Bubble tea, to sip or not to sip?

Bubble tea Milano
The interior of one of the many bubble tea shops on Via Paolo Sarpi in Milan

When I worked at NoMad in New York, a colleague of mine was obsessed with bubble tea. For someone the gastronomically focused like myself,  Champagne is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear bubbles.  I therefore thought bubble tea had some kind of carbonation, and the thought of a carbonated tea honestly just never really tickled my fancy.

Fast forward to Milan practically five years later where bubble tea places have been springing up like mushrooms on Via Paolo Sarpi. In fact, the signs depicting the colorful drinks in clear plastic cups with straws led me to believe they were juice bars at first, yet much to my dismay, I was wrong.

So, this past weekend, I moseying my way along Sarpi and saw a shop with a drinks list pictured outside, one of which was “classic milk tea”. I love me a milk tea, and I hadn’t had one since my June visit to New York, so I thought why not? You can imagine my surprise when I received the freshly made milk tea with a sealed plastic top and what looked like jumbo size caviar pearls sitting on the bottom. I brought my tea over to the counter to insert the straw, when I noticed a series of  plastic cups filled with colorful liquids lining the window,  also with these pearls at the bottom. Then I realized, those must be “bubbles”, and that I was in a bubble tea shop.

Now, the straw had quite a bit of girth, and I sliced it through the plastic seal and sipped. Okay, it tasted like classic milk tea. You think I would have realized there’s a reason why the straw was so thick?  I inhaled one of the bubbles on my next sip and almost choked.  reminded me a bit of a mini-mochi; turns out they’re tapioca balls. Turns out they’re super chewy, and they reminded me a bit of mochi. There’s also several different fruit flavors, too, hence my original juice bar confusion.

I drank (and ate!) my bubble tea on the go, and that made me a little nervous because I was afraid of choking on the bubbles. Not that they were bad, but I wasn’t exactly sure why they were there. Honestly, I just didn’t get it! Next time, I’ll take my milk tea bubble free.

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