Friday, 4 March 2016

Bubble Bubble

I'm working on a play right now. There are many wonderful things about being employed, especially in this way, but the three nicest things about rehearsing are definitely:


The first week we were at Granville Island, which is a paycheque-sucker if ever there was. (Granville Island deserves its own blog entry, and one day I'll attempt it, though it may bankrupt me.) 

This week and next week we are at the very lovely Green Thumb Theatre rehearsal studios, in the Collingwood neighbourhood, right on Kingsway.

How I love Kingsway! I love that it's long, I love that it's still kind of seedy, I LOVE that it's a mecca for all sorts of Asian restaurants and groceries, from tiny hole-in-the-wall spots that might either be a health inspector's nightmare or a hidden treasure to well-lit giants with voluminous menus. There are swathes of Kingsway that are very Vietnamese, and indeed there are quite a few Vietnamese places in the vicinity of Green Thumb. But what I noticed right away were a plethora of bubble tea bars, and for some reason I decided that I absolutely HAD to try some right away, even though the one time I'd tried it, years ago, I'd found the tapioca bubbles disconcerting and the tea itself underwhelming. 

Am I ever glad that I gave it another try, and that I went to Milk & Sugar Cafe to try it. Milk & Sugar has an extensive bubble menu; not just the regular milk teas and green teas, but also fruit smoothies. They invite you to either try one of their flavour combinations, or invent your own. Unfortunately for my creativity, I tried the strawberry-lemon smoothie and that was IT. I want nothing more. The tart lemon balances out the sweet strawberry perfectly. M&S uses frozen fruit, so this drink is a less-sugary version of a drink that can often be overly sweet. 
The server checked with me that I actually wanted the tapioca pearls in my drink (I did), and they were delicious! Not at all as I remembered. These ones are extra big, slightly sweet, and wonderfully chewy. A few days later I tried a strawberry-lemon-peach concoction and had mango stars instead of tapioca pearls. Although they're sweet and tasty, I actually preferred the pearls. 
Milk & Sugar also has ice cream drinks and bubble tea that's actually made with, you know, tea, so if that's more to your taste, go for it. But I'm in heaven with my fruit smoothie and I'll stick with that. 

Just to make sure I wasn't missing out, though, I had to try another bubble tea joint as well. CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice bills itself as the world's largest bubble tea chain, so I figured they knew what they were doing. Their decor is definitely shinier and newer than M&S (I preferred Milk & Sugar's more relaxed decor over CoCo's overly plastic orderliness.) I decided to go with a more classic milk tea as they didn't have the selection of fruit smoothies that Milk & Sugar did. (Asian dessert/tea places seem to use mango as their default fruit, and I find mango overly sweet.) The Caramel tea that I ordered wasn't overly sweet, and the milk tea was smooth and milky, but the black tea taste came through nicely. CoCo's pearls are smaller than M&S' pearls, which I found a little disappointing, and overall although it was a pleasant drink I found it lacking compared to the fruit drink. I guess it's a matter of taste, and right now I'm craving fruit. 

One thing that does make me wince, though, is the amount of plastic I'm throwing away every time I have a bubble tea drink. (Why does this seem worse than a paper coffee cup? They're both wasteful. But plastic is just so... plastic-y.) I get that bubble tea is partly about looks- the bright, creamy colours and the contrasting black pearls or gummy fruits- so you need a see-through container. But I feel really guilty. Perhaps I'll bring a Mason jar to Milk & Sugar next time and see if they'll fill that for me instead. Fruity, chewy and guilt-free: what could be better than that? 

Milk & Sugar Cafe is at 3365 Kingsway, Vancouver. 
CoCo Fresh Juice & Tea is at 3275 Kingsway, Vancouver.