This post is Part I of the larger mini-series titled "A California Christmas." The posts in this series include: Part I: Ten Ren Tea Station, Part II: Din Tai Fung, Part III: Sushi Gen, Part IV: Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant, and Part V: Melisse.
There is a term in Taiwanese that has no perfect equivalent in English (or even in Mandarin Chinese, as far as I know). This term is "Q" (pronounced like the letter) and is typically used to describe a particular food texture. More specifically, "Q" foods are chewy, dense, but resistant at the same time. They bounce back . . . like thick, chewy, fresh Chinese noodles, stir-fried rice cakes, and arguably, good quality gummy bears.
I absolutely love foods that are "Q". I could chew on fresh homemade udon forever, and mochi is one of my favorite snacks. So of course, (the reason for this super long winding intro) - what can be more representative of the quintessential "Q" food than Boba, which originated from Taiwan?
What is Boba?
Boba are huge, chewy tapioca balls. The classic boba drink literally translates as "Pearl Milk Tea" and consists of strong black tea, milk, sugar, and boba balls. You slurp the boba balls along with the milk tea using an unusually wide straw. The balls are super fun to chew on, and the possibilities of drinks/juices with which to pair the boba are endless. You can also enjoy boba drinks hot or cold.
Los Angeles, one of the most Asian-dense cities in America, naturally boasts some of the best Asian food as well. Tea Station is no exception. The US franchise of Ten Ren (one of the most well-established Tea companies in Taiwan) Tea Station is a delightful tea shop that opens until late at night and also serves a wonderful array of Taiwanese snack foods.
I love coming to Tea Station because it totally reminds me of Taiwan. The menu has fun, street-food like snack items, along with a vast collection of tea, tea products, and tea drinks. They even have fun tea dishes, such as tea-eggs, tea flavored fried spring rolls, and tea flavored edamame (boiled soy beans).
The weather outside was a bit chilly by 10PM the night we went, so I opted for the classic pearl milk tea (below) but hot instead of cold. It's huge!!!! The pearls are nicely "Q" and the tea is top notch. After all, Ten Ren is first and foremost a tea company. My friend ordered one of the multi-colored jelly ices (shown above), which he described as being like "chewing on a bunch of Gummy Bears."
Tea Station also sells a vast array of loose leaf teas and tea bags, all Ten Ren Brand.
My favorite tea to drink at home on a regular basis now is Ten Ren's King's tea No. 913. It is mostly oolong with a touch of ginseng which just adds enough sweetness to round out the harshest bitter notes of the tea. I love it, and I drink it all throughout the winter. A pot of it costs $12 at Tea Station, but you can buy a canister of loose leaves, which will last you all winter, for only $24.
The ambiance at Tea Station is relaxed. My friends and I often bring along cards or a board game. We sip tea, enjoy some Taiwanese snacks, and play games. It makes for an absolutely perfect late night outing.
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