bubble tea, also called boba tea or black pearl tea, beverage combining tea, milk, and “bubbles”—chewy gelatinous candies made of tapioca or fruit jelly. Bubble tea is a favourite in its homeland of Taiwan and is now popular worldwide.
Bubble tea originated in the city of T’ai-nan, Taiwan, in the mid-1980s. Dozens of variations of the drink have evolved since then, especially throughout Taiwan and other East Asian locales such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. Popular renditions include taro tea, brown sugar tea, and matcha green tea.
The genesis of bubble tea can be traced to 1949, when an entrepreneur and former bartender, Chang Fan Shu, developed a tea that was shaken in a martini mixer to create a foamy surface. Called hand-shaken (shou yao) tea and served cold, the result was a luxury item that was not widely accessible to most Taiwanese until the economic boom of the 1980s. In 1986 another entrepreneur, Tu Zonghe, added fen yuan, or tapioca balls, to green tea and opened a tea shop in T’ainan. Alternate origin stories have been advanced, but, in all events, so popular was this “bubble tea” that the original shop grew to become a chain with locations across Taiwan and in North America. The recipe has evolved to include larger tapioca balls, now called boba, giving rise to the name boba nai cha, or boba tea. These larger boba occasioned the development of a special extra-wide straw so that they can be sipped with the drink without need of a spoon.
Bubble tea spread among Chinese diaspora populations in places such as New York, London, and Berlin in the 2000s, and several chains have since opened in Europe and the United States. It has also appeared on the menus of fast-food restaurant chains such as Dunkin’ and McDonald’s.
Consumed alone, tea contains abundant antioxidants and helps promote metabolic functions, making it an efficacious drink for dieters. The addition of milk, while providing calcium and protein, might reduce the healthfulness of the drink in terms of fats and sugars, although the milk need not be dairy. However, standard boba contain high quantities of sugar and starch. Recognizing this, many vendors offer sugar-free varieties. Bubble tea can be made at home, but Taiwanese generally purchase it as an after-school or after-work treat from tea shops or street vendors.
Bubble tea, beverage combining tea, milk, and “bubbles”—chewy gelatinous candies made of tapioca or fruit jelly. Bubble tea is a favourite in its homeland of Taiwan and is now popular worldwide. Bubble tea originated in the city of T’ai-nan, Taiwan, in the mid-1980s. Dozens of variations of the