The fist report from my recent trip is mostly beverage oriented. Our favorite bubble tea house on Cambie st. that we first visited on our honeymoon and has changed hands numerous times has finally closed and is being replaced by a South Asian fastfood place I think. Bubble tea seems to be on the rise in Van. but mostly to cash in on the craze as everyone from Vietnamese restaurants to Coffee Shops are selling them. Most are pretty awful though. The real passion for the product seems to be lost.
Their seems to be three ways to make them, shaken by hand in a cocktail shaker, made in a blender, or shaken in a tumbler by a machine. The machine shaken ones are by far my favorite and seem to be a good indicator as to how dedicated to bubble tea the shop is as the shaker machines are pretty costly and not very usefull for coffee drinks.
We started our adventure with a Taro milk tea in the Yaohan center food court that was pretty good but the pearls weren't the freshest.
A visit to to Pastels, a coffee shop on Robson St. yielded a fresh watermelon juice bubble tea. The juice was a bit weak in flavor as the watermelon used wasn't very sweet. The pearls were dried out too.
Then back to the Richmond for a tea in a strip mall at the Ricco Cafe(#170-4351 No. 3 Rd). It's a real homey, off beat place with a little corner dedicated to a parrot cage and odd bird toys. This was one of the best Taro teas I've had. It was hand-shaken, rich and thick with dark purple cream. Bubbles were fresh and chewy. A pudding tea that I ordered was the most caringly made bubble tea I've ever seen. A small ramekin filled with fresh baked custardy pudding was scraped clean into the bottom of the cup. Then pearls, and plenty of egg colored milky tea. The whole thing was beautiful with bits of browned pudding floating amongst the dark pearls. Still this tea was for spectators only as there was not enough vanilla flavor in the pudding mix for all of the labor of love put into making it. They also have Kung Fu tea service here and a full snack menu.
We also gilded the lilly with a Taro Toast. A Texas thick slice of 100% creamy white bread toasted lightly and smeared with fresh Taro paste. It was a purple dream. The type of food that makes you ffloate on air. Snack food for cartoon animals. I loved it.
Then on our last day we discovered my new favorite bubble tea shop lower on Cambie St called the Pearl Castle Cafe. It's a modern place with a huge menu of flavors that caters to the teen set. They have a cartoon elephant on their awning, a harbinger of great bubble tea.
They were out of the standard of bubble tea goodness, Taro, so we opted for one wheat germ tea and one Dark Plum Slush Tea. The Dark Plum turns out to be of the smokey variety. It is the same plum juice served at our favorite hot pot house, Landmark, up the street. I loved the deep, dark flavor, a great nightime drink for a tea totalling adult with an adolescent mind like mysef but it's definitely not for everyone. The wheat germ flavored tea was more accessible. Sweet yet wholesome, it was overfilled with tea and topped off with a heaping spoonful of toasted wheat germ. It was an amazing earthy flavor and much more of a balancing act between the sweet and savory sides of the palate than most sago drinks offer. Next time I'll work my way through their multitude of unique offerings(oreo, red grapefruit, lemon, passion fruit, teas with yolk, and even something called an emperor caesar.)