And bubble tea makes three

730 Somerset St. W.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Friday off work. --Check.
Nothing to do that can’t wait. --Check.
A sticky, hot, humid Ottawa summer day. --Check.
A friend with Friday off work and nothing to do that can’t wait. --Check.

Time to call E. for a bubble tea. She’s in. Noon-thirty at the usual spot. If we’re lucky (which we are), the comfy slouchy chairs at the table by the window will be free.

A creature of habit, I order the Mango Slush with pearls, a Bubblicity signature drink so thick and creamy that it’s like eating fresh mangos, only more fun. E., who is somewhat more adventurous, chooses the shockingly mauve Taro Sherbet with pearls. Taro, she tells me, is a root vegetable with healthful properties. Some superficial internet research later in the day reveals that taro is in fact a tropical root vegetable, which maybe explains why it’s so foreign to me.

For the uninitiated, bubble tea is flavoured black or green tea with – here’s where the bubbles come in – tapioca pearls. The pearls, which are usually black and larger than traditional tapioca, are made from the starch of cassava roots and brown sugar. According to Bubblicity’s website, they take 1 1/2 hours to cook and must be used within a 3-hour period.

Bubble tea is served in clear glasses (to better view the striking contrast of your tea and pearls, my dear) with fat, colourful straws (to better reach your pearls, my dear). Many teashops now offer a broad range of bubble tea-like beverages, some of which – my Mango Slush included – hardly qualify as tea! Some shops also serve coconut jelly as an alternative to tapioca pearls, but I much prefer the chewier texture of the tapioca pearls to the gelatinous quality of the flavoured jelly.

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s, spread to other parts of Asia in the 1990s, and gained popularity in North America in the late 1990s. Today, you can find bubble tea (or versions of it) in any major Canadian city (and a good number of not-so-major ones as well).

Give it a go and see whether you’re a believer.

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