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Fuku Tea, in Oakland, specializes in a wide variety of bubble teas

Taro milk tea offers both an exotic flavor and a divine lavender color



“Do you want bubbles?”

Ordering “bubbles” (a.k.a. large tapioca pearls) in tea would have seemed inexplicable 20 years ago, but now that’s just how we roll. The bubble-tea concept, imported from Asia, is now popular enough that Fuku Tea can set up a tea-only outpost in Oakland, and manage a steady stream of customers.

The bright corner shop lets patrons customize their beverage (served hot or iced), choosing size, tea (black or green), more than a dozen fruit flavors, sweetness level and toppings. Besides tapioca, fruit jellies, basil seed and popping bobas (juice balls) can be added. If it’s too overwhelming, opt for a pre-set option from the signature-drink menu. (My default is taro milk tea, which offers both an exotic flavor and a divine lavender color.)

Those who wish to taste more teas can choose from more than a dozen leaf mixes, including white teas, black teas, chai varieties and organic herbal blends. (A cork-board atlas on the wall highlights tea origins.)

Because man prefers not to live on tea alone, there is a small selection of sweet treats, including macarons, mousse cake, red bean cake and Swiss rolls.

But we’re here for the bubbles: slightly sweet, black gummy balls that now seem like the perfect addition to an order of tea. And no rush — a sign in the window advises that “tapioca will be ready at 11 a.m.”

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