In case you haven’t been formally introduced to the concept of Boba or Bubble Tea, this isn’t a cuppa quite like any other. Served cold, it comes in lively and sweet fruit flavours, and is often presented in sealed lid plastic cups of a large size for tea. It also contains chewy bits that are enjoyed through a large diameter straw, which is poked or stabbed through the sealed plastic lid.
The Purple Bubble, with a recently refreshed menu, is a good place to figure out if you enjoy Asian youth culture as it’s being expressed by entrepreneurs in Edmonton. The decor is brightly lit, with flashing neon enhancements and the walls are decorated with a pop culture influenced assortment of small toys no one plays with, similar to the way an older aesthetic festooned the walls of coffee shops with old books no one ever read.
When we arrive the restaurant is busy for 9 pm on a Sunday night, but we are quickly offered a table and menus.
Bubble tea aficionados look for three things: real fruit options, perfect preparation of the sago pearls or bubbles in your drink—undercooked and they are too chewy and tend to stick in your teeth, overcooked and they disintegrate in your drink and stain brightly coloured beverages with black—and other jelly options for your drinks including lychee, mango stars and more. Purple Bubble receives a check box here with real fruit options, perfectly prepared pearls and a wide variety of surprises for the palate to be found flowing up your straw. You can even customize your level of sweetness, with half-sweet, regular and extra sweet.
I ordered Hokkaido Caramel Milk Tea with pearls, which I’ve never tasted before. It was very obviously tea, much more so than some bubble tea powders which can be delicious but contain no real tea. It was slightly sweet and had notes of caramel and a richness from the dairy that made for a pleasant and soothing mixture. My friend had the honeydew real fruit slushy which was pleasing and refreshing. It had a flavour that he said grew on him, new and a little startling at first, by the end it was quite enjoyable.
The menu also contains a handful of snacks, a few sweet treats, and a few meals that sample flavours and cooking styles from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Korea and Japan. The six fried dumplings we ordered were evidently made to order and came to the table still sizzling. The dumplings were served with a dark vinegar sauce and stuffed with the traditional pork and leek combination. People don’t go to a bubble tea shop for food, but it was passable.
Overall, the bubble tea is the main attraction here. It does not disappoint.