Here in Canada, Chatime remains one of the most popular brands serving the most extensive selection of bubble teas and toppings. But beyond the tapioca pearls in the popular drinks, we recently learned more about the tea culture and the extensive selection. Not only does the brand bring joy in every sip but the importance of sourcing high quality tea leaves and the process of fermenting and toasting to make the perfect flavourful cup.

I was curious about how my favourite drink started. It was in Taiwan in the 1980s where “bubble tea” originated and served as a refreshing drink. But what was interesting is the bubbles in the drinks we know today using  tapioca were introduced gradually. The idea was inspired by the happiness that bubbles brought to us. One of the tea sellers in Taiwan created the pearls to add to the drink inspired to have longer lasting bubbles from start to finish.

Today, there are thousands of bubble tea shops around the world. I even found them in Italy and Portugal. And bubble tea has become one of the world’s most beloved beverages enjoyed by millions globally.

You may also have heard bubble tea referred to as boba tea, pearl tea, BBT, and even QQ — which is also what Taiwanese say for chewy.

Many of us who are familiar (okay, maybe addicted) with Chatime have our favourites. My go-to order is either Roasted Milk Tea or Iron Goddess Milk Tea. I’ll have them cold or hot. In the summer I’ll sometimes order up Taro Milk Tea or Honeydew Melon.

At a recent event with Chatime, I had the opportunity to explore the World Of Tea Experience with their tea expert, Kai. Here, we tasted 10 different and distinct teas and learned about the different notes, fermentation, and flavours. From delicate green tea with floral hints to bolder oolong black teas to the creaminess of their Thai Milk Tea, I found a few new favourites to add to my rotation.

One in particular, the Golden Aged Black Tea, was new to me. This relatively new addition to the Chatime tea selection had a bold, smokey, and woodsy finish that I fell in love with immediately. I’ve always loved a stronger, astringent tea – in fact, I’m known to keep my tea bag in my cup for an extra strong brew. The Sun Moon Lake Tea is also a beautiful black tea with a more intense flavour that I tried, and loved, at the tasting.

Photo Credit James Ton for Eyespie Productions

What you should know about Chatime Teas…

All the Chatime tea leaves come from Taiwan.

All the milk teas are made with lactose-free dairy. However, customers have options of using fresh milk or oat milk.

Customers also have the option to customize the amount of ice and sugar levels in their drinks. And no, you don’t have to order toppings if you don’t want to!

Their pearls and grass jelly are made by Chatime in-house. Grass Jelly is a popular as a dessert itself but at bubble tea shops, it’s added as a topping. With a very mild taste but it’s jelly texture goes will with drinks. It is made with herbs (Chinese mesona plant) that traditionally is considered to have health benefits including aiding in digestion.

There are 100 Chatime locations across Canada and they continue to expand.

For the Lunar New Year, Chatime has released this year’s much-anticipated lucky purple pockets. Vancouver-based artist Carolyn Wong collaborated in this year’s vibrant design for the envelope as well as the surprise lucky coupons and vouchers. Available when you buy two large Chatime drinks until February 18 while supplies last at participating shops.

“The design is inspired by the wood element and features different plants, flowers, and trees that are popular in Asian culture. The blossoming lotus flowers represent growth and transformation into beauty, the tangerine tree often is a symbol of prosperity, and the bonsai tree represents vitality and resilience to grooming,” according to Wong’s Instagram page.

Chatime - Lunar New Year - Bubble Tea 2024

Chatime Lunar New Year 2024. Photo credit: Sonya D

Wondering what to order?

While Roasted Milk Tea remains on Chatime’s all time favourite list, here are five others that caught my attention and you might want to try…

QQ Mango (caffeine-free) made with mango and topped with QQ (tapioca pearls and coconut jelly)

Matcha Strawberry Latte made with beautiful layers of green and pink. Brewed with Matcha (Japanese green tea powder) and sweet strawberry. Give it a shake before drinking.

Hazelnut Milk Tea made with fully fermented tea from the Sun Moon Lake Region of Taiwan that is sweet and creamy. It has hints of Earl Grey and nuttiness.

Peachy Lychee Tea is one of the most popular fruit teas on the menu and brewed with Jasmine Jade Green Tea. It has sweet notes of peach and lychee followed by a delicate floral aftertaste form the jasmine flower.

Matcha Roasted Milk Tea has layers of Matcha and Chatime’s famous Roasted Milk Tea with a gorgeous combination of earthy and nutty flavours and notes of toasted rice, caramel and subtle smokiness from the Hojicha (toasted tea leaves)

You can learn more about Chatime Canada here.