Bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea or boba tea, is a Taiwanese treat that consists of a tea base, milk, and a scoop of chewy tapioca pearls. These are shaken together, and other things can be added such as fruit juice. It creates a tasty and, obviously, bubbly drink that has become a favourite with aficionados and foodies.
History: There are two competing stories for the discovery of bubble tea. The first begins with Lui Han-Cieh in the 1980’s, who founded the Chun Shui Tang tea room in Taichung. Her product development manager, Lin Hsiu Hui added tapioca balls to the tea during a staff meeting and everyone loved the ‘bubbles’. It became the tea rooms top-selling product.
Another story for the invention of bubble tea comes from the Hanlin Tea Room in Tainan. They claim that bubble tea was invented in 1986 when teahouse owner Tu Tsong-he was inspired by white tapioca balls he saw in the local market of Ah-bó-liâu. He later made tea using these traditional Taiwanese snacks. This resulted in what is known as "pearl tea".
However, The “bubble” element of the tea can be traced back to the 1940s Taiwan, where the mixologist Chan Fan Shu opened a tea cocktail shop, hitting upon the idea of a micro-foam on top that was considered revolutionary at the time.
Ingredients: Tapioca is made from the flour of the root vegetable, cassava. This is ground into flour which is then rolled into balls with a little water, and brown sugar in the case of the darker, black tapioca balls. These balls are often then soaked in flavoured syrups and juices to make these bubbly drinks pop! Nowadays, bubble tea comes in a variety of flavours and is a booming industry.
The tea: Bubble teas fall under two categories: teas without milk and milk teas. Both varieties come with a choice of black, green, or oolong tea as the base. Milk teas obviously milk. The oldest known bubble tea drink consisted of a mixture of hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca condensed milk and sugar.
Popularity: In the 1990s, bubble tea spread all over East and Southeast Asia with its ever-growing popularity. In recent years, the mania for bubble tea has gone beyond the beverage itself, with boba lovers inventing various bubble tea food such as bubble tea ice cream, bubble tea pizza, bubble tea toast, bubble tea sushi, bubble tea ramen, etc.
Preparation method: The traditional way of making bubble tea is to prepare a mixture of the ingredients, tea, tapioca, milk, sugar, and any other flavors and use a bubble tea shaker cup.
Many present-day bubble tea shops use a bubble tea shaker machine. This eliminates the need for humans to shake the bubble tea by hand.
Taiwan: In Taiwan, bubble tea has become more than a beverage, but an enduring icon of the culture and food history for the nation. In 2020, the date April 30 was officially declared as National Bubble Tea Day in Taiwan.