You smell Bubble Nini before you see it – the sweet aroma of house-made tapioca pearls and flowers wafts into the street. On one side the space serves what might be the prettiest bubble tea in Sydney and, on the other, bunches of flowers by a floral designer.
Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea is an umbrella term for concoctions of fruit and tea, or milk and tea to which “toppings” ¬– such as tapioca pearls (bubbles), flavoured coconut-based jellies, aloe vera or herbal jelly – are added.
It’s as much a textural experience as it is a flavoured one; the drink comes with a wide straw to accommodate the chewy marble-sized bubbles and al dente cubes of jelly.
Unlike at many bubble-tea shops, at Bubble Nini the menu doesn’t overwhelm with choice. Rather than letting customers pick their tea, fruit flavour, toppings and sweetness levels, owners Lara Hung and Charmy Choe have curated a short list.
Those Were the Days is delicious. Hung caramelises brown sugar and drizzles it into milk laced with Sun Moon Lake black tea, and tops it with brown-sugar pearls and herbal jelly “for good health”.
Honey I’m Home takes the prize for prettiest on the menu. It’s made with butterfly pea flower tea and flavoured with fresh lemon and lime, and its colour transitions from lavender to dark purple. On the bottom is a thick spoonful of aloe-vera jelly and chia seeds suspended in the drink.
With the proliferation of bubble-tea shops in central Sydney, Hung and Choe worried they’d missed the wave of popularity, but Bubble Nini stands out because everything is made in-house without chemicals.
Hung uses a small countertop machine to make the bubbles and the result is much tastier and more delicate than the dried, boiled variety. She estimates it pumps out 6000 bubbles a day.
Because of ongoing construction, it’s tricky to find Bubble Nini if you’re approaching from Central Park. It’s best to go via Abercrombie Street – just look for the bright turquoise walls, the neon-pink lighting in the window and the garlands of flowers hanging from the ceiling. If in doubt, follow the sweet scent of fresh tapioca pearls.