26 May 2009

It's Chinatown

I'll never forget that first sip.

It was a pot of milky, sweet black sesame tea and I was sharing it with my small New York crew at St. Alps Teahouse, on Mott St., in Chinatown.

As the first cluster of inky, gelatinous balls hit my mouth, I recoiled from the tiny table. It was such an unexpected sensation- something chewy in a drink- and I couldn't quite wrap my head or palate around it.

But the very next day, at work in midtown, I was seized with an irrepressible urge around noon. I surreptitiously gathered my bag and coat and hopped on the train to Canal St., raced the several blocks east to the shop, ordered a cup of mango green bubble tea and then hustled right back to the subway. It took over an hour and a half, but as I gulped down bubble after bubble, I was strangely soothed. And addicted. Almond and coconut milk tea, taro, passionfruit; with the exception of plum (strangely reminiscent of a McRib), I loved every flavor I tried.

Now, bubble tea is all over the city (and St. Alps is under new management), so I don't often trek to Chinatown. But when I do make the special trip, it's always worth it. My new go-to is Ten Ren Tea Time (79 Mott St.), a claustrophobic cafe adjoining the venerable Chinese tea company shop. The flavors seem fresher, the balls chewier, and it's the only spot I've found that offers a matcha-based bubble tea, which has a lovely balance of strong, vegetal green tea and syrupy sweetened condensed milk.

On my most recent visit, I even tried a new flavor- jasmine- and was pleased to find my old love for bubble tea still aflame.

If only I could make it last more than two minutes.


Anonymous said...

Jasmine Milk with Boba is the best!

anna said...

I looove bubble tea! There's an awesome little bubble tea shop in Portland (Maine). I get a drink whenever I go down there for anything...sometimes I make up excuses to go into the city just because I want boba. I have way too many favorite flavors - almost every drink I've had there has been chewy deliciousness! I generally order a milkshake or slush instead of iced milk tea. I don't like losing so much drink-space to ice cubes. Hot milk tea is wonderful, though - they have a super-fragrant jasmine green and an intense lavender!

Meghan said...

I've started making bubble tea at home, and I have to say that it was one of the better things that I've done recently.

You can order the pearls on Amazon for not too much money--I think that I bought six pounds of pearls, 50 straws, and four flavor syrups for about $60. They're dead easy to make, plus you can keep them in the fridge for a few days.

If you *really love* bubble tea or, like me, you really love bubble tea and live somewhere with no access to it at all, it's worth looking into.

Anonymous said...

Tiny bubbles in the tea
Makes me happy I am me!

GoodmorningNightmare said...

not a fan of bubble tea, but you make me want to try it out.