A childhood favorite drink for many in Taiwan is the Jen-ju-nai-cha, or pearl milk tea/bubble milk tea. Squishy tapioca pearls covered in brown sugar bouncing at the bottom of your milk tea, waiting for you to eat it through a thick straw. Mmm. So yum!
But in this tea heaven, there are many other varieties of tea to try. There are also lots of different tea chain stores to call your favorite! While ordering, it can go fast, and the long list of different drinks can be confusing. We’ll try and break it down for you, so next time you can order like a pro!
Start with choosing your tea. There are lots of different teas to choose from, with green tea (lu cha) and black tea (hong cha) being favorites. Having said that, don’t knock the Oolong or the Ching Cha at the tea stand either. It really depends on your preference. (Pu-erh cha is in a league of its own. Best consumed hot, made at home in a teapot). Nai Cha is milk tea. This is usually made with powdered milk (actually coffee whitener!), so if you prefer fresh milk, make sure to say Shien Nai Cha.
Then, decide what filling you want. Jen-ju is world-famous (genuinely! Tea shops are popping up all over the place!), and in some tea chains, you can even choose between small and large pearls. Then you’ve got the hsien-chao. This is herbal jelly that is often used in desserts or shaved ice (post to come later!). It has a slightly sweet tinge and some people even say it doesn’t take like anything. Best served with green, black, or milk tea.
Ice cream (bing chi lin) is also becoming a force to be reckoned with. With different tea chains you’ve got different brands, but usually it’s a big ball of vanilla ice cream chucked into the bottom of your drink. This is often a favorite with black tea, so it becomes ‘milky’ as you drink it. Finally, we’ve got the pudding (bu ding). If you’ve not tried this age-old Taiwanese pudding, then go to 7-11 right now. It’s everything you want a pudding to be, and you can argue it’s healthy because it has a brown sugar lining 🤔. Pudding is often ordered with milk tea.
Now, the choices become easier. A lot of people often get into a habit of one level of sugar (tang) they like. Full sugar (jen-chang tang), 80% (shau tang), 50% (ban tang), 30% (wei tang), and none (wu tang). If you’re new to the process, give them all a chance. You might be surprised. If you become a real pro, you might even have certain preferences with certain types of drinks. If you’re just drinking tea, maybe you don’t want any sugar. But if you’re having bubble tea you might want it to be slightly sweeter.
Finally, the ice level (bing). When you order at a tea stand and don’t mention what ice level they want, they will still ask. Some people are very picky about this! You can say ‘normal‘ (jen-chang bing), ‘half‘ (ban bing), ‘little‘ (shau bing), and none in the drink itself (chu bing). If it’s a chillier day, you can even say ‘warm‘ (wen).
When ordering, always say the added items first, tea second, sugar next, and ice last.
“Jen-Ju Nai Cha Ban Tang Shau Bing” Pearl Milk Tea Half Sugar Little Ice.
“Lu Cha Wu Tang Chu Bing” Green Tea No Sugar No Ice.
“Hsien-chao Lu Cha Jen Chang Tang Ban Bing” Hisen Chao Green Tea Normal Sugar Half Ice.
i/c: oolongteacommunity.com, congele.com.tw, ntdimg.com, s.yimg.com, gping.net