If you’ve never heard of bubble tea, then you probably don’t live in London. Because so far, this phenomenon seems to have escaped normal people outside of the UK’s major metropolises. It’s becoming more popular, though, so look out for it – and they’re not what you might imagine.

Bubble teas – originally invented in Taiwan, but now also popular across Europe and America – are not carbonated, but instead have little tapioca bubbles, which can have fruity flavours in, or can simply be tasty solid, chewy balls which you suck up with the drink through an oversized straw.

The drinks come in a wide range of different flavours, including, at Chatime, peach, lychee, mango, brown rice and black tea. You then get to choose which toppings, or bubbles you want – such as regular solid pearls, coconut, coffee or aloe vera. If you really like the bubbles – which is actually an Anglicisation of ‘boba,’ meaning ‘large’ – you can get extra.

You can also get milk-based teas, which are described some as a children’s drink, but which we prefer – these are made with milk instead of tea or fruit juice, more like a thin milkshake.

At Chatime, they also give you a choice of how much sugar you want added. You get to choose anywhere between 20 per cent extra to none at all, but, like regular tea, no sugar wouldn’t be to many people’s tastes. The plastic cup is sealed with a film lid, so that you can shake it if all the bubbles have fallen to the bottom.

We tried a few different flavours from Chatime – and found some varied results. We don’t normally like black tea, so it was no surprise that we didn’t much like the black tea based bubble teas; but the green tea was much tastier. Milk teas are probably even more to our taste. So choose carefully, and you could have a great alternative to going for a coffee with friends – plus the extra choices make it a lot more fun.


Chatime (cha time, as opposed to the more sociable chat time!) has six branches across the UK, with Oxford and Birmingham due to open next month.