Bubble tea shops – Oxford!

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喂~ As promised, this post will introduce you to shops where you can buy bubble tea! I’ll be talking about things like their location, pros/cons and general 口味/flavor. 本来 I wanted this post to include a review of shops in both London and Oxford (as that’s where I’m living) but I realized it’s going to be quite lengthy. Instead I decided it’s better to separate these posts between the two cities. Today I have begun with boba stores in Oxford since they are less there than in London. I have started each section with the store name in bold and if you press the name you will find a link to its website with precise locations 等等. Lastly, the three stores I am about to introduce you to are not in order of my favourites😋

Formosan| The shop we shall start with is called Formosan and it happens to be the closest to where I was staying in Oxford! Formosan claims to be the ‘first and only tea bar of its kind in the UK’, but what’s so special about it? After talking to one of the workers about this same question he told me that the main USP of the shop is that there are no artificial flavours or colours in the syrups that are used to make their teas, and that there are no chemical additives. Quite a plus since bubble tea can contain a lot of sugar. For this reason the store markets themselves as the shop that sells ‘healthy’ bubble tea, which you can see from the poster outside that leads up into its entrance. I’d like to clear up that whilst Formosan certainly does offer a 比较 healthier alternative to the boba shops I shall go on to mention, its drinks are not ‘healthy’ in itself. Back to the poster at the entrance, the store is located in an…interesting place😅. It’s along the High St (on the left, the same side as Shepherd & Woodward and Natwest) -through an alleyway. If you exit down the opposite side of the alleyway on your way out you may soon find yourself at Christ Church college…but I digress. The location may seem off-putting to some but the shop is usually quite busy, so it’s not bad. The flavours on the menu may seem quite similar to each other but you can sample a few of the main flavours to see what suits your fancy~ If you get a topping in your drink (like tapioca or pudding) the average price is around £4.75, which can be a bit pricey. On the plus side, there is a loyalty card scheme which gets you stamps for the drinks you buy and rewards you with the 10th drink being free 🎉. You can also pay by card (there’s a sign that says it’s a £5 min spend, but it’s not strictly true); and if you go an hour before the store closing (the store currently closes at 8pm) your drink will be half price! 🎉–but you won’t get a stamp on your loyalty card. Other things to add is that there is free wifi, a toilet (discreetly hidden away too) and a very nice ‘tea room’ seating area with a table and floor cushions. And although you cannot mix flavours, there’s another branch in London! My recommendation: GLP with no ice~

Coba| Coba is quite an interesting shop. It’s a decent size store and cutely decorated with green walls, artwork and polaroid pictures hung up and displayed. There are also a couple of tables and small board games set up for people to play with friends as they have their drinks. They have the typical fruit and milk flavours, as well as milkshakes, such as an oreo milkshake you would find in an ice-cream parlour. The interesting thing is that you can not only have toppings such as tapioca in your bubble tea, but also in the milkshake! It’s worth a try, although I think tapioca tastes better in regular boba. As well as drinks, the store offers snacks! I have only tried one of their waffles, but they also offer pot ramen and a few Chinese street food style snacks. Once again for some reason Coba is also located down a sort of alleyway…but not exactly, I’m not really sure what it’s called o.O You can find the store through an opening in Corn Market St on the side opposite the Clarendon Shopping Centre. Look out for it’s own poster outside an archway, and there may even be an employee holding a sign outside. I didn’t seem to go to Coba as often as the other two options out of convenience, but it’s a good option! I like to mix flavours when a store tells me they can do this for me and if you are also like this, Coba can accommodate~ They (like most stores that allow flavour mixing) will tell you if they think the flavour will work well and if it’s a bit strange (like mine usually are) they will warn you. Expect to be met with a bit of confusion at first. They also have a loyalty stamp card scheme with the 10th drink being free🎉. A regular size drink is £3.59 but you can only pay by cash. My recommendation: Lemon fruit tea~

Chatime| Let me begin by telling you that Chattime is located in Glocester Green and has branches across the UK. There are a few tables for you to sit at with your drink, but none of the shops I’ve mentioned thus far are massively big in space. Perhaps it’s the white décor tricking me, but Chatime seems to be the most recognisable establishment for boba out of the three listed options. They offer fruit and milk tea flavours, although it would be nice if they expanded their fruit tea menu. As well as typical bubble tea they offer slushies (mushed ice drinks), which you can have with tapioca or other toppings but I wouldn’t recommend it because the ice causes the tapioca to harden faster (unless you plan to down it); tea lattes, coolers and mousse tea. The mousse tea has a layer of foam on top of the tea and you have to shake the cup to mix it in to the drink…in all honesty its just another milk tea. Also the coolers don’t seem too far from fruit teas with ice😅. But don’t get me wrong, I do like this shop and I went there a lot! Of all the boba stores in Oxford it closes latest at 10pm. They too have a loyalty card stamp scheme, and you guessed it, the 10th drink is 免费 -FREE!🎉I think a drink on average costs £4.20, however like Coba, they only accept cash and nearby cashpoints can be a bit 麻烦to get to. Strictly speaking you cannot mix flavors, however depending on the employee they may just let it pass~ Other exciting things are their promotional events. During Chinese new year they gave out red packets with special coupon prizes inside with every drink! Prizes ranged from free toppings to free drinks! My recommendation: Here, generally a green tea base and possibly extra sugar. Try the apple green tea with no ice (tastes like the green Hubba Bubba bubblegum!)~ They also have a Facebook page.

So those are the three bubble tea shops in Oxford~ There are a few restaurants and the odd ice-cream shop (down Cowley) that serve bubble tea, but I wouldn’t recommend it in comparison to the stores I’ve discussed in this post. I think I should add that this was not at all sponsored…but I wouldn’t mind XD 😛 (and I have a Chinese CV ready to go!~~)☕️

I haven’t been too well lately so I had to delay this post, but I hope you enjoyed it now that it’s come out~ Please 期待 my posts to come and be patient with me 💪🏽.

If you plan to explore some bubble tea shops, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.


Bubble tea!?

Bubble tea (a.k.a ‘boba’ by the Hipsters…开玩笑) is a tea based drink usually filled with tapioca pearls. The drink was originally made in Taiwan and is famously known as an East Asian beverage. In the recent years the drink has become increasingly popular in the West and explains why you may have seen Boba stores popping up in the UK in big shopping centres and such.

I have been asked about bubble tea many times, and so I thought it was best to answer some of the questions in a standalone post. I usually get asked when I take a friend to try it and I have to quickly brief them whilst they’re in the queue. The FAQ would be ‘what’s that black stuff in the drink?’. The answer is simply tapioca pearls (basically the ‘bubbles’). The tapioca/boba has a chewy texture like a slightly hardened jelly that you can eat along with your drink. Bubble tea usually comes with a straw that has a larger hole than normal straws so that you can suck the tapioca along with your tea. Recently shops have started to ask customers if they would like tapioca with their drink (or charge 50p extra for tapioca to be included in the drink) since many people find it unsettling to have things floating in their tea which force them to drink and chew at the same time. However there are toppings other than tapioca. Some of the most popular toppings would be aiyu jelly (which has a rather tasteless taste), grass jelly and red bean. You can even get popping boba, which is coloured tapioca pearls that have flavoured juice inside them that you taste once you bite them (often fruit flavoured).

So that’s tapioca sorted, what about the drink itself? Bubbletea is a tea based drink. Usually the teas are divided into fruit and milk. Fruit teas taste a bit like juice (which I recommend if you want something to quench your thirst), and milk teas have a milk base (so it may remind you of your English breakfast tea). Some shops also sell teas in different forms such as frozen ice, mousse and lattés. The frozen ice is sort of like a slushie and although it is quite popular with tapioca, the tapioca will harden quicker due to the freezing temperature of the drink. The mousse is also quite interesting as it has a foam layer on top of the tea that you have to shake before drinking to mix the two together. In all honesty it’s pretty much the same as a milk tea once you’ve shaken the cup, but do try it if there are interesting flavours.

Most shops have the same traditional flavours of milk tea such as Matcha (Japanese green tea), Oolong, Jasmine, Brown sugar, Chocolate; as well as standard fruit flavours such as Strawberry, Mango, Passion Fruit and Lychee. In most shops you can also mix flavours, although this is usually limited to two flavours and kept within fruit or milk tea bases. I would recommend a mixture of Mango and Passion fruit which complement each other very well, especially if you’re unsure of what to have the first time and don’t want to try something too new. You may also notice on the menu that you can have your drink with either a Green or a Black tea base. I only recently found this out, but a Green tea base is slightly weaker in terms of flavour, and a Black tea base is slightly stronger. Although I don’t pay too much attention to it, in certain shops I would recommend a Black tea base since their flavours are not always very strong, however I generally stick to using Green tea.

Once you have chosen your tea flavour(s) you will be asked if you want your drink hot or cold (although certain drinks only come in one form) and which level of sweetness you would like your drink to be. Personally I like to have my drinks cold with no ice because the ice cubes get in the way of the pearls and can also dilute the drink as they melt. I also think that milk tea drinks taste better hot than fruit teas. I’ve found that the fruit teas have a strange almost bitter aftertaste when served hot, which would probably be even stronger with a black tea base. If you want to try a hot tea, a safe option would be a hot chocolate flavoured tea which can be quite nice (if it’s mixed properly). You can make a judgement as to which flavours will taste nice hot, for example I once tried a hot Rose milk tea which brought out the rose flavour more strongly than in its cold tea counterpart but eventually made me feel a bit sick x_x Of course this is only my opinion and you should try out different flavours and combinations of teas if you get a chance so that you can find your own favourites.

As I mentioned earlier as well as being asked which temperature you would like your drink to be served as, you will also be given the choice to determine the sweetness level. Some shops are more precise than others, like some stores in Korea which will ask you to state a percentage number for how sweet you would like your drink. The most basic options are to keep the sugar level at regular, extra sweet, or less sweet. Within these levels you can sometimes request further levels of sweetness like extra extra sweet (x_x) or no sugar at all. Although it’s quite easy to keep the sugar at regular level, you could try different sugar levels to see how greatly it affects the overall taste.

The first time I saw a sign for a Bubble tea shop I imagined a Bubble Gum/magical flavoured drink that I felt the need to try! It was only a year or so later that I found another shop selling the elusive beverage, and once I found out what it really was I was quite satisfied. Incase you didn’t already guessed, 奶茶对身体不健康 –Bubble tea is quite unhealthy, so try not to have it too frequently. You can try to opt for flavours that are ‘less unhealthy’ than others, perhaps like a hot lychee green tea with less sugar. Of course the sugar levels will play a big role in this, however the drinks are mainly deemed as unhealthy because of the flavoured syrups that are sometimes mixed in with the teas and also because the tapioca itself is quite high in calories. So you have been warned~

If you ever visit Taiwan you can go to the shop where Bubble tea was originally created and have a session making your own authentic teas. From what I remember the creation of the drink was quite interesting, but I’m afraid we’ve run out of time for a history lesson today. If you would like me to expand on the topic in the future or perhaps talk about how to make your own Bubble tea at home then do let me know.

This post has already become quite long so I hope you have a good understanding of what Bubble tea is! You may now be wondering where you can purchase such a magical drink? I decided to talk about this in a separate post so stay tuned and I will reveal such details and more!~

If you try Bubble tea for the first time, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.