If you’re anything like me, part of the problem with trying new-to-me food items is navigating the unknown. What is it? How do I order it? How do I eat it? Those three questions can keep me from contemplating a fourth question: Will I enjoy it?
Part of our happy-to-eat purpose with this column is to answer some of these questions for you. Consider us your gastronomical guides to Plano.
Warmer days inspired this month’s Hidden Gem adventure to enjoy bubble tea. A good way to visualize bubble tea is to think of a melted milkshake that can be prepared in a variety of flavors with a tea or fruit juice base. When building your drink, it is common to include add-ins. These toppings are heavy and almost always fall to the bottom of the drink.
Providing texture, sweetness and flavor, the toppings are somewhat like soft gummy bears. These chewy add-ins give our Hidden Gem, QQ Teahouse, its name. QQ means “really chewy” in Taiwanese.
In order to enjoy the yummy toppings along with your tea requires drinking with an extra wide straw. Each sip on the straw provides a mouthful of tea and toppings at the same time.
Bubble tea is known by a variety of names, including boba tea, milk tea, pearl tea and a host of others. Ironically, the name “bubble tea” comes from shaking the drink, not the add-ins.
How do you order a bubble tea?
First, decide what beverage base you want. In the mood for a milk tea? Basic milk teas offered at QQ include:
- Original (a black tea) – Earl Grey
- Jasmine Green – Thai
- Honey – Taro
- Honeydew – Strawberry
- Peach – Mango
Or go a little wild and try something more unusual like avocado, coconut, or coffee.
You can order your drink either iced or hot. We recommend that beginners select an iced tea.
It’s important to be aware that QQ Teahouse uses 2% milk in their milk teas. If you are lactose intolerant or vegan, choose an iced or hot milk-free tea, or order a slushie. Slushies are like smoothies, but are made with filtered water instead of milk.
Now that you know what drink you’re having, decide if you want any toppings:
- Bubbles (boba): These are large (1/4 inch) tapioca balls. Boba is good in any type of drink.
- Pudding: Similar to flan, pudding is light yellow in color with a soft texture. It’s awesome with milk tea or taro.
- Grass Jelly: Similar to Jell-O, this is translucent and dark brown/black in color. It’s made from herbs and has a very mild herbal taste…like grass. It’s great with Jasmine green tea, coffee tea and fruit drinks.
- Mixed Jelly: Similar to Jell-O, this has a neutral flavor and a soft texture. It mixes well with many types of drinks.
- Coffee Jelly: Similar to Jell-O and made with coffee, the flavor is subtle.
Once you’ve placed your order, the server will build your drink and place your cup in a machine that seals the top with a thin sheet of water-tight plastic. Puncture the plastic with your extra-wide straw and enjoy!
Some basic things to keep in mind as you contemplate what to order for your first bubble tea:
1) Start with a black milk tea or green milk tea. If you can’t have dairy, go with a plain black tea or green tea.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations! The staff at QQ Teahouse are happy to tell you what will work well together and what won’t. They’ll also tell you what is most popular.
3) If you’re feeling adventurous, add bubbles, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, try adding a jelly or pudding.
4) Don’t mix a fruity smoothie with pudding. The textures will clash.
5) Milk teas and pudding are a yummy combination. Trust us: They’re both creamy and seem made for each other.
6) Don’t be afraid of trying taro. It’s a tropical root vegetable that is light purple, and the flavor is slightly sweet and nutty.
So what did your gastronomical guides order at QQ Teahouse?
I stepped away from my standard order (taro milk tea with bubbles) to try something new: Jasmine green milk tea with grass jelly. The milky tea had a light refreshing flavor. The grass jelly added a little hint of bitter, toning down the sweetness of the milk tea. Steve ordered his favorite: Taro smoothie with bubbles. The taro takes on a sweeter flavor when mixed with milk. Prepared in a smoothie form, it becomes a delightful dessert.
Here are some great combinations to get your creative juices flowing:
- Strawberry black milk tea with bubbles
- Peach slushie with mixed jelly
- Matcha smoothie with bubbles
- Coffee milk tea with grass jelly
- Coconut milk tea with coffee jelly
290 W. 15th St., Plano
To explore the QQ Teahouse menu, click here.