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Bubble tea to tickle your taste buds

With its accompanying tapioca balls, the Taiwanese beverage may seem strange at first. But ask the students packing the dozens of new outlets in Phnom Penh and they will tell you it’s a delightful experience. Eloise Florence found out why

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SHARE TEA
With a bare art deco theme and floor to ceiling windows, Share Tea’s sprawling dining area is reminiscent of a university cafeteria, complete with huddles of students. The slightly smaller menu includes yoghurt smoothies and milkshakes as well as the usual milk and fruit teas. But the Lemon Green Tea with Herb Jelly ($2.80 for a regular) stands out as it is as tasty as it is healthy. The citrus and subtle herbs combined with the green tea could cure a hangover, soothe a sore throat or just serve as an effective pick-me-up on a hot muggy day.
Share Tea, #19, Street 302

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MERCY HOUSE
Hidden away at the top of Street 51’s bar strip is Mercy House, a vegetarian restaurant featuring bubble tea on their extensive drinks menu. Grab a cushion at a low table in their shady courtyard full of students and take in the relaxed atmosphere. For an extra 25 cents you can add tapioca pearls to any drink. But the traditional black milk tea with pearls was tasty without being too sickly sweet, for just $1.25.
Mercy House, corner of Street 51 and Street 222

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BUBBLE TEA AND ICECREAM
Around the corner from Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Bubbles is a cheery retreat. Along with experimental ice-cream flavours made on site, the menu holds a small selection of iced fruit and milk teas, to which you can add boba pearls or rainbow jellies. Owner Mervin Chin is happy to chat about his “old school” way of doing things. For example, syrups for the teas are made fresh in the cafe’s kitchen from mostly locally sourced ingredients, and are brewed fresh to order. The extra effort is worth it. I tried the signature blueberry, rose and lemongrass ice tea with jelly ($2.50), and was blown away by the fresh, bold flavours.
Bubble Tea and Icecream, #70, Street 113

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TOUS LES JOURS
A cross between a boutique French patisserie and a modern cafe, Tous les Jours’s bright and airy upper level is a nice change of pace from the usual bubble tea chains. If you can tear your eyes away from the stunning array of elaborate cakes, pastries and sweets long enough to order, the cafe’s Ice Bubble Green Tea ($2.50) is sweet, cool and refreshing. But it does lack real tea flavour. The bakery chain also offers bubble coffee smoothies and is a nice place to spend a rainy afternoon reading or working.
Tous les Jours, #116, Sihanouk Boulevard

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CHATIME BKK
The Taiwanese giant is a force to be reckoned with on the bubble tea market with more than 21 stores in Phnom Penh alone. In Cambodia, the group sold half a million cups of tea in its first year. Using ingredients imported from Taiwan, Chatime’s brewing process resembles an art form, and the quality shows in the taste. With no seating, I enjoyed the Roasted Milk Tea with rainbow jellies ($2.50 for a regular) on the footpath. The smoky roasted flavours were powerful enough to balance out the almost sickly sweetness of the milk. But then choice is the name of the game at Chatime and customers can choose every element of their drink, from flavours and jellies to sugar and ice.
Chatime BKK, Street 51

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GONG CHA
Huge windows and a split level seating area create a lively setting to enjoy a selection of the vast menu of drinks at Gong Cha. One of the first big foreign chains to come to Cambodia when the bubble tea boom began last year, this outlet is very popular. I dared the 50 per cent sugar option with a Passionfruit and QQ jelly iced tea ($2.30 for regular), which was surprisingly tart and fresh. It was delivered with a smile from courteous staff. The Street 51 location and proximity to high schools and universities ensured it was bustling and noisy, so not a great option if you are after a quiet retreat from the heat.
Gong Cha, #20 Street 51

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