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Tiny bubbles 

Tapioca tea and a wide selection of Chinese and Taiwanese dishes share the spotlight at George’s Bubble Tea.

click to enlarge George Xiu serves up bubble tea---milky, sweet, with a chewy treat. - KYLE SHAW
  • George Xiu serves up bubble tea---milky, sweet, with a chewy treat.
  • Kyle Shaw

Ask any coffee aficionado and they'll tell you espresso beats earl grey. Choose cappuccinos over chai. Whether it's hot or cold, always go for the java. To put it simply, skip the leaves, pick the beans.

But even coffee freaks can be swayed to the dark side when tea has pearls. No, not pearls like your Aunt Mildred used to wear. Instead think chewy, edible balls found floating in a tall, cold glass of bubble tea.

As strong as your love affair with coffee may be, it's hard to resist the appeal of this sweet beverage.

Describing bubble tea can be as difficult as explaining Jersey Shore to your grandmother, but it's easy to embrace this oddly delightful drink.

Bubble tea is a flavoured-tea drink with milk (or dairy substitute), poured over sweetened, marble-sized, gummy, tapioca balls (or pearls).Invented in Taiwan in 1983, it has made its way around the globe, becoming extremely popular in college towns. Though Halifax is home to its fair share of students and tea lovers, the trend isn't exactly booming.

Luckily, on the corner of Inglis Street and Victoria Road we find George's Bubble Tea. With a selection of 85 cold combos, and 33 warm varieties, George's is a perfect place to sample the popular pearl beverage.

Ordering bubble tea can be very exciting, but just as confusing. With flavours ranging from mango to peppermint, avocado to champagne, it's hard to predict what you might like. On our visit to the shop, I begin by ordering two flavoured teas with milk: banana (regular, $4.29) and original (large, $5.59). The original---which is simple black tea with milk and sugar---is not very sweet, and a bit bland. It's OK, but could improve with some more sweetener.

The banana, on the other hand, couldn't be better. It tastes similar to a milkshake, but the bubble tea is not as thick and the tapioca balls lend an interesting new texture to the refreshing drink. It's delicious.

Coming in for the tea and not expecting much from the food, it's a pleasant surprise to find a wide selection of Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, including mapo tofu on rice, lotus root with homemade sauce and Yu-Xiang shredded pork on rice.

I order eggplant with Szechwan sauce on rice ($10.99) and decide to try the Taiwanese-style braised pork ($10.99) as well. The eggplant is seasoned just right: a bit of heat, but not too much. It tastes good, but the eggplant is overshadowed by the yummy braised pork.

Growing up, I had my first glimpse of authentic Asian cuisine while going to Sunday dinners with a close friend and her Chinese family. I'd had braised pork before, and the first bite at George's takes me back to Sundays with the Laus. The flavour is dead on.

Delivered in a big bowl, the pork is served with layers of rice, carrots, cucumber, corn and a fried egg. The food makes me drool before it even reaches my lips, and I quickly dig my chopsticks into the appetizing meal. It's like Taiwanese shepherd's pie---just awesome.

Whether you're curious about trying tapioca outside of pudding, or you're tired of the usual chow mein and eggroll combo, this is the place to go.

With a few tables and chairs, an iPod and speakers and friendly owner George Xiu behind the counter, George's Bubble Tea offers much more than any tea store, coffee shop or juice bar in the city.

So next time you're in the mood for a fun drink, skip the latte and try bubbles instead. Gelatinous globs in iced tea are the new marshmallows in hot chocolate. Who would've thought?

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