There's this craze in SoCal right now, and I'm not sure if it's popular anywhere else for those of you who don't live here. It's called boba tea, and I was only recently introduced to it, apparently the last person in SoCal to actually find out about this whole boba tea thing. I was introduced to it when Allaya took me to a Chinese tea place over in the Irvine Spectrum.
Now, here's the thing: I'm a really picky eater, and like someone with OCD or Tourette's Syndrome I'm aware of it but can't seem to do anything to change it. When I spent two weeks in Russia in 1994 I lost several pounds because of my inability to handle simple Russian dishes containing unidentified organ meats or possibly fish. Oh, I didn't insult people by actually turning my nose up at food offered to me or making a face (I'm a picky eater, but I'm not rude). I simply ate very, very sparingly. And I talked a lot to mask it.
I've gotten a little better now that I'm friends with Allaya and Adam, who are Asian and have been introducing me to all sorts of interesting things I've never had before. And to make matters ironic, it's always been Asian food that has tweaked my picky tastes the worst. To me, Iron Chef is a fascinating exercise in assembling a menu consisting of items I will never in my life knowingly consume. I am - I will freely admit - absolutely white when it comes to food.
So my introduction to boba tea was a bit interesting. For one of our knitting lunches Allaya had suggested we go to the Tea Station, a Chinese tea place in the Spectrum. I got there before her and took a look at the menu. It was in Chinese but had some English translations in it. I figured I'd go ahead and order one of their ice teas while I waited. The waitress asked me if I'd like tapioca in it.
Tapioca, huh? Well, I love tapioca! You know, that cream-colored rice-like pudding that makes a great dessert? Sure, why not? I'll have tapioca in my ice tea. Sounds good.
What I got was a glass of peach tea half-filled with what looked like very, very large-sized Beluga caviar. Black bobbles of...stuff. In my tea. With a very large straw. If anyone could have heard me thinking outloud, my thought process probably sounded a lot like this:
Oh...oh God. There's things in my tea. What. The Hell. Is this? This is black. Tapioca is not black. This is...oh God. Aren't things that are black in Asian food made with squid ink or something? Did I just order iced peach tea with squid ink balls and not know it? What the hell is this? Do I eat it? Are they for decoration? What do I do? Allaya isn't here to tell me. Okay, let me take a sip...oh God! I almost ate one of them! Wait, I'm supposed to eat them. But what if it tastes like squid ink! I don't even know what squid ink tastes like. But however it tastes, it doesn't belong in my iced tea. Okay, I have to try one because I can't drink the iced tea without the straw sucking one up, so here goes. Oh God, I hope this doesn't taste like seaweed or fish or squid ink or - hey! Wait a second...this...this actually tastes pretty good. It's chewy, and tastes a little like jasmine. Hey!
This is what happens when Whitey doesn't have her Asian guide along with her.
Once I had it, though, I loved it, and of course being the last person in SoCal to actually find out about this trend, I've suddenly noticed the three boba places within a few miles of my house, which means that boba tea has replaced Starbucks as my "I need to get out of the office/apartment for a few minutes and see the sun" fix. And last night when they came over for dinner, Allaya and Adam brought me a bag of tapioca pearls so I can make my own tea. Along with the giant straws!
I'm still suspicious of things resembling squid ink or seaweed, so don't think I'm going to be popping unmarked bits of food willy nilly into my mouth anytime soon.