‘Tis true, for this post I dined in a castle and a cake house. There were drawbridges and moats and gables made of gingerbread.
Not really, but it was still tasty.
I figured it was about time I went specifically for bubble tea, so we could begin our long and complex look at this big-cupped, giant-strawed, tapioca-filled piece of Richmond food culture. Until this year, I’d only ever had bubble tea once, when my first-year university roommate gave me a sip of her lychee juice with tapioca. Honestly, I thought the pearls were weird (and nearly choked on the first one as it came barrelling up the straw towards my unexpecting throat), and found the juice to be too sweet. Almost syrupy. Being the young, judgemental 18 year-old I was, I decided “nope, I don’t like bubble tea,” and didn’t touch it again until I’d reached the wise old age of 27. I somehow failed to add it to my list of “things to keep trying until I like.”
The culture of bubble tea is said to have originated in Taiwan in the early 1980’s, and has grown globally. The drinks are especially popular amongst kids and teenagers, who crowd into bubble tea houses to share food in groups, or huddle in pairs over one big cup with two straws, as advertised here. How romantic!
Shops usually carry about 1001 flavours (I exaggerate, but sometimes it seems like that many when you’re trying to choose), and the quality of the tapioca pearls found within the drinks can vary, as can the cubes of grass jelly, coconut jelly, or the various other textural add-ins available.
My first official stop on the 365 bubble tea tour was Pearl Castle, located in Richmond Centre. I decided to go for a classic milk tea with grass jelly ($5.45), and when the server asked “would you like tapioca pearls as well?” I couldn’t resist. I do love of extra ‘stuff’ (in a DQ blizzard – yes please!) however I regretted it in this case. By the time the grass jelly and pearls were in there, there was hardly any room for the milk tea, which was creamy, barely-sweetened, and refreshing! I wanted more drink and a little less chew. A lesson for next time.
If you’ve never had bubble tea before, this is how it works. The glass (or clear plastic cup, if it’s to go), arrives full of your drink of choice, and with the tapioca pearls or cubes of jelly crowding at the bottom. You take a sip from the giant straw, and along with the drink comes pieces of these sweet, chewy bits, which you munch on while enjoying the drink itself. It can become oddly addicting, as I’ve discovered.
Because I was really in the mood for rice, I ordered a plate of kimchi fried rice ($7.95) to go with my milk tea.
My expectations weren’t all that high, but it was actually really quite good, and came with a funny little container of strawberry jelly as my ‘dessert.’
I also ordered a buttered thick toast with condensed milk ($3.75), a classic bubble tea snack I’ve been meaning to try. I almost wish I hadn’t because now I know how good it is. Basically, it’s just a really thick cut of plain white bread that’s toasted, spread with salted butter, then drizzled with sweetened and condensed milk. A plethora of sweet, white, soft ridiculousness!
Thick toast, you are trouble. Pure trouble.
The egg tart was the best I’ve had yet (though still not my favourite treat), and the coconut cake and walnut napoleon were both just ok. This box of goodies revealed the MUST-BUY item from Anna’s Cake House, however: the mango cream puffs. They’re full of fresh mango and cream, sandwiched within an airy, choux-pastry bun and topped with icing sugar. Very, very, very good.
Castles and cakes and cream puffs. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?
Cash and cards usually accepted, though their machine was down that day and it was cash only.
Cash and cards