Yao Yao Cha means Shake Shake Tea in Chinese. The naming approach tickles me and certainly the little shop in London’s Seven Dials area has shaken up the local bubble tea market since it opened earlier this year. Yao Yao Cha’s founder and owner Susan Fang was born in Taiwan but has lived in New York, Dubai, Seoul, Beijing and now London (a city she describes as the most vibrant she’s lived in to date; I’ll drink bubble tea to that!)

In launching this business she wanted to bring us an authentic taste from her childhood, adding global influences gleaned from her globetrotting lifestyle.

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The storefront on Earlham Street and Dagaz, our friendly server

The menu offers classic Taiwanese bubble tea options alongside modern, global flavours.

Bubble tea (aka boba tea), for those who’ve not come across it before, is simply a glass of (usually) sweetened tea with a generous spoonful of tapioca pearls at the bottom. Served with an extra wide straw that allows you to suck the little spheres of tapioca up as you drink. I’ve found that most people either love or hate the chewy texture of the tapioca, with some of my friends describing them as frogspawn (how do they know?) and others delighting in the bounce, as I do.

Most bubble drink cafes sell a variety of drinks, so if tea isn’t your thing (and there are quite a few different teas to choose from) you one of a range of frappés instead. For tea drinkers, there’s matcha green tea, a range of fruit-flavoured jasmine green teas, several black teas including ones flavoured with salted caramel, chocolate, strawberry and lemon. Frappés include blueberry, mango, passion fruit, chocolate and even crème brulée!

The teas can be ordered hot or cold, though personally I think cold works best with bubbles.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you’ll like traditional bubbles either; another option is to order your drink with fruit pop spheres – tiny liquid-filled spheres available in a range of flavours, with not a hint of chewiness to them. Or maybe you’d prefer a flavoured jelly, chopped into teeny tiny cubes?

Teas are £3.50/ £4.50 (regular/ large) and include a portion of tapioca. Frappés are £4.00 and include one flavour of fruit pops or jelly. Extra fruit pops or jellies can be added to any of the drinks.

Oh and, if you visit in the evening, YYC are usually running a 2 for 1 offer on the bubble teas.

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Sweet milky black tea with lychee pops and salted caramel black tea with tapioca pearls.

Newer to the menu is the range of shaved ice desserts, known as baobing in Chinese and hugely popular across China and much of East Asia.

We had a lovely time chatting to Dagaz who came to London from Taiwan just a few months ago and is really enjoying working in Yao Yao Cha, improving his English and exploring the architecture of London.

On his recommendation, we went for one traditional shaved ice (with condensed milk syrup, taro, crème brulée pudding, tapioca pearls and red bean paste) and one modern option with fruit pops and jellies and a mango fruit syrup.

Tapioca pearls are included for free (if you want them) and the £5 price includes three additional toppings of your choice. Of course, you can add more if you like, for 50 pence per topping. Portions are enormous and one is plenty for two to share, or even three if you’ve just stuffed yourself with huge bowls of ramen, as we had!

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Shaved ice with traditional toppings; shaved ice with mango syrup and a selection of fruit pops and jellies

With lots of great restaurants in the immediate vicinity, I hope lots of Londoners discover the pleasure of a shaved ice dessert. With all the sugary toppings, it’s not a healthier option but it makes a refreshing alternative to the creaminess of ice cream and it’s particularly appealing when the weather is warm.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Yao Yao Cha.

 

Not much can beat a sunny day spent wandering from temple to temple in Kyoto’s beautiful Gion and Higashimaya districts. Although we’d recently paused to enjoy freshly made yuba, that didn’t reduce our enthusiasm to find Bunnosuke-jaya, an amazake specialist listed in Diane Durston’s Old Kyoto book.

She explains that amazake is a sweet drink that was traditionally made from sake lees and served to weary travellers as they walked between Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Although it smells like sake Durston credits its invention to Buddhist nuns and says it contains no alcohol.

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Taking a seat on the benches in the pretty garden, we are handed a laminated menu sheet.

At Bunnosuke-jaya, the menu describes amazake as low (rather than no) alcohol and tells us it’s made “the old-fashioned way, using only rice and not a single granule of sugar”. In this method, kōji (a fungal mould) is added to cooked rice, causing the carbohydrates to break down into sugars. Water is added to serve amazake as a drink.

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We are given a choice of enjoying our amazake hot or cold and decide to have one of each, adding a portion of warabi-mochi dumplings to share.

When our order arrives, we are told that the ginger on top of the lid is to mix in (to taste) with the thick hot amazake within. The cold version is served with ice and has a thinner consistency. The flavour is sweet and milky with a lovely almost fruity flavour. The ginger works well with the warm one.

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Warabi-mochi are sweet dumplings made from warabiko (bracken fern starch). In this region of Japan, they are generously coated with kinako (roasted soybean flour, known locally as yellow flour). Elsewhere, they are served warm with hot sugar syrup. Just like the more familiar glutinous rice mochi, warabi-mochi are sweet, soft and chewy, and the kinako gives them a wonderfully nutty taste.

The tiny mugs of black tea served alongside the rest of the order are a nice touch to round off our first taste of two Japanese specialities.

I pop inside to settle the bill and enjoy peering around the shop – Durston describes this “eclectic spot” as “one of the most bizarre collections of art and trivia in Japan”. She’s probably right, but I don’t linger long to examine it, drawn once again to exploring the bustle outside the gates.

 

More posts from our trip to Japan.

 

Pete and I recently spent 48 hours in Amsterdam. Eschewing all the normal tourist attractions, we spent all our waking hours eating and drinking our way around the city.

I’ve already written about food specialities to look out for in Amsterdam.

In this post, I’ll share places we stopped for coffee, cakes and snacks during our visit.

 

TAART VAN MIJN TANTE

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My Aunty’s Cake, as the name translates, may just be my dream cake shop. In the window is a display of crazy cakes, baubles and knick-knacks. Inside is an eccentric grotto of mismatched chairs and tables, many brightly painted or covered with vivid tablecloths, bright walls, multi-coloured lights and lots of random pictures and ornaments.

Along with our coffees, I ordered a slice of Swedish Princess Cake, described on the menu as “vanilla cake filled with a crème Suisse with light green marzipan“. It was absolutely fantastic, one of the lightest and loveliest cakes I’ve eaten, with a perfectly judged cream filling, a thin but tasty layer of green marzipan and visually beautiful too. Pete’s Chocolate Cake, described as “chocolate cake sprinkled with kirsch, a light sweetened cream filling, crème au beurre, chocolate royal icing” went down just as well.

Both cakes were €4.90 a slice and our lattes were €3.10 each.

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Located just around the corner from the Heineken brewery, on the way from the tram stop to Albert Cuyp Straat Market, this is a definite must visit for anyone who loves really good cake with a big dose of kitsch.

Taart van Mijn Tante
Ferdinand Bolstraat 10
Open daily from 10am – 6pm

 

SINGEL 404

Named for its address, Single 404 is a popular cafe, particularly with students from the nearby university. Like us, I imagine they are drawn to the filling, tasty and great value sandwiches, toasties and oven melts and the relaxed vibe.

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The space is small and always busy, though if it looks full at first glance, do check whether there are any free tables on the mezzanine level up the tiny stairs at the back. In warmer weather, the outdoor tables along the canal are a nice choice and the staff will come outside to take your order.

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We visited twice during our weekend in Amsterdam, so impressed were we on our first visit, and particularly enjoyed the enormous, freshly made oven melts. Unless you’re hungry, you might want to share one and order a slice of cake afterwards. All Oven Melts are priced at €6.25 each – choose white or brown bread, panini or bagel and then one of the delicious combinations such as “goat’s cheese with honey, pinenuts and thyme“, “brie with smoked chicken, guacamole, sundried tomatoes and Italian herbs” or “ham with cheese, fresh tomato, jalapenos, mustard-mayonnaise and chives“.

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Fresh smoothies and shakes, soft drinks, coffees, chai lattes and bottled beers are between €2.10 and €4.00.

Singel 404 is a great choice for brunch, lunch or an afternoon snack, especially for those looking for delicious options on a tight budget.

Singel 404
Open daily from 10:30am – 6pm.

 

DE LAATSTE KRUIMEL

We stumbled upon this recently opened coffee shop and bakery by accident and found it rather charming. The beautiful historic exterior leads into a quirky interior with a really home-made feel. The work counter has been made from old wooden pallets, as has some of the seating and light fittings include a row of colanders.

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The Last Crumb is an appropriate name, as the savoury and sweet baked goods on offer are so good that crumbs are surely all that will remain. From sandwiches and quiches to cakes, brownies, tarts and scones (served with home made lemon curd or jam), everything has an appealing home-styled look.

I believe everything is baked on site from organic ingredients, but do check that with staff if its important to you, as I may have misunderstood.

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There isn’t much seating, just one tiny table at the back with a couple of wrought iron chairs, and a few stools by the counter and next to a small shelf table, so I imagine most customers buy treats to takeaway.

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Sandwiches range from €3.50 to €5. Sweet treats are priced around €2 to €4.

De Laatste Kruimel
Langebrugsteeg 4
Open daily from 8am – 8pm.

 

CAFE LATEI

This tiny space is a combination of brocante (bric-a-brac shop) and café, and I rather liked its cramped, quirky interior and all the random bits and bobs on display for sale – retro ’70s lamps and crockery, old comic books, vintage handbags, rock’n’roll memorabilia and even furniture.

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The menu is short, with a few sandwiches, a small selection of cakes and a brief drinks list, but is all you need for a relaxing pit stop. Drinks are €2 to €3, cakes are about €3.50.

Café Latei
Zeedijk 143
Open Mon to Wed: 8am – 6pm. Thu to Fri: 8am – 10pm. Sat: 9am – 10pm. Sun: 11am – 6pm.

 

FEBO

Febo is the ultimate progression of cheap, mass-produced fast food and I can’t say I would recommend it for anything other than the novelty value. As soon as I mentioned our upcoming trip, this place was suggested by a number of food friends as an oddity we’d surely find amusing. We did!

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Staff and customer interaction is kept to a minimum; staff stock prepared food directly into glass-fronted vending machines; customers drop in their coins, make a selection, open the appropriate window and claim their chosen poison.

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As well as burgers, you can select local specialities such as bamiblok, frikadellen, kaassoufles and a variety of kroketten including beef, chicken and satay. Prices from €1.50 to €3.50.

Be warned, the food isn’t great, though Pete seemed keener on the kaassoufle than I was. Go only if you’re curious about these strange snack automats or are desperate for a quick and cheap alcohol soak!

Febo
Leidsestraat 94 (and other locations)
Open daily from 11.30am – 10pm

 

ALBERT CUYPSTRAAT MARKET

The market on Albert Cuyp Street was on our must-visit list for Amsterdam. Easy to get to by local tram, we stopped for breakfast at Taart van Mijn Tante before walking all the way down the length of the market and back up again.

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On sale is a glorious mix of fresh and prepared produce, flowers, tourist souvenirs, cheap clothing, make up and accessories. And what we came for – the street food stalls.

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The fresh produce in particular reflects the multicultural aspect of the neighbourhood, and I was mesmerised by cassava root, green mangoes,  haddock roe and other ingredients I’d be hard pushed to find at home. And the biggest grapes I’ve ever seen, I was so focused on taking a photo I didn’t notice the serious-faced bespectacled little boy behind them!

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A wide range of snacks are available, from Indonesian grilled meats (with or without satay sauce), hot fried fish and maatjes to stroopwafels and poffertjes. I’d also hoped to find a stall selling Surinamese food, which the area is also known for, but didn’t spot it on our visit.

Vlaardingse Haringhandel

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Herring from the North Sea has been a staple of the Dutch diet for centuries. Today, maatjes are a popular snack available from stands around the city. Maatje derives from the Dutch word for ‘virgin’, by the way and refers to the fact that the best herring is caught after the fish have gorged on food but before they’ve had a chance to reproduce.

Though most guides describe maatjes as raw herrings, in fact they are very lightly soused (preserved) in brine. The meltingly soft fish is usually served chopped into pieces, with diced raw onion and pickled gherkins, on a small paper tray (€2.50) or you can opt for broodje (€3) and the vendor will stuff the fish, onion and pickles into a soft bread roll.

Vlaardingse Haringhandel has been in business since 1916 and I can certainly vouch for the tastiness of their offering. The fish was almost silken in texture, with a fresh taste, strong but not overwhelming. The pickled gherkins were so good I bought a jar (€2.50) to bring home. And those raw onions may have been hell on my breath for the next few hours, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on them!

Poffertjes

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Poffertjes are made to order, €2 for a portion of 10, €3 for 15 or €4 for 20.

Batter is poured into the specialist cast iron pan, with it’s deep round indentations. The stall holder knows just how long to leave them before flipping them over to cook the other side.

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They are served hot over a melting pat of butter, with icing (powdered) sugar sprinkled over the top.

Albert Cuypstraat Market
Albert Cuypstraat
Open Mon to Sat 9am – 5pm.

 

Next, I’ll be sharing our restaurant finds and some great places to enjoy a drink.

 

Eurostar UK provided Kavey Eats with return train tickets to Amsterdam and the first night’s hotel reservation.

 

After a wibbly, wobbly night on an air mattress on our friend Matt’s living room floor, we decided a good hearty breakfast was in order. By the time we’d slowly heaved and panted our way up the very steep hill from Hotwells to Clifton (ok all the heaving and panting was only on my part) we really deserved something delicious. And hearty.

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We found both at the relatively new Rosemarino cafe bar at 1 York Place.

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The space is light, airy and welcoming and the menu full of appealing dishes such as sautéed mushrooms, parmesan and sage on toast (£5), meat and veggie cooked breakfasts (£6.95) and simple bacon butties (£4).

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Coffee is excellent and comes with glasses of iced water – a nice touch.

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Pete and I both ordered Tommy’s 1 pan wonder – bacon, onion, mushrooms and potatoes fried in 1 pan with 2 eggs cracked on top and melted cheese, served with toast (£5.50). It was as marvellous as it sounds with generous helpings of sticky, sweet onions and salty bacon and plenty of potatoes and cheese. A high fat content too which would make it an absolutely stellar hangover cure!

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Matt made very happy noises over his eggs benedict (£6.50) with poached eggs and speck served on muffins and drenched in a home-made Hollandaise sauce.

Based on their breakfast offerings, I’d love to see what their lunch menu is like. If you visit, do let me know.

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