Bubble tea or ‘boba tea’ is a popular Taiwanese drink that has become an increasingly common beverage in recent years. A base of tea is combined with milk or fruit flavours and chewy tapioca pearls, named boba, that sit at the bottom of the cup. This tea should be served cold and although the taste may be familiar in some ways, there’s still a lot more you need to know beyond its flavour.
We explain 5 fun facts that will provide a deeper understanding and appreciation for this surprising drink.
The surprising origin of bubble tea
Mrs Lin Hsiu Hui is often named as the inventor of bubble tea which happened in the 1980s. She experimented with adding different ingredients to tea in her small tea house in Taichung City, Taiwan. One day, tapioca pearls were added to her tea, her customers loved the new texture and taste, and thus the iconic bubble tea was born.
From Taiwan, the unique bubble tea spread around Asia, especially China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It was in the early 2000s when it reached the United States and quickly gained popularity among young people. Today, bubble tea is enjoyed worldwide, and its popularity grows continuously to captivate new fans.
Black, red, white, oolong, and green tea are different types of tea suitable for use as a base with black tea being the original. Popular flavour makers include milk, fruit, and blended teas, which can be customised with different toppings such as tapioca pearls, fruit jelly, and popping boba (fruit juice-filled balls).
Milk tea is the classic bubble tea flavour, often made with black tea and milk or creamer, and sweetened with sugar or syrup.
Fruit teas are equally popular and combine a tea base with fruit juice or blended fruit. It has a refreshing and fruity taste, and it is often served with fresh fruit pieces inside the drink.
Blended tea is a more recent addition to the bubble tea scene, where the drink is blended with ice to create a smoothie-like texture. Different toppings such as flavoured tapioca pearls, sago, and even custard pudding add more flavour and fun to the drink.
For the adventurous who like to try unique and interesting flavours, specialty bubble tea houses offer options with concoctions such as matcha, taro, lavender, and even cheese.
One of the exciting aspects of bubble tea is the opportunity to experiment with unique ingredients. You can get creative in many ways, and the sky’s the limit if you are crafting and making the drink yourself at home. Herbs and spices such as ginger, lemongrass, mint, kaffir, or chai to enhance the aroma and flavour.
Distinctive ingredients can also be incorporated in bubble tea. Aloe vera is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is often used to aid digestion. Basil seeds are another interesting addition providing a good source of fibre, while grass jelly is believed to have cool properties for the body.
While bubble tea is a fun and delicious treat, it also offers many health benefits. The main ingredient, tea, contains antioxidants, which can contribute to a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Tapioca pearls, the signature ingredient in bubble tea, provide a source of carbohydrates and energy to the body. In addition, tapioca pearls are gluten free, making them suitable for specific dietary preferences.
However nice is bubble tea, it’s worth noting that it can be high in sugar and calories, especially if it contains excessive sweetness and milk. To enjoy a healthier bubble tea consider opting for less sugar or alternative sweeteners such as honey or agave syrup. Additionally, using low fat milk, non-dairy milk options such as coconut milk, soy milk or skipping it altogether can also help to reduce the calorie count.
Bubble tea has become a cultural phenomenon. Its popularity is seen in movies, TV shows, and music videos, and due to its unique texture and appearance it has gained a significant following on social media.
In Asian countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong, bubble tea houses or shops are found on almost every street corner, and it’s a common drink among people of all ages.
In the Western world, bubble tea has captured the attention of the younger generation and big chains such as Costa and Starbucks have introduced this popular drink alongside their other products. The unique taste, texture and aesthetic appeal of bubble tea have made it a sought-after alternative to traditional drinks like soda and coffee.
Bubble tea has become a cultural phenomenon captivating people worldwide with its surprising origin, its unique ingredients, and cultural influence. This popular drink blends tradition with creativity and has truly made it a global sensation. It offers an incredible array of flavours and textures, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So explore the countless possibilities, and let bubble tea take you on a flavourful journey around the world.