Tea is such a commonplace drink in Asia that tea vendors are always trying to put a new spin on it. This results in all kinds of taste sensations such as fruit tea, almond tea, even coffee tea!

One of those taste sensations became a world wide hit. A tea vendor in Taiwan came up with the idea of adding tapioca balls to chilled milk tea. The tapioca looked like bubbles at the bottom of the cup, and bubble tea was born.

This happened back in the 1980s and since then bubble tea has become popular around the world. It has also acquired quite a few nicknames such as boba drink, pearl milk tea, black pearl tea, tapioca ball drink, BBT, PT, pearl shake, and QQ (which means chewy in Chinese).

The tapioca balls that are distinctive to bubble tea are called “pearls” in Chinese. Besides tapioca, the other ingredients of the tapioca balls can include sweet potato, brown sugar, caramel, and chamomile extract.

The pearls of bubble tea are very chewy, and are sucked into the mouth through a wide straw. The texture reminds some people of the female breast, which is where the name “boba tea” comes from.

After bubble tea became a hit in Taiwan, its popularity spread to other countries in Asia, and from there to cities in North America where there were large Asian populations. By the early years of the new millennium bubble tea had reached the mainstream culture and can now be found in most cities in North American and Europe.

Tapioca Pearls

The bubbles in bubble tea are made by boiling them for about 25 minutes after which they steep in the hot water for another 25 minutes. The water is then drained and the pearls are covered in a syrup made from brown sugar or honey.

The texture of the tapioca pearls can vary considerably. Ideally the bubble tea should have pearls which not too soft and not too hard. A texture the same as a gummy bear is ideal.

Bubble tea can be served either hot or cold, and other flavors of bubble tea are catching on. Some bubble tea shops sell drinks that have no tea, instead using fruit juice or chocolate as their base.