Back in the day, tea was simply the stuff with the Lipton label on it. Good, basic, but no surprises. Then, over the years, in swept the herbal varieties (Red Zinger, anyone?), the green, health-boosting versions, the rooibos (still struggling to pronounce that one …) kind, and more. We longtime and recent tea lovers rejoiced!
Now, in most cities and towns across America, there are many, many more types of tea. And some of the newest ones are worth discovering this summer. Bubble teas or boba teas are found in cafes and mall shops, offering concoctions that hail from Taiwan. They’re usually served icy cold, in tall glasses with wide straws, because along with the tea, milk, and flavorings are tapioca pearls or other jelly-like beads that add a fun, offbeat texture (at least to U.S. palates) to the drink.
These drinks are a fun indulgence instead of ice cream as the temperatures tick up—and when we say indulgence, that’s code for calorific. They are often blended with sweetened condensed milk instead of regular milk, bringing the calories into the 300 to 600 range! (You can ask to swap in different milks to bring it in line.) Now that we’ve shared the buzzkill details, let’s focus on the fun. Often brightly colored, these teas come in all kinds of enticing flavors. At Boba Tea KC in Kansas City, Missouri, you can sample honeydew, lychee, mango, or taro, the latter being a root vegetable.
Another kind of tea to try: Fruit tea. One chain, Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea, serves up tea with different levels of sweetness and ice, and you pick the fresh fruit that gets chopped up and added to your drink. Pineapple, passion fruit, winter melon, green plum, apples, and oranges are among the options. And if you want to go all in, you can get fruit tea with the boba/bubbles in it. Regardless of what variety you try, it’s a fun way to cool off this season and a perfect way to break out of the afternoon “Want to get an iced coffee?” rut. — Janet Siroto