Whether you know it as bubble tea or boba tea, the drink has made waves around the world in the last few years. With the market only set to grow, it might be time to learn everything you need to know about Taiwanese bubble tea.
The beginning of bubble tea
It might not be the bubble tea that many of us know and love today, but the roots of the drink can be traced all the way back to the 1940s. Former mixologist Chang Fan Shu decided to open a tea shop. Here, Chang made tea with cocktail shakers that resulted in a one-of-a-kind shou yao tea. The tea came topped with fine air bubbles that delicately sat on top of the silky iced tea. This was more than just a new tea – it was a growing Taiwanese trend of eating and drinking for pleasure.
Creating the store
Tu Tsong wanted to jump on the growing tea trend and decided to open his store in 1986. He remembered eating tapioca balls – fen yuan – throughout his childhood. He quickly decided to try adding some to his green tea. A few trials later, and Tu knew that he was onto something. He realized the tapioca balls were too large for traditional straws. In the end, he had to contact local straw-making companies to help bubble tea come to life. Thankfully, it paid off.
Blending old and new
Bubble tea is more than just a drink; it marked a change in the culinary scene across Taiwan. The flavors teamed with tapioca balls have helped to blend old and new drinks in the perfect way. The best bit? Taiwanese people have since grown to be highly protective of their drink, including when a campaign backfired after it was suggested skipping one bubble tea drink a day could help save for new defense weapons.
Crossing the world
Of course, it didn’t take long for bubble tea to spread around the world. Several chains opened up across the US, but it was yet to take off as it had in Taiwan. That was until Assad Khan tasted his first boba tea in New York. The British investment banker flew back to the UK, where he set about making his own chain of bubble tea stands. Bubbleology was finally launched in 2011 – and it took the UK by storm.
A growing taste
There have been so many flavor combinations over the years, and it appears that bubble tea will only continue to grow. Tea, sugar, creamer, and milk are just some of the best-selling combinations. However, changing times have also seen the introduction of fruit teas and sweeter flavors. These, in turn, have added the likes of white tapioca balls and jellies to the menu. Now, it seems that lattes and low-sugar bubble teas are set to be the newest faces on the block.
Whoever knew there was so much behind Taiwanese bubble tea? With an endless array of flavors and a passion behind the drink like no other, it won’t be going anywhere soon.