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Authentic bubble tea from Taiwan gaining fans in London

2011/04/24 17:10:08

London, April 22 (CNA) Taiwan's quintessential bubble tea drinks,complete with marble-sized black tapioca balls at the bottom of thecup, are beginning to make inroads in London thanks to the efforts ofa British enthusiast of the unique beverage.

Assad Khan, who got his first taste of Taiwanese bubble tea, alsoknown as pearl milk tea, while working at an investment bank in NewYork six years ago, launched Britain's first tea house serving theTaiwanese drink in downtown London earlier this year.

Buoyed by the beverage's exotic ingredients and rich flavors,Khan's shop Bubbleology in London's bustling Soho district became aninstant success.

"It was only time before bubble tea hit the shores of Europe, andit's hit the shores of the UK with Bubbleology, and the response hasbeen absolutely extraordinary, " Khan said in an interview with theCentral News Agency.

Khan said he originally expected to sell 250 cups of variousflavors of bubble tea a day, but actual sales numbers are now doublethat.

Bubbleology's lineup currently features seven bubble tea flavorsand six pearl fruit tea flavors. The shop's ingredients, the equipmentand accessories, such as glass cups, wide straws to handle the tapiocaballs, shakers and cup-sealing machines are all imported from Taiwan.

As is the strict training Khan puts his employees through.

"Training is the most important thing. It's what differentiatesan authentic Taiwanese bubble tea house from a normal bubble teahouse," he said.

Encouraged by the shop's success, Khan said he plans to open anew outlet in an upscale department store in London in July.

The entrepreneur is upbeat about the drink's future prospectsbecause of its relatively short history. He said milk tea was madefamous as a drink or snack in Taiwan just 25 years ago, meaning itshould have ample room to grow.

"I believe U.K. people who've tasted bubble tea have an absolutelove for it, and I believe it's going to continue," Khan said.

In fact, his store is an outgrowth of his own addiction to thebeverage. He still remembers the strong emotions he felt when he hadhis first cup of bubble tea in New York, thinking it was the mostdelicious beverage he had ever tasted.

He later consumed four to five cups a week, but when he returnedto London in 2009, he could not find any shop that served thebeverage so he decided to fill the void on his own.

With the assistance of Taiwan's representative office in London,Khan traveled to Taiwan last July, during which he visited 15 majorsuppliers around the country.

Last December, he visited Taiwan again to receive training on howto operate tea-making machines and how to prepare bubble tea. Duringhis stay, Khan tried a wide variety of flavors, drinking 30 to 40cups a day.

"It was a bit crazy," Khan recalled, saying he hoped his personalsacrifice would bring the most authentic Taiwanese drinks toLondoners.

Impressed by Taiwan's cultural diversity, Khan said he planned tohead a British media delegation to visit Taiwan late this year tointroduce to media professionals Taiwan's rich and unique drinks,foods and culture.

Chang Siao-yue, Taiwan's representative to the U.K., said the cupof jasmine green tea milk tea she tried tasted great and wasidentical to that served in Taiwan.

Because pearl milk tea forms an important part of Taiwaneseculinary culture, Chang said she believed Khan's tea house would helpignite curiosity about Taiwan in Britain and promote awareness of itshistory, culture and traditions.

(By Jennifer Huang and Sofia Wu)