This wonderful marriage of chewy, starchy goodness and sweetened milk tea has been spreading like wildfire all across the western world for a while now. At first, it seemed like just another food fad that would disappear as soon as it appeared. Lo and behold, it’s still as popular as ever. I think it’s safe to say that bubble tea is here to stay. On that note, here are some fun facts about this beloved drink:

1. The drink originated in Taiwan, under the original name of: zhen zhu nai cha.

The literal translation reads: pearl milk tea. This drink is just as popular, if not more popular, all throughout Asia, though. It is sometimes mistaken for the Hong-Kong style milk tea, which is a different drink, by way of its preparation and use of evaporated milk.

2. The “bubbles” in the name actually refers to the pockets of oxygen that form at the top of the drink when it is shaken and not the tapioca balls.

The first-ever bubble teas didn’t even have tapioca balls— what? But, the chewy pearls are the best part of the drink, in my opinion. What’s more fun than trying to suck up every last pearl with the ginormous bubble tea straws? And the pearls themselves are like spherical gummy bears.

bubble tea

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

3. The main ingredient used to make the tapioca pearls vary.

It is usually made from either the starch of cassava plants, or from sweet potato flour. And they aren’t naturally black—they’ve been dyed by the syrup that’s added to sweeten the pearls. In their unaltered form, they’re translucent, and rather tasteless—like chewing on rubbery erasers.

4. Apparently, these delectable starchy pearls that we all love so much has been linked to cancer-causing agents, known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

That does not, however, mean that drinking bubble tea correlates with or causes tumours.

5. A cup of tapioca pearls contains approximately 540 calories.

Ouch—I think my scale just broke. So, you might want to think twice before slurping down your fourth cup of bubble-y goodness after prelim week. Moderation is key, after all.

Check out these other awesome Spoon articles for more on bubble tea: