royale features some cute marketing and a nicely hand painted store, with some interesting flavours to boot. The hot taro milk tea is recommended as it features all the fragrance of the sweetly-scented root, with a creamy consistency and comforting appeal.
Gong Cha A hit with the bubble tea connoisseurs, Gong Cha is just the right place for a comprehensive menu of traditional, original style bubble teas as well as fresh and original tea-based drinks. Originating in Taiwan, Gong Cha's popularity has spread all over Asia and now Australia and is a big hit with the international student and Asian-Australian community.
Coco Relatively new to the bubble tea scene in Melbourne but a favourite internationally, Coco's freshly brewed bubble milk teas hit the spot for many a BBT aficionado. In addition to their satisfyingly rich signature Pearl Milk Tea, Coco offers yummy dessert-like flavours like Chocolate and 3Guys (pudding, pearls and grass jelly) as well as fresh and zesty Mango Yakult, Grapefruit Green Tea and much more.