Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bubble tea in Kreuzkölln: cocktails with a difference

Bubble tea has always been on my list of things that I secretly wish I liked, because of its curious juxtaposition of textures and reconfiguration of sweet vs savoury foodstuffs. It’s usually relegated to the ‘WTF’ basket by conventional (read: Western) palettes, alongside with Vietnamese three-colour bean drink, wasabi peas and Pocky straws.

So I’ll admit I had reservations when, on the hunt for an after-dinner sweet treat, we parked the bikes outside and-dots and found bubble tea the main thing on the menu. The breezy little bar opened this summer on Weserstraße and is a welcoming spot during the day – it opens at 1pm and there’s free wi-fi – or for pre- or post-dinner drinks.

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My beef with bubble tea – admittedly, cemented a decade ago in the Melbourne University food court – was the whole tapioca bead factor. In my opinion, tapioca’s only contribution to gastronomy was its similarity to sago and quinoa. So why would you stick those gelatinous balls in the bottom of a sweet, cold, milky drink?

How wrong I was. You see, the squishy, al dente pea-sized ‘bubbles’ in and-dots’ teas provide a sweet diversion from the cold drinks. The extra-wide straw you drink the tea through is wide enough to suck up the balls as you’re drinking, so you effectively have a drink and a snack at the same time. I found myself thoroughly enjoying it, in the same way I enjoy eating chicken broth with tortellini. Or chewing a mentos while smoking a cigarette.

And-dots has a row of blenders behind the bar, like a super-hip Boost juice kiosk, and bubble teas are served over ice in sealed, clear plastic cups which you pierce open with the afore-mentioned straws. For the lactose-intolerant among us, many mixes on the menu use fruit juice or soda as bases instead of milk, such as the Houston and Problem – yep, all the cocktails have puntastic names – with Club Mate, peach, and mint bubbles. The alcohol free teas are €3.10 for a small and €3.60 for a large.

But the alcoholic concoctions are really what elevates and dots above your usual bubble tea cafes. Our picks included Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (vodka, kahlua, milk, kahlua-marinated bubbles; €6.20), Kain and Abel (vodka, apple juice, mint bubbles; €4.50), and Hans and Gloria (run, mint, soda, lime bubbles; €5.60). Now, every boozehound knows the fastest route to inebriation is to drink fast and through a straw, so keep this in mind when you tackle these beverages. They’re pretty potent, and the extra-wide straws mean you’ll be prodding bubbles in an empty glass in a matter of minutes.

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