Dining Out: Bubble teas in D.C.

Okay, I admit it: The first time I tried bubble tea I hated it. Don’t judge me.

I know how bad this sounds. How can anyone, you say accusingly, hate a drink that is sweet, frothy and full of delicious, chewiness? How?!
I think the problem lay in my choice of shop. I was at Ten Ren Tea Ginseng Company in Rockville and ordered the plum tea. It was full of ginseng (um, duh!), which I loathe. Yes, loathe.

On the off chance that you’re reading this and don’t know me personally, I don’t “loathe” food. I eat pretty much everything: I’ve eaten fermented beans, raw horse meat, puffer fish sashimi, seaweed, raw sea urchin, and the like, and yet the one thing in this world I cannot stand is ginseng. It’s worse than white chocolate, orange juice from concentrate, Miller Lite, that ridiculous pizza they served in school cafeterias in the mid-70s to early 80s, and fast food breakfast burritos. WORSE.

Annoying people, frustrating situations, irritating things make me think of the taste of ginseng, which is somewhat metallic, with overtones of a sour Granny Smith mixed with rotten lime. And of course it’s used medicinally, so sipping on it for fun? NOT HAPPENING.

Anyway, I must have ordered the tea hoping that whatever else was in the cup would drown out the ginseng taste, or maybe I had just forgotten how much I hated the stuff. But no, it was wretched. I sucked out most of the pearls and dumped the tea after a few sips. Whenever anyone asked me if I liked bubble tea after that I thought of ginseng and made a face. Ech.

Recently, while exploring my new neighborhood at work, I discovered two sources of bubble tea, right across the street from each other.

Asian Bistro (1901 L St NW) serves a mix of Japanese/Thai/Chinese and Vietnamese food. The milky fruit flavored teas are fun, or the regular teas with firm, round pearls floating in the bottom, no ginseng to be found. Refreshing and delicious. AT tried the mango and I went for regular.

Cosy Cafe (right across the street) serve sandwiches, crepes, smoothies and bubble tea. Their version was like a milky, flavored slushy. The pearls were smaller and a little mishapen, but on a hot day in DC the pastel colored tea had us reminiscing about the brightly colored foods of our youth, like blue bubblegum ice cream, etc. Jen liked her mango a lot (“This is really good, but wow, the straw is huge. That’s a huge straw.”) and I found the purple plum both fascinating and tasty. Fortunately local pigeons were much less interested.

So I’m back on the bubble tea train, because summer in DC demands simple, cool, delicious pleasures. But I’ll just skip the ginseng.


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