LONDON // Milk Tea & Pearl @ Boxpark

When I set out on a mission to sample my first bubble tea a number of years ago now, I think I envisaged it being something of a novelty drink - the kind of thing you experience once, because it's a little bit quirky and fun, but never return to again.

It turned out, though, that I really like bubble tea.

For the uninitiated, the brightly coloured drink - which originated in Taiwan - has a tea base (funnily enough), shaken powerfully with milk to create the "bubbles" referred to in its name, served with a layer of tapioca pearls which sink to the bottom of the cup and are drank with the tea through an extra-thick straw. These days there are a range of variations available alongside the original milk tea - primarily ice cold teas served with a fruit flavouring instead of milk, while others come crushed with ice to create a slush-like drink, or blended with fruit to give a tea-smoothie, of sorts. Even the range of pearl varieties has expanded and consumers can regularly choose from original tapioca balls, flavoured jelly pearls, or - my favourite - popping boba, made from a thin jelly-like layer which bursts when bitten into, releasing a sweet, fruity juice.

It's fun and quirky, yes, but it's also really yummy!

As usual, Aberdeen is a bit behind in catching on to this trend (though I did notice the ice-cream stand in the Bon Accord Centre seems to have started offering some) so, when I knew I was heading to London Town, I made sure to add the addresses of some bubble tea places to my little travel notebook

When we found ourselves heading towards Shoreditch, post-Greenwich adventure, I knew that Milk Tea & Pearl couldn't be too far away!

Housed in Boxpark, directly beside Shoreditch High Street station, it turned out to be even closer than I thought. A pop-up shopping centre, Boxpark is built entirely from repurposed shipping containers, cleverly utilised to offer low-cost rental spaces to an ever-changing range of retail and food brands. It's an ingenious concept, attracting shoppers back to the high street while offering a morphing, creative hub where companies can showcase their products for as lengthy or brief a period as they choose.

Milk Tea & Pearl - located on the upper level with the rest of the food outlets - is a perfect example of the creative use of space. Painted brilliant white with bright yellow decorations and the occasional splash of blue, it's minimal and simplistic with an almost-Scandinavian feel. And, oh my, is it cute!

With something like 28 choices, including both milk and fruit teas, we had a hard time deciding what to drink. I eventually settled on a 'Peach Roast Sencha' fruit tea with strawberry popping boba and it was a very good choice! 

We enjoyed our teas sat outside the store in Boxpark's open bench area where they made the perfect chilled accompaniment to a spot of people-watching in the sun. 

Boxpark is a cool installation to check out if you're ever in the east end of London, and Milk Tea & Pearl get a definite thumbs up for both their decor and their bubble tea! Yummy.

If you've never tried bubble tea, why not track some down and let me know what you think?

Unit 58 Boxpark 2-4 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6GY
or  12A Little Portland Street, W1W 8BJ

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