Arts and Entertainment

Cheap Ass Food: Bar Pa Tea

A fusion of the Taiwanese classic and the American trend of ice cream everything.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cover Image
By Jevina Wong

85 Kenmare Street

New York, NY 10012

I immediately tagged one of my friends after watching Bar Pa Tea’s Facebook video, in which they neatly swirled out cream-colored soft-serve, topped with a heaping pile of luscious tapioca pearls. Bubble tea ice cream. A fusion of the Taiwanese classic and the American trend of ice cream everything (egg-waffles, tacos, and the like), it seems like the perfect fit for both a Stuy student’s palate and the Instagram aesthetic.

Located right between Chinatown and Soho, Bar Pa Tea retains the compact bubbliness of a traditional bubble tea place while adding an upscale city feel with the gleaming white tiles and neon white and hot pink light decor.

Tea Latte Soft Serve

Bar Pa Tea offers two flavors of their Tea Latte Soft Serve, black tea being its menu staple, and the second spot rotating between oolong tea and a holiday special. When the oolong tea is being served, they also offer a black and oolong tea swirl. The establishment’s goal is “flavor over sweetness at Bar Pa Tea, creating a more healthful alternative to the original beverage without compromising the distinct taste.”

The milk flavor with a slight roasted tea taste is indeed very prominent in the soft serve. And while the ice cream isn’t the creamiest, it is not as overwhelmingly sweet as classic American soft serve. Keep in mind that when filling the cup, they leave a sizable hole in the center and it’s not the biggest bang for your buck. I tried both the black and black/oolong swirl and found the flavor of black tea to be delightfully strong, but in the swirl, there was no noticeable oolong taste.

What really adds to the ice cream is the bubbles. Additional toppings, like Oreo crumbs and bubbles, are $0.50, so if you want the full package, you’ll probably have to dish out at least five dollars. It’s around the same price as a large bubble tea, but it’s half the size. I tried a Stroopwafel with mine, but aside from the photo op, I wouldn’t recommend it. The cold ice cream hardens the otherwise chewy cookie and makes it much less enjoyable. The novelty of the bubble tea ice cream is its saving grace, but aside from the tapioca, the other toppings are not worth it.

The bubbles are very high quality in comparison to those you might find in a bubble tea shop. Bar Pa Tea is quick to advertise that the bubbles are “free of additives and [the] drinks sweetened with pure cane sugar instead of corn syrup.” Their bubbles taste much fresher than bubbles at a bubble tea shop and are very round and chewy, with the perfect level of sweetness. They also have miniature bubbles available, which are considered their “signature.” The slight tastelessness of the mini bubbles makes them underwhelming, but they complement the regular bubbles well. You can have the bubbles individually, in a combination at either the top or bottom of the ice cream, or “mixed,” meaning both.

I also wouldn’t recommend the holiday flavor if it has anything to do with rose. Their Valentine’s Day Rose Green Tea was so overpoweringly flowery that it felt like I was drinking Mario Badescu Rose Water Spray.

Overall, the soft serve has its flaws, but the healthier ingredients, subtle flavors, and tapioca are the stars, not to mention the marble tables and good lighting for that top-notch photo. While you’re there, be sure to grab a Black Tea Latte ($4). It tastes as lovely as the ice cream and will have you walking out as happy as the bear on the logo.