Refreshing. Chewy. Exotic. I love bubble tea.
I think it has something to do with my inner child delighting in devouring food that grosses other people out. Or maybe I just like drinking neon colored liquid that looks like it shouldn’t be ingested by anything—especially a person. Bubble tea just seems to be one of those things you either love with a passion or hate with the fiery vengeance of a thousand suns. Personally, I am a huge fan of bubble tea and it’s delightful chunkiness, so you can imagine the joy I felt when I heard that State College was getting it’s very own bubble tea shop: Tea-Time. After what seemed like months and several fake-outs with their opening date, Tea-Time is now officially open for business on McAllister Alley.
For those of you who are missing out don’t know, bubble or boba tea is a milk-based tea (usually green or black) that contains small tapioca pearls. These pearls are chewy and a bit rubbery in texture, but have a hard to define sweetness. I always describe them as tasting a bit like chocolate, but I’ve heard others swear they can taste hints of caramel or even floral notes. When drinking boba tea, the tapioca sinks to the bottom and must be sucked up with an extra wide straw. The design of the straw is genius, as it ensures a perfect boba-to-tea ratio in every sip. Be warned: the hardest part about drinking bubble tea is rationing out your tapioca pearls so that you don’t run out and end up with just plain old iced tea.
However, Tea-Time serves much more than the traditional milk tea. They also carry iced coffee with coffee flavored jelly, milk tea with pudding inside, and specialty fruit drinks just to name a few. You may also purchase (and or drool over) a variety of desserts and pastries.
Intrigued by the unique offerings, I selected a passion fruit green tea with lychee jelly. To my surprise I was able to choose my level of sweetness, whether I wanted it iced or hot, and (if cold) the amount of ice. I was with a friend who ordered white gourd juice and egg pudding with caramel sauce.
Our drinks were made in good time, and we were each given a different straw for our respective drinks. My passion fruit green tea was tropical and fruity—a perfect pairing when combined with the lychee jelly inside. The jelly was cut up into small strips that were fairly easy to suck up through my comically large straw, although I found them to be a lot stiffer in texture compared to the tapioca pearls I was used to. On the other hand, my friend went sweet and simple with an order of plain gourd juice (if you can call juice from a gourd “plain”).
Although her drink didn’t contain any of my favorite chunks, the juice was very floral and tasted strongly of brown sugar. It was also extremely fragrant — intoxicating even — and the delicious molasses flavor lingered on our lips hours after our visit. We both agreed that it would probably be even better warm, and had to stop ourselves from going back to place another order.
With all of this sugar we hardly needed any more, but the adorable pictures of pastries and desserts were too mesmerizing to resist. I ordered the egg custard not knowing what to expect, but was delightfully surprised when I received a little cup of flan-like pudding. The caramel sauce on the bottom complimented our drinks nicely, and the cup became empty in a matter of minutes.
Overall I would have to say that our experience was everything I had hoped for and more. Everything we ate/drank was delicious, even though we had to sit outside in the below 40 weather. Tea-Time only offers outdoor seating, so make sure to bundle up for the months ahead. It’s worth it.
Outdoor seating besides, Tea-Time offers an interesting variety of drinks that focus on quality despite the quantity. The amount of choices are completely overwhelming, and each drink has it’s own unique twist. If you consider the fact that many of the drinks can also be served warm, there are at least a hundred exciting combinations to choose from…and I can’t wait to try them all.
Tea-Time is located on 124 McAllister Alley right next to the Pita Pit. For more information (and more tantalizing pictures) visit their facebook page.