BURSTING THE BUBBLE
With the boom of bubble tea, people's perception of tea has been diluted, if not skewed. Bursting the bubble is a look at what it means to consider the humble beverage we hold in our hands.
January 13, 2020
Ask any teenager or young adult on the streets what their preferred beverage (apart from water) is, and chances are, they will tell you it's bubble tea. In fact, some may even profess their undying love for the addictive beverage.
With the recent spotlight on how unhealthy an innocent-looking cup of bubble tea may turn out to be, there are some who proclaim they opt for a healthier choice — that of 0% sugar tea containing what is marketed as "premium tea", implying a high quality. But, is it really? If you ask anyone within the tea industry, you will encounter their scoffs at the illusion.
Why though, one may ask. Unknown to most consumers, tea leaves used in bubble tea are largely tea dust — tea that is left over from broken leaves and often used as fertiliser for better tea. As they are less fragrant and aromatic, tea dust is sold at much lower prices.
Unknown to most consumers, tea leaves used in bubble tea are largely tea dust — tea that is left over from broken leaves and often used as fertiliser for better tea.
It is fine to use tea dust in beverages. In fact, our beloved local drink, the teh tarik is made with tea dust. The robust and astringent nature of the tea complements the silkiness of evaporated milk perfectly. A cuppa costs approximately $xx, which is justified since the cost price is low.
Tea sold in most bubble tea shops, on the other hand, tell a different story. A cup of Oolong can cost from $3 to upwards of $6 just because it is marketed as "premium tea". Consumers do not realise they are getting lower grade tea that is not worth its price tag. Imagine if your teh tarik is sold at these prices just because it is stamped with the "premium" tag. It would be akin to using robusta beans and pricing it at the arabica level. Or even worse, using instant coffee and selling it at specialty coffee price.
The overwhelming popularity of the beverage has also diluted, or even skewed, people's perception of tea.
Sadly, bubble tea is pretty much the juggernaut of the tea industry these days due to its accessibility. The overwhelming popularity of the beverage has also diluted, or even skewed, people's perception of tea. There are instances in which people savour a cup of loose leaf Oolong for the first time at a proper tea house and marvel at how much more aromatic it is compared to the version they get at bubble tea shops. And it opens up their eyes.
The good thing is, there are still a handful of tea houses that care immensely about the quality of the tea they serve. It is a genuinely wonderful experience to come across these places and see the thought and attention placed on the tea. So, if you do, then spread the word, because good tea deserves to be shared.