Thursday, April 21

Bubbleology, Soho

On some nights, I wish Central London had an alternative evening-drink locale to the stinky pub (featuring sticky floors and faded upholstery) or the flashy bar (featuring ladies of the night). You know, a nice place where you can just kick back with friends, dress casually, and not be surrounded by bodies pressing into you with their lager-breath or women's voices getting screechier as the alcohol absorption increases. (Admit it, sometimes we all want an alternative to that sort of evening!)

In many Asian cities, this 'alternative' is actually a well-developed genre, and there are hosts of coffee chains, local tea shops and ice-cream parlours staying open late (even well past midnight on weekends), offering young people a relaxed, civilised place to get out of the house. One such place is the bubble tea café.

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and is named for the bubbles that develop on the surface when shaken. It comes in black or fruit tea combos and can feature plump tapioca pearls at the bottom of the cup, slurped up through wide straws. For me, bubble tea means shopping in a hot tropical climate and stopping for some cool refreshment, or hanging out with friends after a movie with no one getting drunk around you.

This is why I was especially pleased to be invited to the launch of Bubbleology, a new bubble tea café in Soho. Co-founder, Assad Khan, worked in a New York City investment bank for a few years before returning to the UK. Along with that infectious NYC enthusiasm for commerce, he brought back with him the idea for a chain of bubble tea cafés. Aware of the drink's Taiwanese origins, he approached that country's representation to the UK and was soon dispatched to Taipei, where he learned how to make bubble tea from the masters and identified the best suppliers for the specialist equipment he needed. Back in London, he approached Dan Einzig, designer of the successful chain of young, fun and family-friendly Giraffe restaurants. Not having cash to give him upfront, Assad offered Dan Einzig an equity stake in the idea (the two later brought in angel investors). All in all, from putting the idea in motion to opening the first café in Soho, the process took just 10 months. I don't think anyone can fail to be impressed by that.

Samples of milk and fruit teas

Frangelico and I tasted a selection of the teas on offer: Plain Assam, Plain Jasmine, Green Apple, Green Tea, Coconut, and Taro (yam). In Singapore, I was used to drinking just the iced black teas with milk and pearls. That's still my favourite - the Plain Assam was truly a beautiful milky tea, better than any bubble tea I've had in Singapore. The Coconut and Taro were delicious too. The Taro had a beautiful added dimension of pandan leaf, so that it felt like you were drinking a liquid version of Bengawan Solo's lapis sagu (a sweet, glutinous, layered cake made with coconut milk and essence of pandan).

The Bubbleologist can stipulate the exact amount of fruit sugar to add

Depending on the choice, powdered flavours might go in next

It goes 'shake shake' in the machine

Into the sealing apparatus

Assad demonstrating proof of seal

Late-night alternatives to drinking seem to be gaining traction in London. Just in Soho, you have Gelupo Gelato, Snog frozen yoghurt and Crêpe Affaire. I'm hoping Bubbleology gains a following like the others, because I want my bubble tea. I'm also hoping that they're so successful that they multiply quickly around the city, because, on some nights, it might be nice to walk to somewhere closer than Soho...

It's all about the science




I'm So Fancy said...

Love Bubble Tea. just always terrified of choking on one of those damn tapioca balls. Whoosh, right up the straw they come!

Mañana Mama said...

Reminds me of Berlin, where you can as easily get ice cream and a waffle as a drink in the late hours - nice to have that option.

Cinnamon and Truffle said...

You make a good point, Truffle. When I lived in London in the mid-90s, we were always looking for an after-movie or after-dinner place to hang out. There was one lousy cafe off of Leicester Sq where the service was terrible and the seats never enough. Glad to know that there are options now in London. Incidently, I have been known to have been the alcohol-infused girl with the screechy voice on many an occassion...


Chaboba Bubble Tea said...

I think it's great that Bubbleology is raising the profile of bubble tea in London.

Chaboba Bubble Tea opened beginning of February 2011 and we specialise in bubble tea from Taiwan. We are based in Camden Lock, London.

The company was created by a group of friends which took less than a year to set up (without any investors help) and we are very proud with what we have achieved so far.

Please feel free to pop down and try one of our bubble teas and have fun watching our bubble tea baristas make you a perfect bubble tea.

For more information, see our website

I would like to invite you to visit us for a sample.

Many thanks,
Best regards,

Chaboba Bubble Tea

8 East Yard, Camden Lock, London, NW1 8AL

Cinnamon and Truffle said...

Frau Francy - it's something I'd never thought about before. But drinking bubble tea today, I was so stressed!

Mama - that's so interesting! I looove Berlin. And waffles.

Cinnamon - I know the place you mean. Café Rendezvous, right? The four of us were there with Amma once. In my cheesecake days!

Chaboba - thanks for getting in touch. I was aware of you guys having arrived in London recently. But I wasn't on Twitter yet in February when you opened!

Anonymous said...

I've never come across Bubble Tea but it sounds amazing. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for it from now on. Never mind multiplying across London, I hope the chain is so successful it branches out to Berkshire so I can visit!


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