ORDER BUBBLE TEA IN CHINA WITH EASE
Have you ever visited a Milk Tea/Bubble Tea store and found that the menu is entirely in Chinese characters? Don’t fret, although some international chains do also provide their menu in English, not all do, so we’ve got you covered, we’re here to help you learn some practical and useful Chinese so you can order your boba tea with ease. No more pointing at the menu and more speaking Chinese like a native.
Firstly what is Milk Tea, Bubble Tea or Boba Tea?
Nǎichá (奶茶) – Milk tea
Zhēnzhū nǎichá (珍珠奶茶) – Bubble Tea
Bōbà nǎichá （波霸奶茶) – Boba Tea
These three names essentially refer to the same type of drink. Milk Tea or Bubble Tea is extremely popular in China, especially among the young. Originally originating in the east, its popularity has gone on to sweep the globe with bubble tea chain stores open around the world. A sweet and textured delight, it’s a drink for all seasons, and can be drunk hot or cold, with or without ice, depending on what you order.
Bubble Tea/Boba Tea are more or less the same, the name refers to the tapioca pearls/bubbles (Zhēnzhū - 珍珠) – in the drink which has become standard. However obviously you can get different flavours with different toppings. So a more general and umbrella term for these drinks would be ‘milk tea’, this is less common vernacular in western countries compared to ‘bubble/boba’ tea, but in China it’s more generally referred to as Nǎichá (奶茶), as it’s also an abbreviation.
Wǒmen qù hē nǎichá ba?
Shall we go for milk tea?
Let’s see what a visit to a milk tea store is like and what they may ask you about when you order.
There are three sizes that you can order, again depending on what you select on the menu. Some may only have certain sizes.
Xiǎo bēi (小杯) - small cup
Zhōng bēi (中杯) – medium cup
Dà bēi (大杯) – big cup
You will also be asked how much additional sugar you’d like to add, and can say one of the following.
Sugar/Sweetness Level (甜度, Tiandù)
Zhèngcháng tang (正常糖) – full sugar, 100%
Qī fēn tang (七分糖) – 70% sugar
Wǔ fēn tang (五分糖) – 50% sugar
Sān fēn tang (三分糖) – 30% sugar
Bú lìngwài jiātáng (不另外加糖) – no extra sugar added
Again, depending on what you order, you can choose to have ice or no ice, and at different temperatures. Some drinks are only made hot and some only cold.
Ice and Temperature (冰度, Bīng dù) and (温度, Wēndù)
Zhèngcháng bīng (正常冰) – Normal Ice
Shǎo bīng (少冰) – Less ice
Qù bīng (去冰) – No ice
Cháng wēn (常温) – Room temperature
Bīng de (冰的) – cold
Rè de (热的) – hot
And now the best part, choosing what topping you want, some drinks allow you to choose or add additional ones, some drinks already feature toppings, the standard topping are the Zhenzhu Tapioca pearls but others common toppings are listed below.
Bubble Tea Toppings
Zhēnzhū (珍珠) – pearls
Bùdīng (布丁) – pudding
Bīngqílín (冰淇淋) – ice cream
Yē guǒ (椰果) – coconut jelly
Shāo xiān cǎo (烧仙草) – grass jelly
Also when ordering you should take note that the common types of tea used will be one of the following, often the name of the tea is in the specific name given to the drink.
Types of Tea
Hóng chá (红茶) – black tea
Lǜ chá (绿茶) – green tea
Wūlóng chá (乌龙茶) – oolong tea
Many milk tea chains will also provide combinations that include a choice of fresh fruits or provide fruit tea drinks - Shuǐguǒ chá (水果茶) – Fruit tea
Popular Fruits Used
Mángguǒ (芒果) – Mango
Cǎoméi (草莓) – strawberry
Júzi (橘子) – orange
Xīguā (西瓜) – Watermelon
Huǒlóngguǒ (火龙果) – Pitaya, dragon fruit
Pútáo yòu (葡萄柚) – Pomelo, grapefruit
Shíliu (石榴) – pomegranate
Bōluó (菠萝) – Pineapple
Níngméng (柠檬) – Lemon
Now here is a typical dialogue when you order a milk tea so you can practice and be more confident when putting in your order.
Ordering Milk Tea Role Play
Customer: Wǒ yào yì bēi zhēnzhū nǎichá
Customer: I’d like one pearl milk tea.
Cashier: Zhōngbēi háishì dàbēi?
Cashier: Medium or large?
Cashier: Tiándù, jiā bīng ma?
Cashier: Sweetness, add ice?
Customer: Sān fēn táng, shǎo bīng.
Customer: 30% sugar, less ice.
Cashier: Xiànzài hē háishì dǎbāo?
Cashier: Do you want to drink now or take away in a bag?
Customer: Xiànzài hē.
Customer: 现在喝 。
Customer: Drink now please.
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