Hailing from Taiwan, bubble tea, also known as boba tea or pearl milk tea is a tea-based beverage whose popularity has gradually spread across East Asia, Canada, US and now Australia.
The concoction at its most basic is a combination of milky tea (usually cold, though sometimes served hot) and sweetened black tapioca pearls, the addition of which gives you something chewy to munch on as you sip the drink through the big fat straw.
Priding itself on being the biggest bubble tea chain in Melbourne, Bubble Cup was also among the first. Opening in 2002, Bubble Cup quickly became a sensation among teenagers who would buy one as an after-school treat. Popular flavours here include yam (taro), honeydew, mango, coffee and coconut. The chain also offers a selection of other drinks on its menu, including fruit chillers, snow shakes, and blended ice (similar to Slurpees), in a variety of flavours.
If you're after a drink that's less sugary and flavoured and bears more resemblance to tea as you know it, there are a couple of places that offer a more natural take on bubble tea for the mature palate. Cha Time a relatively new player on Melbourne's bubble tea scene, offers bubble teas that are easier on the sugar and more for tea drinkers who want to choose from a range of beverages based on different Chinese and Japanese tea varieties. The Melbourne Central store also has a roomy sit-down section with comfy booth seats where you can chill and chat with your bubble tea of choice.
Another popular newcomer is Teapo. Boasting a cute logo and unusual drinks not found elsewhere, Teapo offers a unique and interesting mix of fruity and mellow flavours of hot and cold tea-based beverages, my favourite one so far being the hot and fragrant Genmaicha Milk Tea. The hot versions of the teas come in insulated paper coffee cups, unlike the other shops so far reviewed, which is an added bonus.
Teapo's fresh ingredients and Chatime's Roasted Milk Tea with Grass jelly are definitely amongst my faves! You may want to try Snow Hut's Salted Cream Black Tea (technically not bubble milk tea but from the same family).. it reminds me of what I'd think Butter Beer would taste like (without the bubbles!)