If you’re anything like me, you’re bound to be a little suspicious when first confronted with bubble tea - the little, round black ‘pearls’ of tapioca at the bottom of the glass don’t look particularly inviting. But from one skeptic to another, I urge you to give them a chance. Delicately sweet and just a little chewy, they’re great with anything from fruit juice to clear tea and even milo.
You can taste them for yourself at ‘Bubble Queen’ on Galle Road in Bambalapitiya. You can find the spot easily by just making your way down Visakha Road to the top of Galle Road.
The shop occupies its own corner. Clean and white, it has room for a couple of tables and chairs and in one corner, a long bar at which your bubble tea is made. I get a cheap thrill from watching the shaker on the bar at work as it vigorously mixes our drinks.
A friend has already done the recommending – she swears by milo and passionfruit with bubbles but warns us off the shaved ice dishes. These appear to be ice chips topped with fruit, red bean or any number of things really. While the toppings sound lovely, the chipped ice itself does not.
Our drinks are served in generous glasses with the most ridiculously thick straws you’ve seen –better to suck up the bubbles with presumably. They’re sweet and rich and not for the dieters of this world. But the chill and the sweetness is imminently ‘guzzalable’ on a blazing hot day.
The rest of the menu is nothing if not abundant – we’re spoilt for choice with all the beverages listed. Lots of fruit juice, milkshakes and ice cream as well as a respectable variety of teas and coffees. Among the latter, you have the King’s Coffee and the Queen’s coffee – the first is served with ice cream and the second with whipped creams (let’s not start asking why).
On a very modest list of snacks are baked sandwiches, mochi (which looks like one giant tapioca bubble but is apparently a Japanese rice dessert), something ambiguously named ‘pudding’ and an inviting dish dubbed fire ice cream which turns out to be a delicious, crispy treat of cold ice-cream wrapped around with something a little like toasted bread. Didn’t I tell you this place wasn’t for the diet conscious?
That is of course half the appeal. A big chunk of what remains is because of its affordability – the most expensive thing on the menu is the strawberry juice bubble which costs Rs.250. On average prices tend to be Rs.160 or so. You can also add bubbles, pudding, coffee jelly or ice cream to anything for Rs.50 an item. They are also introducing new flavours this week – I have a suspicion that the grape bubble tea might be very nice.
Bubble Tea is one of Taiwan’s most successful exports – it has many names, including boba and pearl tea. Bubble Tea shops abound even in Europe apparently and for travellers who’ve been to Singapore or Malaysia, these are familiar, dearly missed flavours. For now, it’s good to finally have a Bubble Queen in town.