Bubble tea, or boba, is a globally popular drink with chains opening stores in cities worldwide. When traveling to Taiwan, trying bubble tea and learning how to order it in Chinese is essential for the full experience. However, with lengthy menus and multiple questions about sugar, ice, and bags, ordering can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, it’s worth taking the time to customize your drink to your liking. This article covers the basics of bubble tea and how to order it in Chinese.
Originating from Taiwan, bubble tea was created when a development manager added tapioca balls to her iced tea, which became an instant hit. Today, it’s a beloved drink enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, with a variety of flavors to choose from, including classic pearl milk tea and fruity concoctions. Anyone visiting Taiwan should try bubble tea at least once to fully appreciate this delightful drink.
How to order Bubble Tea in Chinese
First of all it is important to know how to say “bubble tea” in Chinese. Depending of the store, there exist two ways to say bubble tea in Chinese; 珍珠奶茶 (ㄓㄣ ㄓㄨ ㄋㄞˇ ㄔㄚˊ), literally “pearl milk tea”, and 波霸奶茶 (ㄅㄛ ㄅㄚˋ ㄋㄞˇ ㄔㄚˊ), literally “boba milk tea”.
Once you are in front of the vendor, you can use the following sentence to order bubble tea: :
我要一杯珍珠奶茶 (ㄨㄛˇ ㄧㄠˋ ㄧ ㄅㄟ ㄓㄣ ㄓㄨ ㄋㄞˇ ㄔㄚˊ) – I want a bubble tea
|我要||ㄨㄛˇ ㄧㄠˋ||wǒ yào||I want …|
|一杯||ㄧ ㄅㄟ||yī bēi||One cup/ glass (of)|
|珍珠奶茶||ㄓㄣ ㄓㄨ ㄋㄞˇ ㄔㄚˊ||zhēn zhū nǎi chá||Pearl milk tea|
|波霸奶茶||ㄅㄛ ㄅㄚˋ ㄋㄞˇ ㄔㄚˊ||bō bà nǎi chá||Boba milk tea|
Customizing your Bubble Tea
After mastering the fundamental format for ordering bubble tea, it’s time to elevate your experience by personalizing your drink. In Taiwan, you have the option to tailor the size, sweetness level, and ice amount to your liking.
The vendor will first ask you whether you want a medium or large cup :
中杯或是大杯？(ㄓㄨㄥ ㄅㄟ ㄏㄨㄛˋ ㄕˋ ㄉㄚˋ ㄅㄟ ？) – Medium or large cup?
|小杯||ㄒㄧㄠˇ ㄅㄟ||xiǎo bēi||Small cup|
|中杯||ㄓㄨㄥ ㄅㄟ||zhōng bēi||Medium cup|
|大杯||ㄉㄚˋ ㄅㄟ||dà bēi||Large cup|
|超大杯||ㄔㄠ ㄉㄚˋ ㄅㄟ||chāo dà bēi||Extra large cup|
*Note : Very few store offer small cup and extra large cup options.
Sweetness & ice
After selecting the cup size, you will need to specify how sweet you want your drink to be by indicating the amount of sugar you want added to it. Additionally, you will need to specify how much ice you want in your drink. Although most bubble tea is served cold, some drinks have the option to be served hot.
The vendor will simply ask you :
甜度、冰塊？(ㄊㄧㄢˊ ㄉㄨˋ 、 ㄅㄧㄥ ㄎㄨㄞˋ ?) – Sweetness, ice cube?
Below are the possible options for sweetness :
|全糖||ㄑㄩㄢˊ ㄊㄤˊ||quán táng||Full sugar|
|少糖||ㄕㄠˇ ㄊㄤˊ||shǎo táng||Less sugar|
|半糖||ㄅㄢˋ ㄊㄤˊ||bàn táng||Half sugar|
|微糖||ㄨㄟ ㄊㄤˊ||wēi táng||Low sugar|
|無糖||ㄨˊ ㄊㄤˊ||wú táng||No sugar|
*Note : Anything above half sugar will give you diabetes!
Below are the possible options for the ice :
|正常冰||ㄓㄥˋ ㄔㄤˊ ㄅㄧㄥ||zhèng cháng bīng||Normal ice|
|少冰||ㄕㄠˇ ㄅㄧㄥ||shǎo bīng||Less ice|
|去冰||ㄑㄩˋ ㄅㄧㄥ||qù bīng||No ice (but still cold)|
|常溫||ㄔㄤˊ ㄨㄣ||cháng wēn||Room temperature|
|冰的||ㄅㄧㄥ ㄉㄜ˙||bīng de||Cold|
|熱的||ㄖㄜˋ ㄉㄜ˙||rè de||Hot|
With these options, you can tailor your bubble tea to your exact preferences, creating the perfect drink for you.
What are on Bubble Tea menus?
Bubble tea menus can be quite extensive and varied, making it challenging to decide on a drink. We will provide an overview of the different items commonly found on bubble tea menus.
Types of tea
Familiarizing yourself with the fundamental tea categories can help in understanding bubble tea menus. These tea categories are frequently blended with fruit, milk, or other flavors.
|紅茶||ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄔㄚˊ||hóng chá||Black tea|
|綠茶||ㄌㄩˋ ㄔㄚˊ||lǜ chá||Green tea|
|烏龍茶||ㄨ ㄌㄨㄥˊ ㄔㄚˊ||wū lóng chá||Oolong tea|
|普洱茶||ㄆㄨˇ ㄦˇ ㄔㄚˊ||pǔ ěr chá||Pu-erh tea|
|茉莉花茶||ㄇㄛˋ ㄌㄧˋ ㄏㄨㄚ ㄔㄚˊ||mò lì huā chá||Jasmin tea|
|抹茶||ㄇㄛˇ ㄔㄚˊ||mǒ chá||Matcha|
Toppings & add-ins
While many bubble tea drinks already come with toppings such as tapioca pearls, you can also opt to add extra toppings for an additional charge. Here are some of the most prevalent add-ins that you’ll typically find on bubble tea menus.
|珍珠||ㄓㄣ ㄓㄨ||zhēn zhū||Tapioca pearls|
|椰果||ㄧㄝ ㄍㄨㄛˇ||yē guǒ||Coconut jelly|
|布丁||ㄅㄨˋ ㄉㄧㄥ||bù dīng||Pudding|
|仙草||ㄒㄧㄢ ㄘㄠˇ||xiān cǎo||Grass jelly|
|紅豆||ㄏㄨㄥˊ ㄉㄡˋ||hóng dòu||Red beans|
|蘆薈||ㄌㄨˊ ㄏㄨㄟˋ||lú huì||Aloe vera|
|芋頭||ㄩˋ ㄊㄡˊ||yù tou||Taro|
|冰淇淋||ㄅㄧㄥ ㄑㄧˊ ㄌㄧㄣˊ||bīng qí lín||Ice cream|
|多多||ㄉㄨㄛ ㄉㄨㄛ||duō duō||Yakult|
|蜂蜜||ㄈㄥ ㄇㄧˋ||fēng mì||Honey|
|奶蓋||ㄋㄞˇ ㄍㄞˋ||nǎi gài||Milk foam|
Ordering bubble tea in Chinese can seem daunting at first, but it’s a skill worth mastering for anyone who loves this delicious drink. By learning the basic vocabulary and understanding how to customize your drink, you can fully appreciate the wide variety of bubble tea flavors and combinations available. So the next time you find yourself in a bubble tea shop in the streets of Taiwan, remember to practice your Chinese and create the perfect drink for yourself.