Sitting down to write this, the resulting headache and the sugar sweats from two concurrent bubbles teas has me wanting to trade in my laptop for a dark room and midday siesta….
Embarking on the cultural adventure of the very strange bubble tea, I decided to find a couple of locations to sample, and sit in, soaking up the atmosphere of a bubble tea house.
In the interest of acknowledging my subjectivity, I took two of my friends from Sydney’s northern beaches (the epicentre of Australian monoculture) on this expositional adventure.
Bubbleberry and Societea are the two Wollongong bubble tea houses I decided on. The attendant at Societea opened my eyes to the huge variation popularity of the many options. She chose me a juicy mango. Beside the strange tactile experience of jellied balls in cold tea, the layout and exotic atmosphere of these establishments took me by surprise. Saturated in bright colours and poppy asian dance music, the tables laden with with games and colouring in pencils, the whole idea of bubble tea seems to be directed towards a younger audience; one of my first thoughts looked to a frozen yoghurt cafe as a western comparison.
Funnily enough, Bubblebery was a mixture of both. My Asian friend Charisse made the point that bubble tea venues are increasingly attempting to gear to western customers – how perfect to combine it with it’s western counterpart?
There is still so much I do not know, and further research and experience is required, but the exposure to bubble tea houses has definitely given me an insight into what Asian youth culture might look like. One thing’s for sure; whilst the flavours and sounds are different, this kind of place would have greatly appealed to me as a young teenager. With many publications such The Australian (1) promoting Australia’s fantastic reputation for diversity, with particularly good Asian cuisine, I can only see more exotic food and drinks like bubble tea growing from novelty, to a mark of Australia’s increasing cultural diversity.
Furthermore, according to Franchise Business (2,) many businesses and individuals perceive bubble tea (paired the iced tea franchise, valued internationally at $4 billion) as an Australian growth market, ripe for cultural expansion.
Whilst I confess to having found swallowing balls of jelly amongst sips of sickly sweet iced tea a little strange, I’m sure that my relationship with this exotic drink can only build from here.
- Liaw A (2013.) Australia: ‘Best Asian Food in the World,’ The Wall Street Journal. Oct 30, 2013.
- Franchise Business (2016.) ‘Why bubble tea is not just a trend,’ Franchise Council of Australia, Dec 15, 2016.