This week, I tackled my toughest task to date: for once, not using this column as an excuse to go out and treat myself, a la Donna Meagle/Tom Haverford, to a 10-course meal. This week, I set my insatiable appetite aside. This week, I traded my fork and knife for a straw. This week — my friends — was bubble tea week.
Feeling way behind the trend, I had been wanting to try bubble tea for a long while. Gotta keep up with the kids, you know? I had always known the basics of it, but I was definitely in for a huge shock at just how diverse bubble tea really can be. All different types of teas each with their own various flavors, different option for the bubbles themselves, hot or cold, varying sugar levels, pudding, something called “milk topping.” This turned out to be a whole other level of beverage far beyond my computing abilities.
Thus, I decided to try a bubble tea of some sort for the very first time on a separate occasion, prior to going out for the real review. I wanted to have a baseline to properly judge the bubble tea against. I ended up making said level for comparison the popular Tai Chi Bubble Tea in College Town based on advice from a friend of mine.
Before getting to the bottom of this bubbly beverage, I spoke with Vector, aforementioned friend and fellow UR student hailing from China — which he claims has a much larger culture for bubble tea than the States. This experienced connoisseur said he used to believe that Tai Chi had the best bubble tea around — that is, before he gave Kung Fu a go. So I tried three different variations of bubble tea at Tai Chi on two separate occasions before heading to Kung Fu Bubble Tea to really get down to business.
Because every superhero needs a sidekick, the boyfriend, Ryan, came along for the ride again on this one, giving me an excuse to test out two drinks instead of just one. So, after 10 solid minutes of standing at the counter trying to put something together from the endless menu, I decided to order a honey milk tea with standard bubbles, regular ice, and sugar. Ryan opted for the coffee milk tea with standard bubbles, regular ice, and sugar, apparently the most popular selection.
I absolutely adored my honey milk tea. The honey flavor was spot on, strong, and easily identifiable without being overly sweet — I could easily drink the whole thing pleasantly without feeling that awful numbing, tongue-drying buildup of sweetness. This drink was sweet and refreshing at the same time, a surprisingly difficult balance to achieve. And I ordered the medium size, which ended up being absolutely perfect for a snack. I left full and happy, but not bursting at the seams with a stomach full of heavy liquids.
The coffee milk tea was a hit, too. When I asked Ryan to sum it up in a phrase, he came up with “smoother milk iced coffee,” which is pretty accurate. This drink was essentially like a very creamy iced latte with tapioca pearls. Just like my honey milk Tea, the coffee milk tea had just the right level of sweetness. The creaminess of it was in perfect delicate balance as well. It was at this lovely point of being smooth and creamy, but not rich, making it easy enough to comfortably finish. I have never in my life been a coffee drinker. Aside from always trying to avoid caffeine in general, I’ve just never been captivated by the flavor of coffee. However, I can confidently say that I truly enjoyed the flavor of the coffee milk tea. The coffee flavor was strong and true to form yet perfectly-balanced with the other elements. The slight sweetness and slight viscosity created a perfect harmony with the coffee. Even I, a non-coffee lover, would absolutely order this drink for myself.
Aside from how utterly enjoyable the flavors of the teas were, the bubbles really pushed Kung Fu’s bubble tea over the edge for me. In comparison with the tapioca bubbles I had tried before reviewing Kung Fu, these were slightly softer, which worked beautifully. Not only were they more texturally pleasing to chew on and to eat, but they had that slight added tenderness, allowing the tapioca to soak up more flavor from the teas and giving them a bit of a flavor kick of their own.
I think Kung Fu really put the kick in bubble tea. I’d say I’d love to go back to try out all of their tea varieties — things such as the “yogurt grapefruit,” “rosehip lemonade punch,” “strawberry milk slush,” and even something called “wow milk” — but I know that the slight creaminess and perfect flavor-balances of the milk teas have got me too hooked for much adventure elsewhere.