Bursting the 'bubble': tips to ordering bubble tea

At Play

Pearls, pudding, fruity, creamy, less sugar, more ice?

Ordering up a bubble tea can call for quite a bit of decision-making. But, fear not! Self-confessed bubble tea buff, Miko, is sharing her love for this super summertime drink and great tips for the uninitiated.

Bubble tea can be found in every corner of Australia, but that wasn’t always the case. I remember the first year I came to Adelaide, in 2013, there were less than 10 bubble tea stores here. Now, there are more than 30 bubble tea stores in the Adelaide city area and around the suburbs. It’s hard to pick the best one.

If you haven’t tried bubble tea before, I hope to change that - so read on to find out what it is, how to order one and why I love it so much!

Miko looks at menu at hitea
photo-icon Skye Murtagh

miko checks out the menu at HiTea in Rundle Mall.

So, what is bubble tea?

Country of Origin: Taiwan (Tainan and Taichung)

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. Actually, ‘bubble tea’ is a reference to the milk froth that forms when the drink is shaken, not the chewy pearls in the drink that resemble bubbles. [i]

Ordering bubble tea always means answering a series of questions like, ‘Which sugar level would you like?’, ‘Which ice level would you like?’ or ‘Any toppings?’. Here’s how the ‘levels’ work.

Sugar levelIce level
Standard sugar (100%)Standard ice (100%)
Less sugar (75%)Less ice (75%)
Half sugar (50%)Half ice (50%)
Little sugar (25%)Little ice (25%)
No sugar (0%)No ice (0%)

Here are three steps for how to order like a pro.

Step 1: Choose the base of your drink

If you aren’t looking for a creamy drink or too much caffeine, green tea will be your best option. A milk tea with green tea base delivers with a light and refreshing flavour texture. Green tea bases are also the best paired with fruit flavours, like peach green tea, or mango green tea.

Teas beans and dates
photo-icon Skye Murtagh

so many teas, beans and other things to choose from at HiTea in Rundle Mall.

Try black tea if you’re up for a little caffeine. Black tea provides a strong and flavourful base, and it can have up to 30 percent caffeine.

You may also see oolong tea as an option for a base flavour when you’re looking up the menu. In fact, Oolong tea is a tea between green and black teas. Green tea and black teas go well with both fruity base and creamy base.

Step 2: Select your flavours

Look for a menu that lists all the flavours available to you. Normally, there are two types of categories to choose from, which are creamy and fruity.

Hitea menu board

the hitea menu board.

If you’re craving for something creamy, the flavours you can choose from include chocolate, coffee, coconut, chai, almond and red bean.

If you’re looking for something refreshing, the flavours you can choose are things like mango, strawberry, lemon, lychee, banana, pineapple and peach. Sometimes, you might see a few botanical flavours on the menu too like rose, lavender and chamomile.

Step 3: Pick some toppings to add on

I totally understand that excessive amounts of choices appear on the menu board and you can struggle to make decisions when you are just looking for something to drink. Here’s a tip or two.

Try tapioca pearls if you’re after toppings with less sugar and less texture. But if you’re into something chewy and sweet, boba pearls are the best option for you. Black in colour, boba pearls are made from cassava root, sweet potato and brown sugar.

At the same time, some bubble tea shops sell ‘popping pearls’. They look like normal pearls but in different colours with fruit juice flavouring inside. A ‘pop’ sound comes out once you’ve bitten into it. If you’re looking for something fun, the popping pearls may be a good choice for you.

A pudding add-on is also a good option for ‘creamy’ people. Pudding will sink to the bottom of your cold milk tea or melt slowly into your hot milk tea; however, it doesn’t really work with fruit teas or fruit flavours. Also, a jelly add-on is an alternative if you’re into chewy toppings. Fruit flavoured jelly and Aloe Vera jelly are perfect with fruit teas. Coconut jelly and herbal jelly go well with creamy drinks. [ii]

Nothing goes wrong with pearls and fruity jelly in bubble tea always!

My best pick for bubble tea in Adelaide?

Tea taste test 3

miko slurps on her 'cheese roasted oolong tea' from hitea.

HiTea has three city locations in Rundle Mall, Gouger and Grote Streets.

Right now, their ‘Cheese Roasted Oolong Tea’ is the bomb I could say. I am not a person who is really into cheese-foam, but I am addicted right after having my very first Cheese Tea in HiTea.

There is a tiny sticker on the lid of the tea. It is recommended that you have a sip at a 45-degree angle for the best tea flavour.

Cheese-foam contains a rich and salty flavour. Green tea and black tea come with a relatively light texture. Therefore, it is the best combination to drink green tea or black tea with a layer of cheese-foam.

HiTea Staff Recommendation:

Cheese Roasted Oolong Tea with Coconut Jelly – the light flavour of Oolong Tea, the rich texture of Cheese foam and chewy fruity toppings. Probably too heavy if adding pearls in a Cheese Tea.

The views, information, or opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Corporation of the City of Adelaide.

Article by

Miko Cho Ying Liu

Miko Cho Ying Liu

Translator ● Freelance Creative Writer ● Social Media Marketer

I was born and raised in Hong Kong. After completing my secondary education in Hong Kong, I decided to pursue my degrees in Adelaide in 2013. Hong Kong is a multicultural city, so is Adelaide! I have been living in Adelaide for almost seven years. I love Adelaide. And yeah … sometimes I crave comfort food and drinks, especially when I was having my hard time in the university, like rushing for deadlines and final exams. No matter what sort of challenges in my life, I'm always looking for something new, something different.