Pearls of Wisdom--New Mexico is boiling and I've got water on the brain. Well, that, and agua fresca, milkshakes, smoothies, iced coffee and my most fervent refreshment obsession of late, boba tea.
You may already know that boba (also called "bubble tea" or "pearl tea") is a cold, fruit- or milky tea-based drink, which can have chewy, slightly sweet tapioca balls that you suck up through a fat straw. What you may not have known, as my Alibi cubicle-mate Devin O'Leary pointed out, is the "boba" or "bubble" part actually refers to the frothy bubbles that form on the surface of the tea after it's shaken--not the tapioca pearls. Very cool, indeed.
Anyhow, big news is brewing in bubble tea. Last week, Hong Kong-based boba moguls RBT quietly opened the first United States franchised café in its 10-year history.
You can find it on the southwest corner of Copper and Third Street. In Albuquerque.
No kidding! If you love boba, it's pretty exciting news. RBT claims to have introduced "authentic Taiwanese frothy-tea" to Hong Kong in the mid-'90s, which then spread throughout hundreds of shops in other parts of Central Asia. They happily cast themselves as a leader in the "international modern tea culture," whatever that means.
Back to Albuquerque. Our RBT shop is tiny, with room for just a few tables inside and patio seating outside. The menu fits in snuggly with just over 20 drinks. Almost everything is available hot or cold for $4 across the board.
I tried the honey green tea. It was just sweet enough and served with aloe vera chunks, which are like slightly elastic nibs of honeydew melon. (Welcome to the weird world of Asian textures!) I really enjoyed the chewy bits, but they freaked some of my coworkers out. Use your discretion.
My cohorts liked their blueberry milk tea's interesting tart-creamy punch, and our Art Director's sesame milk tea was a clear winner with its mild, slightly nutty and sweet flavor. Sweet red bean and a mystery substance called "Nate de Coco" are also available as chewy mix-ins, but nobody had the balls to try it. Yet!
According to RBT's broken English website (www.rbt.com.hk), other locations in Asia have food. I'm sad to say this one doesn't, but they do have a small selection of dried teas and infusions for purchase. I suggest picking some up and making your own crab- and pork-toasts to go along with it at home. RBT is open from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 7:30 a.m.-noon on Saturday. Call 246-2210 with your inquiries.