From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What is Bubble Tea?


Mmm… reading about soft, fluffy lemon meringue and scones brings to mind crumpets, bangers and mash, petit fours, and Darjeeling or English Breakfast tea.  Can we say “Tea Party on the horizon?”
I was discussing the idea of that simple gathering with Eleyna and she scoffed at the idea, saying that “A tea party sounds like a dumb idea.”  Clearly, she has never had the responsibility of gathering up all of her dolls and teddy bears and “hosting” a Teddy Bear Tea Party.
Nor has she had to endure the cackling of over-pretentious ladies of the house who can do no more than try to elevate their status to one that is superior to the lady who just described something about her life.
Nor has she had to be schooled in the Victorian aged art of etiquette, eating, sitting, drinking or talking like a “cultured woman.”  (Flashback to the scene in Titanic when Rose is sitting around the table and spies a young girl being prompted to correct her posture while sitting in the tea room.)
The phenomenon known as the Victorian Tea Party has evolved from the elegant, stuffy, ostentatious gathering of proper women to a gathering surrounded by those who share renewed interest in social graces, attended by people from all walks of life.   They are now cozy, quiet gatherings that can erupt into fun breaks in the day, with innovative themes and tasty snacks. (Think of the Mad Hatter, with Alice in Wonderland…)
This group approach to drinking tea is not new, as the Chinese have used tea in a ceremonial fashion to mirror the growth and importance of tea within the Chinese culture.  Tea in the Chinese culture was a tool used to promote gatherings where families on both sides of a wedding could get together and meet.  Tea is served by younger members of a family to the elders, as a demonstration of respect.  (It is also served to offer regret or submission, in the form of an apology.)  Tea has been used to teach a respect for nature, humility, and an overall sense of peace and calm.  The Chinese Tea Ceremony blends the underlying philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.   The Chinese Tea Ceremony was also a lesson taught to women, to enhance their ability to demonstrate servility to the man of the house and his guests.  There are six major aspects that play an important role in the success for demonstrating the ceremony.
1.    Attitude – The attitude of the person performing the ceremony should reflect both a happy and confident demeanor. The performer should exude a calm and relaxed manner to create a peaceful and enjoyable tea ceremony.
2.    Tea Selection – There are many considerations when selecting the right tea. In addition to fragrance, shape and taste, the tea should have a beautiful story and name.
3.    Water Selection – The best quality tea leaves will have poor taste if bad quality water is used. Therefore, select pure, light and clean water to ensure a wonderful tasting tea.
4.    Teaware Selection – It is important to select the correct teaware for brewing your tea leaves. In addition, allow your participants to fully appreciate the teaware by selecting both useful and beautiful items.
5.    Ambiance – A peaceful and calm environment can be created with a clean, comfortable and quiet room. Artwork can be used to enhance the overall atmosphere of the space.
6.    Technique – The basic skills for brewing tea are needed but also a graceful manner reflected through hand movements, facial expressions and clothing.

A new form of tea that has gained traction is a peculiar drink called Bubble Tea.  It is steadily overtaking the popularity of the hot and plain, instead offering a groovy, contemporary beverage that contains a lot of black balls in the bottom of a see through container.   With origins from the early 1980’s in Taiwan, Bubble Tea shops can be found on every corner of Taiwan or Hong Kong, and the U.S. is beginning to feel the growth. The question that comes to mind is whether or not people truly know what it is they are drinking or if they even know how those black balls are made? 
The simplest answer is the fact that the black balls are tapioca pearls, actually a shiny transformation from the brown or black that they start out as.  They are simply cooked, which makes them translucent, and cooled, then added to the container before any drink is poured in.    The cold drink is shaken with the tapioca pearls, thus creating a drink that appears to have bubbles floating to the top and sinking to the bottom. 
Bubble drinks are not limited to tea.  They can be made of fresh fruits, milk, and ice to create a milk shake.  The tapioca pearls are not limited by taste or color.  They can be green, infused with green tea, or they can be made from fruit juices, such as lychee, pineapple, mango, even grass.
One thing is for sure.  Bubble Tea is an addictive drink that is creating a new trend in the types of beverages that we of all ages are enjoying.  It is a unique beverage in its creation and consumption, and if you have not had the opportunity to try it yet, hopefully, now you can.
Until then, Good Eating, Friends…

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