It's not every day you get invited to sample 'bubble tea', a milky or clear tea-based drink primarily distinguished by its thick layer of chewy tapioca pearls at its base. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan, and it's all the rage in New York right now, apparently.
Nevertheless, Hot Dinners put aside any preconceptions, and headed down to Rupert Street to attend the launch of Bubbleology, the newest experimental cafe to open on this street on the corner of Soho's gay quartier. And it's rather well-suited to the area, decked out in rainbow-coloured lightbulbs, multicoloured tiling and a wacky display of a mad scientist's kit, fizzing and bubbling in the window.
We sipped and munched our way through mango, lychee, green apple and taro (a vanilla-tasting purple sweet potato) bubble tea with gusto. Though the milk bubble teas took a little getting used to, the clear varieties were fruity and delicately refreshing. The tapioca pearls mostly exist to provide a starchy, chewy contrast, absorbing the tea's flavours, before you suck them up through thick straws, making the drink a filling snack in its own right.
Bubbleology opens early to offer Monmouth coffee to Soho's workers who need their morning fix, with breakfast deals on pastries and muffins. But it's their midnight closing time which will stand them in good stead in the area. Founder Assad Khan explains that while Bubbleology will aim to appeal to late-night revellers looking for a bite to eat or refreshment, it could also be the perfect spot for Londoners looking for an non-alcoholic night out. And with 13 different flavours of tea to try, there's plenty to keep a crowd interested.
Bubbeology is 49 Rupert Street, W1D 7PF.