One of the leading boba names in the city of Taipei is Jen Ju Dan (珍煮丹), which also happens to be one of my favourite boba shops in Hong Kong as well. It was an instant fall-in-love moment when I first tried Jen Ju Dan in Hong Kong. Their signature brown sugar boba milk with crema was outstanding and they executed the brown sugar tapioca pearls impeccably. It’s safe to say that when I heard that they are opening in London, albeit in the name of ‘True Dan’ instead, I was over the moon about it!
True Dan: Taipei’s Brown Sugar Boba Expert
Here is a little background of True Dan’s story. True Dan/Jen Ju Dan started out as a stall at the Shilin Night Market in Taipei and rose to global success in the blink of an eye. The Shilin Night Market is a super famous spot in Taiwan and True Dan/Jen Ju Dan’s speciality concept of brown sugar tapioca pearls and their superb quality has quickly drawn plenty of attention, attracting flocks of both locals and tourists to try them.
True Dan London’s store is located at the Brunswick Centre in Russell Square, just opposite Fuwa Fuwa and within close proximity to the University of London. The London store pays tribute to its Taiwanese origin and features a large colourful hand-pained mural of Taipei’s Shilin Night Market and True Dan’s original stall there. Other than bubble tea, you can find some of WA Cafe‘s bakery goods at the shop, as well as their house-made brown sugar mixes.
The Drinks: What We Ordered
Date of visit: February & July 2022
Brown Sugar Boba Milk with Crema (£5.20)
Unlike many other boba spots when it comes to brown sugar boba milk, you do get to choose your own ice and sugar levels. We went with 50% ice and 50% sweetness here. I originally wanted to get regular sweetness but the staff warned me that the drink is very sweet at regular sugar levels and recommended to go for 50%. She was right!
Upon the first sip, I was fairly happy with the quality of tapioca pearls. The tapioca pearls were still warm in the cup, which is a good sign of freshness. They were generally nice and chewy, with a slight al dente touch and seeping of a subtle brown sugar fragrance. The milk was not bad, supposedly topped with their signature salted crema layer, which added a little bit of creaminess to the drink but lacked the subtle savoury edge & texture to make it pop.
Ultimately, I have had the exact drink from True Dan Hong Kong many times before and, whilst the drink wasn’t bad, this was clearly not at the same standards. Back home, True Dan’s signature brown sugar boba milk offers so many layers of flavours & textures in the drink and made this one almost seem flat. This one was also missing that extra luscious velvety touch that made me fall in love with True Dan in the first place. I have had this twice now at True Dan London and it’s still the same.
Bu Chi Chun Tea with Cheese Foam (£4.40)
Bu Chi Chun tea is one of the many types of Oolong tea. It has a bright vibrant yellow colour and features a very light and fragrant taste with a subtle floral undertone. You can order it on its own but can also opt for the cheese tea option, which is what we went for. The one thing we highly recommend is to get at least 50% less sugar for the drink. Whilst the drink was nice overall, it was way too sweet and nearly overpowered everything about the drink. The cream cheese layer was nice, offering a velvety creamy touch to the tea but could use a sprinkle of salt to give a more multi-dimensional edge. Apart from the sweetness, we have enjoyed this one.
P.S. the Chinese word for Bu Chi Chun made me and my sister giggle a little as it almost sounded like a Cantonese slang!
Passionfruit Green Tea with Boba & Coconut Jelly (£4.90)
Last but not least, we’ve also tried out a fruit tea and went with the Passionfruit Green Tea with Boba & Coconut Jelly. The drink was perfectly refreshing, very tropical and fruity, and got a nice syrupy touch of sweetness. The tea wasn’t too overpowering and the coconut jelly paired very well with it. It’s an especially lovely drink for the summer months!
Food Review Summary
All in all, True Dan serves up decent boba by London standards but it’s, unfortunately, definitely not up to par as their Asian counterparts. Whilst not bad, I personally feel slightly disappointed because I had high expectations for it and know how good it can be. Interestingly enough, perhaps the tea offerings at True Dan London are a bit better than the signature brown sugar boba milk. Anyhow, if you are looking for good quality brown sugar boba milk, I’d recommend The Alley and The Whale Tea where both remain London’s best boba spots.
Nearest station: Russell Square