Bubbleology, the UK’s first bubble tea store, opened in London in 2011. So bubble tea store took the country by storm, and soon no city will be complete without one. What the West knows as the iconic “bubble tea” the Chinese call “pearl tea”. The pearls refer to the dark, chewy tapioca balls inside the drink, the bubbles to the froth created by shaking the tea before serving.
Last week, I paid a visit to the new Chatime café in Oxford, which opened in September this year. Having entered the European ‘cha race’ in 2012 with a store in London, the Chatime franchise is expanding this year with new branches in Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield as well as Oxford. It claims to serve “the best and most authentic Taiwanese bubble tea in the UK”. I ordered a hot cha, which costs more than a cold cha, probably because of the fancy lid they put on top.
What’s great about Chatime:
- The variety of teas and toppings.
- You can mix and match.
- You can change the sweetness and amount of ice if you’re ordering a cold cha.
What’s not so great about Chatime:
- The high prices. The cha on its own is expensive already, and there is a separate price for the ‘bubbles’ of the bubble tea.
- Some flavours are better than others. My Chatime Milk tea was great, but my friend’s Jasmine Green Milk tea just tasted like very milky tea.
- I would prefer them to just go for a normal lid and sell the hot and the cold cha for the same price.
A note on authenticity:
A Taiwanese friend of mine compared Chatime and Formosan, the first bubble tea store in Oxford, unfavourably. She said that they use milk powder in the tea at Chatime, but actual liquid milk at Formosan, and the latter is how bubble tea should be made. I had originally believed Chatime to be more authentic, but she explained that I knew Hong Kong style bubble tea, not the true Taiwanese version. She added that the word ‘Formosan’ means ‘Taiwan’ and ‘the Taiwanese’, so even the brand screams of authenticity.
If you just want Taiwanese bubble tea, you can find cheaper ones elsewhere. If you want to customise your tea with a wacky combination, or have multiple toppings in your tea, then this is the place to go.