Bubble tea in China are like Starbucks in the West. They are custom made and highly addictive. When you order bubble tea in China, you can specify the amount of sugar, ice, and what to order. After the ordering, the cashier gives you a receipt with an order number on top. The store will call out the number (in Mandarin of course) when your tea is ready.
To start, we will introduce the size of the cup,
大杯 big cup (dà bēi)
中杯 middle cup (zhōng bēi)
小杯 small cup (xiǎo bēi)
Depending on the store, they might only offer two sizes of cup, or just one size.
To indicate the amount of sugar,
全糖 full amount of sugar (quán táng)
7分糖 70% sugar (qī fēn táng)
半糖 half sugar (bàn táng)
3分糖 30% sugar (sān fēn táng)
无糖 no sugar (wú táng)
It is unheard of that people order 60% sugar or 20% sugar. Plus, the bubble tea maker really don’t measure to to the tenth decimal precision. 30% sugar basically means “I want my tea to be less sweet than half sugar, but still sweet”. I usually take my order at 30% sugar. Full sugar tastes like syrup. No sugar brings out the bitterness in the tea.
To indicate the amount of ice,
正常冰 normal amount of ice (zhèng cháng bīng)
半冰 half ice (bàn bīng)
少冰 little ice (shǎo bīng)
去冰 no ice/cold (qù bīng)
I know, Mandarin is complicated. The quantity words here are quite different from the ones used for sugar. Again, bubble tea maker do not count the ice cubes. One thing however, because ice takes up space, less ice means more tea in the cup ; ) You can also request a hot drink, the word is 热 hot (rè).
Everything up until now is applicable to all the bubble tea stands in China as well as the Japanese tea stands found in China.
The base of your drink can be,
红茶 black tea (hóng chá)
奶茶 milk tea, black tea with milk (nǎi chá) This is classic.
绿茶 green tea (lǜ chá)
奶绿 green milk tea (nǎi lǜ)
乌龙茶 oolong tea (wū lóng chá)
乌龙奶茶 oolong milk tea (wū lóng nǎi chá)
金桔柠檬茶 grapefruit lemon tea (jīn jú níng méng chá)
花茶 flower tea (huā chá)
Filling in your tea,
珍珠 tapioca pearls (zhēn zhū) These are the classic big black pearls. However, in the store yidiandian, 珍珠 are small pearls. Big pearls are called 波霸(bō bà). Yidiandian is so popular in China due to its number of stores and cheap price!
椰果 coconut jelly (yē guǒ)
仙草 grass jelly (xiān cǎo) They are extracted from mesona. Grass jelly are minty, healthy, and kills the summer heat.
金钻 brown sugar jelly (jīn zhuān)
布丁 egg pudding (bù dīng)
红豆 red bean (hóng dòu)
奶盖 milk cap (nǎi gaì) They are whipped cream poured on top of the bubble tea. In the store gongcha, their famous milk caps are salty. Other stores have sweet milk caps. Salty milk caps are as legendary as salted caramel and sea salt chocolate.
Some good bubble tea chains in China are: yidiandian, gongcha, coco
My favorite orders are:
仙草奶绿 3分糖 少冰 Grass jelly green milk tea, 30% sugar, little ice
金钻奶茶 无糖 少冰 Brown sugar jelly milk tea, no sugar, little ice
乌龙奶盖茶 3分糖 去冰 Oolong milk cap tea, 30% sugar, no ice
This list is complied to cover all the standard bubble tea orders you will ever encounter. And don’t be overwhelmed by this list, you can always point to the picture of the bubble tea! x