New York City, NY

A Bubble Tea Expedition in New York City

Michael Loren

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New York City is well-known for having fantastic bubble tea. Previous to writing this article, I had never had the privilege of partaking of said delicacy. But I thought that a good idea for a new article-writing adventure was to take a trip to a highly recommended place downtown to try this bubble tea when running other errands.

After a long ride on the subway (and those of you who know me know what a big deal it is that I went south of 14th street), I emerged in the sunny southern section of New York near Chinatown. It's an odd little section of the city. Rows of dim sum restaurants and "buy your live seafood" storefronts with little to no English on the signs are interspersed with Starbucks and Subway restaurants.

The people on the street are a similar mix. People who obviously can read those signs and like to eat their seafood still wriggling are dotted with hungry looking tourists searching for a deal on a knockoff bag. I used my trusty app to locate my intended destination and I walked in . . . to a bubble tea haven.

I looked at the menu. Not a lot in english. What I could read indicated that you can get pepper steak and garlic bread with your bubble tea. Hmmmm. Think I'll pass. I admitted to the sweet shopkeeper that I was new to the realm of bubble tea and asked her to suggest a best seller for me to cut my teeth on. She recommended black tea with milk.

"Sure", I said, "Can I get skim?". Of course not. I agreed to the whole milk and vowed to do an extra half hour on the elliptical.

"Do you want [something unintelligible with her really thick accent]?"
"I'm sorry. What?"
"Do you want [something still unintelligible]?"
"Sure." When in Rome, I thought.

She then put something dark and viscous looking into my tea.

"What's that?"
"Oh, it's [something equally unintelligble]. You want it?"
"Sure. Why the heck not."

So, apparently I got the tricked out bubble tea. With what, I have no idea. I walked out feeling fabulously cool. "Oh yeah, I am in the bubble tea club now, baby." Then I looked at what I was in for.

Bubble tea actually has bubbles of gummy stuff in the bottom that you suck up through the straw along with the tea. It's sealed with plastic at the top with a thick straw punched through it. I guess the bubble tea version of Capri Sun. Looks kind of gross.

Then the taste test. It was not even remotely what I had imagined. The first few sips were intriguing - sweet but a little bitter with a chewy bit at the end. The next few sips brought the picture a little bit more into focus. Absolutely not my cup of tea (pun intended).

The only thing I can liken it to is drinking an iced tea latte from Starbucks after the ice has melted that has anise flavored gummy bears in the bottom. Yech. I was starting to feel sick. Maybe I got the wrong flavor. I gave it one more try and attempted to suck up the tea without the tapioca bead coming through the straw . . . damnit! Got three beads.

By the time my bubble tea disgust had ripened, I was again on the subway platform. I tossed the last half of my four dollar tea into the trash. Oh well, it was an educational adventure, anyway. My advice is that you don't take my word on the bubble tea, though. It's worth the trip south of 14th street to try it for yourself.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA
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