When visiting Taiwan, you cannot help but fall in love with the amazing array of local foods available on the island. For tea lovers, Taiwan is home to some of the highest quality Chinese tea production regions. In addition to the delightful food and signature teas, Taiwan is known for some other local beverage specialties that are worth checking out. On your trip to Taiwan, be sure to try pearl milk tea, papaya milk, and Aiyu.
Pearl Milk Tea
This popular drink originated in central Taiwan back in the 1980’s and is now found all over the world. Pearl milk tea is often referred to as bubble tea or boba in other countries, but is essentially the same drink. Traditionally, pearl milk tea is sweetened black tea mixed with milk or milk powder and chewy, sweetened tapioca balls. Special large straws are needed to suck up the sweet starchy pearls from the bottom of the cup.
Pearl milk tea is one of the most popular drinks in Taiwan and now comes in a number of variations that include different types of tea and/or different ingredients like jellied fruit or bits of barley and mung bean. Milk tea stores can be found everywhere in Taiwan and are almost as plentiful as convenience stores like 7-11.
Papaya milk is another delicious drink in Taiwan. It is considered Taiwan’s equivalent of a milkshake and is made with fresh papaya, fresh milk, and a bit of sugar or honey.
One of the most popular papaya milk sellers is Kaohsiung Milk Chain, but it is also available at juice stands and night market stalls across the island. Although not as good as what you will find made fresh at the juice stands or night markets, convenience stores like 7-11 sell cartons of papaya milk.
This is another popular drink found in many night markets. Aiyu is a very light yellowish jelly substance made from the fruit of a plant originally found in southern Taiwan. The seeds from this variety of fig have a gelling property when rubbed together. The fruit is found in Taiwan and East Asian countries with similar climates, but the jelly is not often seen outside of Taiwan and Singapore.
It is often mixed with sugar water, honey, and a bit of lemon juice and consumed as a beverage. The taste is somewhat like a lemon tea with jelly chunks, but it is extremely refreshing and a must try drink when scouring the night markets for delicious local snack foods.
For those traveling to Taipei, Shilin and Gongguan are great places to try these Taiwanese drink specialties while taking in the local culture and food at these bustling night markets.