CHECK IT OUT: Pao Pao Xiao Chi on Katipunan Avenue
A new place for a milk tea fix
(Spot.ph) It might not be all that unexpected given the number of milk tea shops sprouting all over the city in recent months, but Pao Pao Xiao Chi Tea Bar just off Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, which opened its doors in November 2011, manages to stand out with a unique menu that goes perfectly with their milk tea and fruit tea drinks.
"The name ’Pao Pao’ actually means busog, and ’Xiao Chi’ is Chinese for ’small snacks,’" explains Jerome Tan, who started the Pao Pao franchise in 2009. The menu, inspired by Taiwan street food staples, lists grab-and-go snacks like Spicy Chicken (P55), a generous serving of bite-sized breaded chicken pieces, and the must-try Spicy Squid (P55)-the squid is cooked so well that it's just the right balance of chewy and crunchy. For an extra kick, or if you're just the type who likes to customize flavors to suit your taste, Pao Pao has eight different spices on their shelves that customers can sprinkle or pour to their hearts’ content: take your pick from seaweed, black sesame, lemon, wasabi, yellow curry, kimchi, orange, and red chili. Can’t decide? The yellow curry gives an unpredictably addictive new dimension to the Spicy Squid’s savory crunch.
Pao Pao’s munch-friendly snacks, including other standouts like the Fish Tofu (P70) and Fried Shrimp Wanton (P120), are an excellent match to their milk teas and fruit teas, which are brewed fresh every day. The Yakult Green Tea (P75) has the distinctive flavor of a whole bottle of the childhood favorite, but manages not to be too cloying. The Jasmine Milk Tea (P75), on the other hand, is a milder option. Sweet-toothed tea patrons can also choose to put crushed Oreos for some added sweetness. If fruit is more your cup of tea, you can’t go wrong with the Mulberry tea (P65), a refreshingly light drink that might remind you of a less tart, but not too sugary version of cranberry.
Its location-a mere stone's throw away from the Ateneo de Manila University campus-should be enough to clue you in on the kind of crowd you'd expect to find at Pao Pao: students ranging from high school to college enjoying the free WiFi, along with the odd parent or two. "We really want to be part of the students’ lifestyle," says Ryan Ong, owner of the Katipunan branch. But the tea bar’s laidback, straightforward interiors also add to Pao Pao’s appeal as a casual place to hang out with friends, have a satisfying snack, and maybe even pretend that the only thing you have to worry about is the next midterm.