“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.”