Two Teas

In lieu of a guest post about “gee I’m in South Africa and the atmosphere is CRAZY” ( *ahem* yes, I’m talking to you, E), this post will focus on two beverages no summer should be without: boba tea and sweet tea.

Boba tea!

Boba tea - also known as bubble tea

I was first introduced to boba when I went on a Teahouse run with the Chinese Christian Fellowship during Owl Weekend (Rice’s high school recruiting weekend) – and coincidentally became acquainted with one of my best Rice friends. Teahouse is kind of amazing. You grab some friends, get your boba, and snag one of the board games underneath the counter on the way to finding a table in the back room. Or you just talk, or surf the net. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing they closed the Teahouse in downtown Houston, or I probably would have been penniless last summer (the location was only four or five blocks away from where I worked). Boba is most popular in the Asian community, but is certainly not limited to it.

My current favorite is the lychee ice with lychee gel and tapioca, but there are really only two things that define boba for me: 1) Cold and 2) Tapioca. The wide straw helps, too. If you happen to be stuck someplace where boba tea is unavailable (for example, Israel, South Africa, or a university in the middle of a cornfield), then hit up your local Asian store for tapioca pearls:

Tapioca pearls!

There are also suppliers online if you’re super desperate. The tapioca should be boiled in water (ratio about 6 or 7:1  – water to tapioca) until all of the boba pearls have sunk – about 10-15 minutes. When you bite them, they should be chewy all the way through. After that, it’s up to you – you can coat them in a syrupy mixture of sugar and water, or just throw them in your pre-made, pre-chilled tea/cream tea/fruit and ice blend. The wide straw is important, too, so either get some where you get your boba, or be inventive and make one.

Sweet tea is essential to a Southern summer and depends on the principle of supersaturation. A solution is “saturated” when it can hold no more solute (in this case, sugar) in pure solution; it is “supersaturated” when it is tricked into holding more solute than it should be able to.

I’m a black tea girl. I’ve got several black teas sitting on my shelf, but my current go-to tea is the Brit import PG Tips, which has a very full-bodied taste. A friend introduced it to me, and only through iron discipline did I manage to hold out a full week before buying a box.

Here’s DIY sweet tea: For a quart, pour about 3.5 cups of boiling water into a pitcher and add four or five tea bags. Let them steep until the tea is slightly stronger than you prefer, and then pull them out and mix in a bunch of sugar.  A hot liquid can hold more sugar (solute) than a cold liquid; saturation point is reached when there is so much sugar in the tea that it won’t dissolve anymore. After you’ve put in enough sugar to give yourself Type I Diabetes, throw in a bunch of ice cubes and stick the pitcher in the fridge.  I assume that lemon and/or bourbon (but for goodness’ sake, no milk or cream) can also be added at your pleasure.

Sweet tea: white verandas, wicker furniture, and ceiling fans not included, but always brought to mind.

NOTE: I admit use of artistic license: I believe there is one place in Tel Aviv (if it’s still in business) where one can get boba (but not really tea): “Bubble Drinx”  on Sheinkin near the Shuk haCarmel. It was this little counter squeezed in between two of the Euro-classy shops on that street. I think they also serve it at a Thai place near Purdue, so maybe South Africa is the only place in the world where you can’t get it, but I doubt it. Also, one of the best parts about Teahouse is the plastic they seal your cup with; if you can’t puncture the seal with your straw in one smooth, fluid motion, you fail at life.

In other news, the World Cup is awesome. I also may have a stress fracture in my femur – I won’t know for certain until maybe next Wednesday. If I do, I’ll be playing a lot less frisbee and cycling a lot more. Snikeys.

“American-style iced tea is the perfect drink for a hot, sunny day. It’s never really caught on in the UK, probably because the last time we had a hot, sunny day was back in 1957.” – Tom Holt


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