Oh the goodness contained within…
Oooh yeah, the sweet, milky goodness of a good milk tea, complete with those little black pearls of heaven…that’s the life there, man. The life of Taiwan. The life of I-never-wanted-good-teeth-anyway.
So what is it? If you’ve *gasp* never heard of it before, or think you know what it means but have never tasted this sweet nectar, let me enlighten you. Milk tea is pretty much what it sounds like, a combination of oolong or black tea, milk, and liquid sugar. Super duper incredibly unhealthy, but darned good. You can get it just like that, or with pearls (bobas). There are a few specialty stores in America that may have it, but it’s literally everywhere in Taiwan. Any drink stand will have it.
A small street tea stand. You’ll also see them as tiny restaurants.
Now, how to order? First things first, let’s learn the relevant Chinese. Look up the words on Google or something for tone pronunciation.
Milk tea – nai-cha (just like it looks) 奶茶
Pearl (bubble) milk tea – zhen-zhu nai-cha (jun-joo nai-cha) 珍珠 奶茶
Large/medium/small (cup) size – Da/zhong/xiao bei (da/jong/shyow bay) 大/中/小 杯
Half ice – Ban bing (bahn bing) 半冰
A little ice – Shao bing (shaow bing) 少冰
No ice – Qu bing (chu bing) 去冰
Full sugar (recommended unless you don’t like sweet stuff) – Quan tang (Chu-en tahng) 全糖
Half sugar – Ban tang (bahn tahng) 半糖
No sugar – Bu yao tang (boo yow tahng) 不要糖 – had to look this one up, since I never ever didn’t want sugar…*cough
Some places may have charts with percentages (25, 50, 70, 100) for sugar and ice, so if they do, just pick one. But this guide above works for any stand.
Just approach the nice salesperson, and say, “Wo yao nai-cha (or zhen-zhu nai-cha), quan tang, shao bing – 我要奶茶 (珍珠 奶茶), 全糖, 少冰.” Or whatever you like. That’s my order there.
If you want a bag for your drink to carry it, say, “Yao dai-zi – 要袋子” (Yow die-tzih – look up pronunciation.)
Finish up with thank you – xie xie 謝謝 (shyeh-shyeh) – and that should be it! Of course, it might be nice to know some money terms and such, but those you can find in any guidebook. Not sure any guidebooks I’ve seen had a milk tea ordering guide though. You’re welcome.