Controversy aside, what could be more fun than slurping cold tea through a thick clear straw and sucking up sweet oozing pearls of tapioca (“bobas“) in the process? While it’s not a frequent indulgence of mine, I enjoy the odd glass of Taiwan’s most colourful and funky export: bubble tea. Though the concept strikes my cold Canadian heart as odd, there’s something very satisfying and puerile about being able to play with your food.
I mean, why not?
Enter Bubblicious, Cairo’s first bubble tea establishment located on Ismail Mohamed Street in Zamalek. A small, brunch and snack café, it opened to modest fanfare a few months ago and has been gaining a steady following ever since.
With a clean and rustic interior, it’s a fantastic change from the dusty, noisy and garbage filled main drag just a few meters away. Stopping in on an early(ish) morning after yoga I decided to wet my whistle and give their bubble tea a try.
Though bubble tea tends to be milky, Bubblicious makes them straight-up (sans milk) if you prefer to flex your intolerant muscle. The process of putting together a tea is rather intensive. Your mixologist (yes, really) will ask you to select either black or green tea as a base and then choose a flavouring (strawberry, peach, lemon, blueberry, rose, green apple, lychee) to give your tea an additional kick. Once that is ready the black tapioca, coconut jelly or juice-filled pearls are added. You can have it hot, you can have it cold, you can have it with ice, though without it it’s nice (this could turn into a Dr. Seuss rant so let me move on).
I selected iced green tea with lychee syrup and black tapioca pearls. The liquid ingredients were mixed in a cocktail shaker – kind of endearing – with the pearls added at the end. I smiled giddily for a couple of moments before taking my first sip and couldn’t stop giggling – perhaps a hazard given the possibility of choking on the bobas – as the black gummy balls travelled up the straw to flood my mouth. It was fun. Refreshing. The only issue I had was with the sweetness. It was a touch over the top, meaning next time I’ll keep a close eye on how much syrup is added or just skip it all together.
Bubbly milk and fruit drinks aside, Bubblicious also serves granatas (slushes) and offers a pretty extensive menu that includes pancakes, french toast, waffles, omelettes and pizza, which is great for dairy and gluten imbibers. They also have lovely looking cakes and tartlets in the small fridge adjacent to the front counter. While I didn’t eat, I asked about ordering items without dairy (such as the eggs) and they seemed content to leave out the milk/butter; yet, due to the size of the kitchen I can’t help but think that cross contamination (via the grill, utensils, receptacles) is likely. Better for fellow Intolerants to stick with enjoying the atmosphere, funking-up their tea and playing with their food.