The Bubble Tea Conundrum


When I moved across the Atlantic Ocean, do you know what I craved the most?  It wasn’t bagels and lox and it wasn’t kreplach.  It was bubble tea.  From my first sip, I developed a love affair with the Taiwanese beverage.  Toronto just so happens to be an incredible city to satisfy a bubble tea fix.

Bubble Tea Lamb411


Drive north of Sheppard Avenue, on Yonge Street and you’ll find one bubble tea house after another.  If “905” is more your style, drive east along Hwy 7 between Bayview Avenue and McCowan Road (try Go For Tea for an authentic experience) and you’ll be covered.   Downtowners, don’t have to look past the Spadina and Dundas/OCAD area. But what happens if you leave the confines of Toronto and venture off into the world?


I was having a bubble tea conundrum when I discovered bubble tea was not a universal drink, particularly in EU countries.  To double check, I spoke with a few business school classmates who were posted around the world.  It’s confirmed: Bubble tea is not universal.


So what did I do to satiate my craving?  I researched and travelled.  Wherever I was due to travel to a new European city, I purposely sought out a bubble tea cafe.  Hot or cold, green or black tea, with or without milk, and filled with all the dark brown, chewy tapioca balls I could suck through the oversized straw.  I was determined to sample them all.  However, I draw the line at those popping boba; the ones that burst upon mastication and splash sweet syrupy juice onto your tongue.  I guess you could call me a bubble tea purist.


What I discovered was fascinating:  Bubble tea was in fact, alive, kicking and even thriving in certain cities.  Leave it to the UK, Germany and Austria to lead the pack.  London’s Bubbleology, a bubble tea café themed after a science experiment, has five locations in the city, while Baburu Bubble Tea in Vienna has six shops and Berlin’s Boobuk also has six outposts in the creative city that never sleeps.


Stick with Western Europe and you will find bubble tea emerging in Barcelona, where Wow!Boba is not too far from La Rambla, and in Paris’ 5th arrondissement where you can sip le bubble tea at Bubble Fever.  Even Copenhagen has the Mad Hatter Bubble Tea Emporium in Norrebro.  I didn’t stop there.  In eastern Europe, you have Bubbletea 7 in Warsaw, tongue twister, Bubu Bubble Tea in Budapest and my personal favourite, Tea & Go in Prague, which opened in Karlin (Prague 8), by three Chinese Studies students from Charles University who share a passion for Chinese and bubble tea.


While the availability of bubble tea in European cities may not reach the same scope as in Toronto, there are plenty of good options at home and abroad and I look forward to continuing my taste test through the continent.  By the way, if you are new to bubble tea, may I recommend trying a litchi green tea bubble tea, cold with tapioca.  It is the perfect summer drink.



Happy Pills

Man, am I craving some candy from Happy Pills in Barcelona.  Have you heard of this place?

They need to expand.  I love them, their design and their concept.

When I visited Barcelona in September, I went back to Happy Pills twice to make a little take-away box of gummies to enjoy while walking around!  Their concept is adorable-In a tiny storefront, they offer different sized boxes, and jars at the entrance for you to fill with all the gummy, colourful candy that fits in.

Happy Pills

Their website creatively states that Happy Pills is a radical solution for a) Lovesickness b) Work Problems c) Friendship Damaged d) Sustained Sexual Effort.  I say, whatever your reason, if you love gummies, there is no better way to enjoy than eating them out of a take away container or a plastic “pill” bottle.

Photo Source: 1, 2, 3, 4 (me), 5, 6

They have four shops in Barcelona, one in Bilbao and one in Zaragoza, should you find yourself needing a candy pick-me up during your travels of Spain.

Here are some other people who seem to be happy with Happy Pills:

1. Kikki.K Candy Happiness

2. We Are Private Happy Pills Candy Store (Barcelona)

3. Mocoloco BCN: Happy Pills



La Variete

On the last leg of my honeymoon, I spent three days in Barcelona.  Arriving in Barcelona after spending almost two weeks in small, quaint villages was overwhelming.  Especially because our hotel was adjacent to the touristy, La Rambla.  What a nightmare that strip is- it is a more crowded version of Wenceslas square in Prague but with heavier crowds.  Fortunately, I found out that if you walk away from La Rambla towards the Raval district and the contemporary art museum, you  get an artsy, more low-key environment.

On my walk AWAY from La Ramblas, I found the adorable, corner store, La Variete.  Raquel Muntal, owner (local Barcelonite) of La Variete, fills her small shop with wonderful home and personal items designed locally and made in Thailand.  She manages to use every square inch of that shop and has packed it with cool-affordable priced woven baskets, flip flops, vintage furniture, toys, scarves, pillows and clothing that all have an Asian-minimalist aesthetic.

I picked up two of her cloth wrapped headbands after I snapping my last plastic headband on my trip (she also had bangles).  Something else that also stuck out to me was her small glass bottles that were test-tube-esque (els botilets – see picture 8) with a suction cup that allows you to display flowers on your window and her line of paper bags with Thai writing (cases, wallets, sacs and purses -see picture 9).  Raquel has an online store for her boutique which is great if you don’t have any more room in your suitcase!

Photo Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

The blogger behind Cute Suite, (see Cute Suite- La Variete) wrote a wonderful post on La Variete that I would recommend checking out if you are interested in another perspective!  She also has a lot of other terrific resources on local designers in Barcelona and indie shops.



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