Last night Jacob and I escaped our work desks and had a quintessential night out for being young in a small Chinese city: dinner at a sushi-go-round, an hour of games at a local arcades, and drinks at a boba tea café.
Boba tea , also known as pearl milk tea or bubble tea, is a Taiwanese creation that gained popularity in East Asia in the 1990s, and later spread to US, Canadian, and European cities with large Asian communities. In China's coastal cities, it seems that every other block boasts a café serving boba tea. Not a bad thing considering other places to sit down and have drinks can be either too raucus (tea parlors) or overpriced (Starbucks and imitation Starbucks chains.)
In Beijing we had gone to an rbt for not only boba tea but because some tables had dangling bench-like swings as seats. Zhongshan's rbt also had swings, which was why we chose it over the 20 or so other cafés in the vicinity. Now, the swings may be novelty, even a bit childish, but tell me the idea of sitting on a swing sipping a drink with bubble-like pearls doesn't put a smile on your face.
The most common version of boba tea is black or green tea mixed with condensed milk and black tapioca pearl. (Tapioca pearls, made from tapioca starch, are boiled until they have a firm chewiness, not unlike gummy candy.) Nowadays boba tea café menus list a slew of flavors: mango, apple, lychee, taro, red bean, etc. Flavored jellies can also take the place of tapioca pearls.
Last night Jacob ordered a mango sorbet shake with aloe jelly that was good enough to give him repeated brain freezes, because of his inability to slow down. Being more of a purist, I got a jasmine milk tea with tapioca pearls, and slowly savored it.
Swinging like a kid on a warm fall night with an ice-cold drink in hand...not a bad reward after an intense week of language study.
Numerous locations around China