City Pulse

By Eudie Pak

bubbletea.jpg

Image by Matt Verzola

Uhh, excuse me. Can I get me some momi? Like, pearl tapioca, please? Dude, QQ? Boba, por favor? Any way you ask it, it all points to the ever-popular Taiwanese drink most commonly known as bubble tea. What is bubble tea? For those poor deprived cats who don’t know, the basic bubble tea drink is a mix of sweet milk with black or green tea. The ‘bubbles’ are the black thing-a-ma-bobbers at the bottom of the glass, better known as tapioca. (In less sophisticated terms, I like to refer to them as gooey balls of sweetness.)

And in celebration of the Chinese New Year, I thought it’d be mighty nice to ring it in at one of the best bubble tea venues in the city. Ladies, may I present to you: Saint’s Alp Teahouse.

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Image by Matt Verzola

Nestled in the East Village on the periphery of St. Marks, Saint’s Alp is a hot spot for the bubble tea connoisseur. Since I consider myself one (cough cough), I have to admit these guys know how to bring it.

There are a few secrets to Saint’s Alp’s success. Perhaps one of the reasons why it has such a large following is because its teas are top quality and quite tasty. Saint’s grows its own special tea on farms in Taiwan and imports it here. Plus, unlike other bubble tea joints, it cooks its tapioca every half hour so the balls are ever-fresh-and-so-clean-clean for your chewing pleasure.

The taste of bubble tea is an experience – let alone the act of drinking it, especially if you’re with company. Why you ask? Because you’re slurping both the liquid and the tapioca balls via a ginormous straw all the while trying to avoid looking like a panic-stricken hamster with its cheeks stuffed with a week’s worth of food. (Warning: if this so occurs, don’t panic. Be cool. Just look off to the distance and discreetly turn your head away from your buddies. Then frantically – but quietly – chew and swallow. Works for me all the time.)

For those who may not want milk with their tea or tapioca balls at the bottom of their parfait glass, no worries at all. You have 80 varieties of tea drinks to choose from! From Strawberry Black Tea to Green Barley with Passion Fruit Juice to Ruby Grapefruit Nectar, Saint’s Alp covers it all. There are even coffee and chocolate flavors for you caffeine-bent divas!

If you’re in the mood to mangia before you gulp down the bubbly, you can do that here, too. Saint’s has crispy spring rolls, shrimp dumplings, yakitori chicken, and a variety of soup noodles to name a few.

My recommendations:
For the virgin bubble tea drinker, I highly recommend the taro milk bubble tea. It’s rich and creamy and one of the sweetest of the milk teas. Other hot sellers are the almond milk bubble tea and the passion fruit with lychee jelly.

So go culture yourself and get your bubble on and then let us know what you think.

Saint’s Alp is located at 39 3rd Avenue between 9th and 10th St.

Originally published February 2007
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