What Is Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, or boba tea or boba; Chinese: 珍珠奶茶; pinyin: zhēnzhū nǎichá, 波霸奶茶; bōbà nǎichá; 泡泡茶; pàopào chá) is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls (“boba” or “pearls”), but it can be made with other toppings as well.

Bubble Tea History

Milk and sugar have been added to tea in Taiwan since the Dutch colonization of Taiwan in 1624–1662.

There are two competing stories for the discovery of bubble tea. The Hanlin Tea Room of Tainan claims 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 (鴨母寮, or Yamuliao in Mandarin) . He later made tea using these traditional Taiwanese snacks. This resulted in what is known as “pearl tea”.

Another claim for the invention of bubble tea comes from the Chun Shui Tang tea room in Taichung. Its founder, Liu Han-Chieh, began serving Chinese tea cold after she observed coffee was served cold in Japan while on a visit in the 1980s. The new style of serving tea propelled his business, and multiple chains serving this tea were established. The company’s product development manager, Lin Hsiu Hui, said she created the first bubble tea in 1988 when she poured tapioca balls into her tea during a staff meeting and encouraged others to drink it. The beverage was well received by everyone at the meeting, leading to its inclusion on the menu. It ultimately became the franchise’s top-selling product.

Bubble Tea Variants

Bubble tea comes in many variations which usually consist of black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and sometimes white tea. Another variation, yuenyeung, (Chinese: 鴛鴦, named after the Mandarin duck) originated in Hong Kong and consists of black teacoffee, and milk.

Other varieties of the drink include blended tea drinks. These variations are often either blended using ice cream, or are smoothies that contain both tea and fruit.

bubble tea supplier Taiwan

What’s Bubble Tea Like to Drink?

Tapioca pearls, which sit at the bottom of the cup have a chewy consistency somewhere between jelly and chewing gum. You can get different flavoured pearls and they are usually black, but sometimes white or transparent, making the drink look rather similar to a passionfruit. 

Customize Your Bubble Tea!

In Taiwan, bubble tea is quite customized, and bubble tea shops are usually operated in a complex manner. They not only provide black tea, green tea, milk tea, coffee and other beverages, but also meet the “specialty” beverages that represent the characteristics of each store. “, and some regular customers will also create their own tastes.