Fancy a cuppa? It’s a question that’s ingrained in our culture. For most of us, tea’s much more than a hot beverage. It’s the first thing we do on a Monday morning to stave off the dread of opening our inboxes. It’s the 15-minute break which punctuates our working day. And it’s the chance to chat with colleagues, offering up a springboard for conversation. Forget the water cooler moment, office gossip these days plays out while waiting for the kettle to boil.
So when Bubbleology came along, pioneering an alternative to the nation’s darling (Yorkshire Tea not Kate Middleton), I might have been a wee bit cynical. But bubble tea isn’t much like our version of tea at all.
The Taiwanese milk and fruit teas set up shop in Soho in 2011, have a ‘lab’ in Knightsbridge’s Harvey Nichols and are now trying their luck in Notting Hill. They come iced or hot with what I can only describe as gummy bear/bath pearl hybrids at the bottom. Once you get used to sucking these balls (no euphemism) up through a fat straw, it’s like a sweeter version of herbal tea, albeit with the jellified addition of tapioca balls. With a plethora of choices on offer – kumquat, honeydew, peach and jasmine to name but a few – you’re invited to concoct any flavour mash-up that takes your fancy. And if you’re stuck for choice, just ask. The staff know their stuff: resplendent in lab gear, and juggling orders and plastic cups, they could recite off flavours and facts like times tables.
While I can’t see it usurping English breakfast’s high-ranking position in our esteem any time soon, it does offer up a non-alcoholic option for a late-night meet up. When it’s too late for coffee, and you’re trying your damnedest to be teetotal, bubble tea could be a strong contender for your pennies. Sure, you can go to a pub and opt for a lime and soda, but it’s the little bit of theatre that Bubbleology serves up which makes it a viable pit stop. In a city sodden with coffee chains, Bubbleology is a talking point. It’s George’s-marvelous-medicine-meets-Willy-Wonka attitude beats the banality of Costa any day.
Bubble tea: an alternative to a cup of builders? I think not. But as a late-night, sober past time it might just be your cup of tea.
45 Pembridge Road