Well Tea: Bubble tea by Service Bell Button
551 Seymour Street, Vancouver
For bubble tea and Taiwanese chicken nugget cravings, you must visit Well Tea beside BCIT in downtown Vancouver. The interior decor is much like many typical Asian cafes, it’s like walking into a colourful cartoon candy land. But for downtown Vancouver, the price and portions of food are pretty decent.
It’s disappointing that they do not have artificial taro bubble tea on their menu. Yes, you read that right. I developed a taste for this back in high school but I absolutely love fake taro bubble tea, made with artificially flavoured taro powder. Something about the syrupy sweetness of fake taro really hits the spot for me. Yes, I know real taros do not taste like that. Have you tasted real taro though? Imagine a drink made from it. It’s like sucking on a boiled potato. You’ve got to leave it up to resourceful Asian chefs to concoct a beverage out of a root vegetable. Well Tea does have natural taro bubble tea on their menu though. I haven’t tried it yet so maybe there could be a secret magic ingredient that makes it delectable.
Since there wasn’t fake taro bubble tea on the menu, I ordered hazelnut with milk instead, which was just as tasty as fake taro. Well Tea goes light on the flavouring though, or maybe they just brew their tea extremely strong because I definitely tasted the bitter hit of caffeine from the tea mixed in with all the milk, hazelnut and pearls. The pearls here are also quite firm compared to other bubble tea cafes. Here’s a fun filled bubble tea fact that I just learned, the word ‘bubble’ in bubble tea doesn’t actually refer to the tapioca in the drink. ‘Bubbles’ refer to the foamy bubbles at the top of the drink, if you want tapioca added to your drink you have to order your drink ‘with pearls.’
The other drink I tried was the pineapple slush with pearls. The pineapple flavour was strong, sweet and tart, very tropical and refreshing. It took me ages to drink this though because the slush was so cold, it made my teeth hurt! I think I’m getting old.
The set menu combos at Well Tea are great, for less than $10, you get a big bowl of rice, a protein and a salad. The salad comes in a long dish with three small portions, one of which is pickled vegetables. I never really eat the salad here, but it really rounds out the set menu. We ordered the sliced pork set menu and shared it. The pork is breaded and fried. For such a thin piece of pork, it was incredibly moist inside, and the outside was crispy, salty and tasty. It went wonderfully with the sticky rice and bubble tea.
Next we ordered the item that I am constantly craving: deep fried chicken nuggets. This item also comes in a set menu or in a combo option with a side of fried rice. These nuggets are indescribably addictive. Crispy, salty, heavily seasoned and slightly peppery on the outside and hot, juicy and moist on the inside. They are like little morsels of sin, once you pop you just can’t stop. I could easily devour a plateful in 5 minutes flat.
The fried rice was pretty tasty as well, although a little bit on the oily side and a little bit sparse on the ingredients. There was corn, peas and a few small pieces of onion.
Another slightly oily dish was the seafood fried noodles. Fat, round egg noodles were used and I prefer skinnier noodles that don’t absorb moisture so easier. There were big large chunks of seafood in this dish though, a huge prawn was balanced on top and there was plenty of fried squid and fish buried under the noodles. I would have preferred to have my prawn peeled though.
We also ordered the sweet and sour pork. When it came to the table, I was surprised that it was so saucy, and the sauce was very runny. Usually in Cantonese restaurants, sweet and sour pork comes with a thicker sauce and the chunks of pork are breaded and deep fried so there’s a thin layer of crunchiness on the outside of the tender pork. That’s the texture element that was missing from Well Tea’s sweet and sour pork. The pork in Well Tea’s dish was cut in thin pieces and pan fried. There were some sizable chunks of pineapple in the dish though, these were tasty and juicy.
We decided to try Well Tea’s Teppanyaki series which is seasoned beef that comes to your table still cooking on a very hot cast iron dish with sides of rice and vegetables. The word teppanyaki is Japanese for the cooking method of frying food on a cast iron surface. We decided on the beef teppanyaki, which was strips of very tender beef fried with vegetables. This is the perfect dish for a cold day as the beef is still piping hot as it comes to the table. The beef and veggies were delicious, lightly coated in bubbly, slightly sweet soy sauce.
My favourite part about Well Tea is the Service Bell Button. I’m not kidding. They have a button at the table, four buttons actually, one to call a server, one for water refills, one for the bill and a cancel button. I would come here just to press the button. I think I have OCD. I am also amused by how the sign above the button reminds you to tip your waiter, and the word tip is in all caps.
This is a great little bubble tea cafe, and it’s on my regular hit list.