Before trying bubble tea, I was uncertain as to why people were so obsessed with this drink. Was it the tea? Was it the flavorings? Or was it the chewy tapioca bubbles on the bottom? And what is bubble tea, exactly? When I first took a sip of bubble tea, it was the combination of flavors and textures that make bubble tea so delicious and irresistible. The smooth tea, hint of honey, and gummy bear-like tapioca bubbles make you want to buy bubble tea by the gallon.

Even though it was invented in the late 1980s, bubble tea has gained immense popularity across the world. The big question is: Why? I'm going to explore the history behind this popular drink, what it's made of, and what those giant bubbles at the bottom of the cup are. You're about to become an expert on bubble tea. Let's get started.

History of Bubble Tea

milk, milkshake, cream, coffee, smoothie, yogurt, ice
Omair Gill

Bubble Tea was invented in the 1980s in Taiwan. The drink was created when a tea house product development manager dumped her leftover tapioca pudding into her iced tea during a business meeting. The teahouse company, Chun Shui Tang Teahouse, soon began selling this combination after she realized it tasted so good. The bubble tea drink became the company's most popular drink. Taiwanese tea houses started selling this concoction, and the birth of bubble tea began!

Expanding to street corners all across Taiwan, neighboring countries such as Japan, China, and South Korea, and finally the US in the 1990's, bubble tea shops have gained popularity across the world.

What Is Bubble Tea?

milk, tea, coffee
Jane Yeo

What is bubble tea, you ask? A classic bubble tea contains a tea base mixed with either fruit or milk. Consumers have the option of customizing their drink by choosing to add tapioca balls or fruit jelly to the drink. If you're trying bubble tea for the first time, I recommend a basic tea base or honey milk tea paired with tapioca balls.

The spherical shape of the tapioca balls started the name boba, which is slang for "breasts" in Chinese. Tapioca is extracted from the cassava root and made into the pearls at the bottom of a bubble tea drink. In a typical bubble tea shop, customers can choose their preferred tea blend, flavorings, and additional toppings if desired. With so many variations and customizable options, it's no wonder why bubble tea has become so popular. 

Bubble tea or boba? 

tea, milk, coffee, dairy product
Jocelyn Hsu

You may have heard both terms and wondered, "Are they the same thing?" The answer is, yes! The drink was originally named bubble tea because of how it's made. Bubble tea is often shaken with ice in a cocktail shaker, making a bubbly froth float to the top of the cup. Because of this, many people call the drink bubble tea. However, boba is also an acceptable name.

If you're suddenly craving bubble tea, you can likely find a shop in your area given the rapid expansion of bubble tea shops popping up everywhere. In 2012, several McDonald's locations in Germany sold bubble tea with over 250 combinations available. A variety of flavors you can get at a bubble tea shop include: cherry, mango, orange, blueberry, pineapple, lychee, strawberry, and many more! With so many options, you're guaranteed to find a favorite bubble tea flavor.

Now that you have this expert knowledge on bubble tea, I urge you to find the closest shop and try it out.