As a loyal fan, you may have noticed that we have never in the history of the blog focused a post on a beverage. Why, you ask? Because when you eat out as much as we do, we have to save our calories. And quite frankly, there are few beverages, in our opinion, worthy of those precious calories. That is, until now.
Recently, we received a hot tip about a beverage place we just had to try “down 280” past Target. As you can probably tell from some of our recent posts, it takes a lot to draw us from Southside that far into the burbs. But as soon as we heard about this place, we made immediate and repeated plans to try it. We have been there 4 times in the past month, all in order to do our best to cover it to its fullest. What electromagnetic force was strong enough pull us over and over again through Summit traffic and out the other side? Two words: bubble tea.
What is bubble tea? Here’s a Wikipedia article that provides good historical background. Basically, bubble tea shops first appeared in Taiwan in 1980s, typically serving fruit or milk-based teas. Think sweet tea in every imaginable flavor. The “bubbles” are traditionally black tapioca pearls at the bottom of the beverage – but are optional if the texture isn’t your thing. In addition to straight up bubble tea, such shops also often carry slushy and milky smoothies and a few other odds and ends.
While bubble tea can be found at a few restaurants around town (Sushi Village, Pho 280), a true bubble tea shop is something different entirely. This is a place where you come to enjoy your bubble tea, sit for awhile, hang out with friends, and possibly have a second bubble tea. There was a great place like this in Philly near where I once had an apartment, and I was there quite a bit. It’s not about drinking some tea because you are thirsty, or having a drink with your meal. Drinking bubble tea at a bubble tea shop isn’t a means to an end, it is an end in and of itself.
Which is how we found ourselves at Thirstea. Just days after receiving a tip about the place, we were on our way to dinner with friends “down 280” and realized that we were about to pass it. Realizing we had 10 long minutes to spare, we made a quick detour to 170 Inverness Plaza. Sandwiched between a Planet Fitness and a Steak N Shake, there it was:
Mr. Foodie and I are both naturally caffeinated, so we decided to go with smoothies. Mr. Foodie is predictable: if coconut is an option, it must be chosen. I got the taro. Our favorite Vietnamese place in Philly, Nam Phuong, has the best taro smoothie on the planet, and I wanted to see if this one measured up. We wanted bubbles, but they were in the process of making a new batch (a good sign!). Anyway, we didn’t want to ruin our dinner or anything like that, obviously. So we just went with the smoothies.
While we waited for our teas, we looked around. Here’s what we saw:
Clearly, this is the kind of place where lingering is welcome. In the short time we were there, we observed high school kids doing homework and playing board games. It definitely had that fun hang-out kind of vibe.
Here was a helpful poster. As you readers know, I do love my cross-sectional views!
And oh that tea. First of all, the taro. Sweet luscious taro. If you’ve never had it before, you just have to take my word for it that it tastes like sweet rainbows. Definitely lived up to my high taro bar. Then the coconut. Coconut juice in a creamy slushy form. Fantastic.
On our way out the door, we saw this:
The following week, we were back to try more flavors. A mango slush is another must-order for me. With bubbles this time, which were the perfect chewy consistency. The slush tasted exactly like my favorite mango slush at that same Vietnamese place in Philly…. perfect.
I asked if it would be sacrilege to 1) order a cookies and cream smoothie at a bubble tea shop and 2) whether it would be weird to put bubbles in it. I was assured that these were common practices and I was not to be ashamed. Excellent decision:
Side by side:
The week after that, I was back again. This time, Mr. Foodie was out of town, but I brought two friends. We ordered 3 things, and 3 empty cups. It was an extremely messy ordeal but we made it.
First, the Thai tea. Since I wouldn’t be able to drink a caffeinated tea on my own, I had to rely on the kindness of friends. Fantastic Thai tea with that classic milky tea taste. Pudding at the bottom. I have to admit I didn’t get to try the pudding, but my friends really loved it.
Finally, the one I ordered and had the most of: peanut butter chocolate. I know, not a traditional flavor by any means but, come on. I had to go there. Totally yummy. An icy rather than milky consistency, with great chocolate and peanut butter flavor.
Our foodie friends from the Nori Secret Indonesian Post fame are completely obsessed with anything pandan. They had requested these incredible pandan crepes at Nori, which turned out to be the highlight of every meal we’ve had there. So when I saw coconut pandan waffles, I knew who I had to call. Here they are, served piping hot in this little bag:
Absolutely outstanding. The batter has coconut shavings in it, which gives it a strong but not overwhelming coconut flavor. Likewise, they are sweet like pandan, and green like pandan. And when you wash them down with a peanut butter smoothie, they make the perfect sinful snack.
To sum it up, we have exercised great restraint (and gained several pounds between us) keeping this place secret for the last month. But it is a secret no more. When you go, take some pics, post them on our Facebook page, or tag us on Instagram – we want to see how many flavors we can all try, and how many of those crazy face creatures are out there.
Mr Foodie just had to make a photo collage of all of those faces; I’d say he did a pretty great job, would you agree?