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What Is Bubble Tea and Where Did It Come From?

What Is Bubble Tea and Where Did It Come From?

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Some would say that bubble tea is to Taiwan what coffee is to the U.S. It’s trendy, it’s addictively tasty and, in Taiwan, it’s on nearly every street corner. Now, bubble tea shops are popping up in cities around the U.S. and in countries all over the world, making us wonder what this drink is and how it originated.

What Is It?

Bubble tea was supposedly given its name due to the fact that when flavor is added to it and the drink is shaken up, it forms bubbles. Another theory is that that the tapioca balls that sit at the bottom of the drink resemble bubbles, and so the drink was named for them.

A drink of many names, bubble tea is most commonly called bubble tea, boba tea, pearl tea, or tapioca tea, but is also known as boba nai cha, zhen zhou nai cha, black pearl tea, BBT, PT, pearl shake, momi milk tea, QQ, and many other names.

Bubble tea is an iced, sweet, tea drink that contains what looks like small bubbles at the bottom of the drink. It comes in many flavors and is generally made in two forms: a fruity, iced tea, consisting of fresh fruits, tea, and crushed ice, or a milkshake-like tea, made by combining tea, (sometimes) milk, powdered flavoring, creamer, water, and crushed ice. Common flavors are green tea, strawberry, lychee, blueberry, jasmine, taro, honeydew melon, passion fruit, and original, and dozens of other flavors are available depending on the shop.

But what really defines this drink is the "bubbles," or round and chewy marble-sized, tapioca balls, which sit at the bottom of the drink and can be sucked up through an extra-large straw. They can be black, white, transparent, or other colors, depending on the ingredients they’re made with. While tapioca balls are the most popular kind of "bubbles" to put in bubble tea, other options are available, including bubbles made out of green tea, aloe, egg custards, sago, and taro, and jelly made from fermented coconut water, fruits, teas, or konjac.

Where Did It Come From?

Originating in the 1980s, bubble tea is a drink that began in Taichung, Taiwan, and has spread quickly throughout the world. Several tea companies claim to be the creator, so it’s not clear which is the true founder of the popular tea. But one Taiwanese man, Liu Han Chie of Chun Shui Tang teahouse in Taichung, Taiwan, claims that in the early 1980s, he experimented with cold milk tea by adding fruit, syrup, candied yams, and tapioca bubbles. During the 1990s, the drink became popular in most parts of East and Southeast Asia. Since that time, it has spread to regions around the world, including the U.S., Australia, Europe, and most recently South Africa.

Haley WIllard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.

A Brief History of Boba

Maybe it&aposs the chewy, addictive texture of the tapioca balls, the creaminess of the milky tea, or the simple satisfaction of popping the straw into the sealed plastic top—people can&apost get enough of bubble tea (a.k.a. boba).

Bubble Tea is one of the few tea preparations that has become a full-blown sensation not only in its country of origin, Taiwan, but abroad as well. Today, the U.S. is dotted with bubble tea chains. But who on earth came up with the idea of putting tapioca balls in tea?


Bubble teas fall under two categories: teas without milk and milk teas. Both varieties come with a choice of black, green, or oolong tea as the base. [1] Milk teas usually include condensed milk, powdered milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, 2% milk, skim milk, or fresh milk. [4]

The oldest known bubble tea drink consisted of a mixture of hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls (Chinese: 粉圓 pinyin: fěn yuán Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hún-înn ), condensed milk, and syrup (Chinese: 糖漿 pinyin: táng jiāng) or honey. [5] Now, bubble tea is most commonly served cold. [5] The tapioca pearls that make bubble tea so unique were originally made from the starch of the cassava, a tropical shrub known for its starchy roots [6] which was introduced to Taiwan from South America during Japanese colonial rule. [7] Larger pearls (Chinese: 波霸/黑珍珠 pinyin: bō bà/hēi zhēn zhū) quickly replaced these. [8]

Today, there are some cafés that specialize in bubble tea production. [9] Some cafés use plastic lids, but more authentic bubble tea shops serve drinks using a machine to seal the top of the cup with heated plastic cellophane. [3] The latter method allows the tea to be shaken in the serving cup and makes it spill-free until a person is ready to drink it. [10] The cellophane is then pierced with an oversize straw, now referred to as a boba straw, which is larger than a typical drinking straw to allow the toppings to pass through. [11]

Due to its popularity, bubble tea has inspired a variety of bubble tea flavored snacks such as bubble tea ice cream and bubble tea candy. [12] The high increase of bubble tea demand and its related industry can provide opportunities for possible market expansion. [13] The market size of bubble tea was valued at $2.4 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $4.3 billion by the end of 2027. [13] Some of the largest global bubble tea chains include: Chatime, CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice and Gong Cha.

Variants Edit

Drink Edit

Bubble tea comes in many variations which usually consist of black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and sometimes white tea. [2] Another variation, yuenyeung, (Chinese: 鴛鴦, named after the Mandarin duck) originated in Hong Kong and consists of black tea, coffee, and milk. [1]

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. [10]

Toppings Edit

Tapioca pearls (boba) are the most common ingredient, although there are other ways to make the chewy spheres found in bubble tea. [1] The pearls vary in color according to the ingredients mixed in with the tapioca. Most pearls are black from brown sugar. [2] [14]

Jelly comes in different shapes: small cubes, stars, or rectangular strips, and flavors such as coconut jelly, konjac, lychee, grass jelly, mango, coffee and green tea. Azuki bean or mung bean paste, typical toppings for Taiwanese shaved ice desserts, give bubble tea an added subtle flavor as well as texture. Aloe, egg pudding (custard), grass jelly, and sago also can be found in many bubble tea shops. [10] [15] Popping boba, or spheres that have fruit juices or syrups inside them, are other popular bubble tea toppings. [16] Flavors include mango, strawberry, coconut, kiwi and honey melon. [16] [17]

Some shops offer milk or cheese foam on top of the drink, giving the drink a consistency similar to that of whipped cream, and a saltier flavor profile. [18]

Ice and sugar level Edit

Bubble tea shops often give customers the option of choosing the amount of ice or sugar in their drink. [20] Sugar level is usually specified in percentages (e.g. 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%), and ice level is usually specified ordinally (e.g. no ice, less ice, normal ice), though they can both be specified ordinally in some shops. [20]

Packaging Edit

In Southeast Asia, bubble tea is traditionally packaged in a plastic takeaway cup, sealed with plastic or a rounded cap. New entrants into the market have attempted to distinguish their products by packaging it in bottles [21] and other interesting shapes. [22] Some have even done away with the bottle and used plastic sealed bags. [23] Nevertheless, the traditional plastic takeaway cup with a sealed cap is still the most ubiquitous packaging method.

The traditional way of bubble tea preparation is to mix the ingredients (sugar, powders and other flavorants) together using a bubble tea shaker cup, by hand.

Many present-day bubble tea shops use a bubble tea shaker machine. This eliminates the need for humans to shake the bubble tea by hand. It also reduces manpower needs as multiple cups of bubble tea may be prepared by a single human. [24]

One bubble tea shop in Taiwan, named Jhu Dong Auto Tea, has taken the human-out-of-the-loop approach. The store does not rely on human manpower at all. All stages of the bubble tea sales process, from ordering, to making, to collection, is fully automated. [25]

Milk and sugar have been added to tea in Taiwan since the Dutch colonization of Taiwan in 1624-1662. [1]

There are two competing stories for the discovery of bubble tea. [8] 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) . [8] He later made tea using these traditional Taiwanese snacks. [8] This resulted in what is known as "pearl tea". [26]

Another claim for the invention of bubble tea comes from the Chun Shui Tang tea room in Taichung. [1] 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. [1] The new style of serving tea propelled his business, and multiple chains serving this tea were established. [8] The company’s product development manager, Lin Hsiu Hui, says 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. [8] The beverage was well received by everyone at the meeting, leading to its inclusion on the menu. It ultimately becoming the franchise's top-selling product. [8]

Asia Edit

In the 1990s, bubble tea spread all over East and Southeast Asia with its ever-growing popularity. [2] In regions like Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, etc., the bubble tea trend expanded rapidly among young people. [2] In some popular shops, people would line up for more than thirty minutes to get a cup of the drink. [2] In recent years, the mania for bubble tea has gone beyond the beverage itself, with boba lovers inventing various bubble tea food such as bubble tea ice cream, bubble tea pizza, bubble tea toast, bubble tea sushi, bubble tea ramen, etc. [12]

Taiwan Edit

In Taiwan, bubble tea has become more than a beverage, but an enduring icon of the culture and food history for the nation. [8] [27] In 2020, the date April 30 was officially declared as National Bubble Tea Day in Taiwan. [2] That same year, the image of bubble tea was proposed as an alternative cover design for Taiwan’s passport. [28] According to Al Jazeera, bubble tea has become synonymous with Taiwan and is an important symbol of Taiwanese identity both domestically and internationally. [29]

Hong Kong Edit

Hong Kong is famous for its traditional Hong Kong-style milk tea, which is made with brewed black tea and condensed milk. [1] While milk tea has long become integrated into people’s daily life, the expansion of Taiwanese bubble tea chains, including Tiger Sugar, Youiccha, and Xing Fu Tang, into Hong Kong created a new wave for “boba tea”. [30]

Mainland China Edit

Since the idea of adding tapioca pearls into milk tea was introduced into China in the 1990s, bubble tea has increased its popularity. [31] It is estimated that the consumption of bubble tea is 5 times that of coffee in the recent years. [31] According to data from QianZhen Industry Research Institute, the value of the tea-related beverage market in China has reached 53.7 billion yuan (about $7.63 billion) in 2018. [32] While bubble tea chains from Taiwan (e.g., Gong Cha and Coco) are still popular, more local brands, like Yi Dian Dian, Nayuki, Hey Tea, etc., are now dominating the market. [32]

In China, young people’s growing obsession with bubble tea shaped their way of social interaction. Buying someone a cup of bubble tea has become a new way of thanking someone informally. It is also a favored topic among friends and on social media. [32]

Japan Edit

Bubble tea first entered Japan by the late 1990s, but it failed to leave a lasting impression on the public markets. [33] It was not until the 2010s when the bubble tea trend finally swept Japan. [33] Shops from Taiwan, Korea, China as well as local brands began to pop up in cities, and bubble tea has remained one of the hottest social trends since then. [33] Especially among teenagers, bubble tea has become so commonplace that teenage girls in Japan invented a slang for it: “tapiru” (タピる). The word is a short for drinking tapioca tea in Japanese, and it won first place in a survey of “Japanese slang for middle school girls” in 2018. [33] People were so obsessed with tapioca tea that they even built a tapioca theme park in Harajuku, Tokyo in 2019. [34]

Singapore Edit

Known locally in Chinese as 泡泡茶 (Pinyin: pào pào chá), bubble tea is loved by many in Singapore. [35] The drink was sold in Singapore as early as 1992 and became phenomenally popular among young people in 2001. [36] However, the popularity did not last long because of the intense competition and price war among shops. [37] As a result, most of the bubble tea shops were closed and bubble tea lost its popularity by 2003. [37] When Taiwanese chains like Koi and Gong Cha came to Singapore in 2007 and 2009, the beverage experienced only short resurgences in popularity. [38] In 2018, the interest in bubble tea rose again at an unprecedented speed in Singapore, as new brands like The Alley and Tiger Sugar entered the market social media also played an important role in driving this renaissance of bubble tea. [38]

United States Edit

In the 1990s, Taiwanese immigrants opened the first bubble tea shop, Fantasia Coffee & Tea, in Cupertino, California. [39] Since then, chains like Tapioca Express, Quickly, Lollicup and Q-Cup emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, bringing the Taiwanese bubble tea trend to the US. [39] Within the Asian American community, bubble tea is commonly known under its colloquial term "boba". [5]

As the beverage gained popularity in the US, it gradually became more than a drink, but a cultural identity for Asian Americans. This phenomenon was referred to as “boba life” by Chinese-American brothers Andrew and David Fung in their music video, “Bobalife,” released in 2013. [5] Boba symbolizes a subculture that Asian Americans as social minorities could define themselves as, and “boba life” is reflection of their desire for both cultural and political recognition. [40]

Other regions with large concentrations of bubble tea restaurants in the United States are the Northeast and Southwest. This is reflected in the coffeehouse-style teahouse chains that originate from the regions, such as Boba Tea Company from Albuquerque, New Mexico, No. 1 Boba Tea in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kung Fu Tea from New York City. [41] [42] [43] Albuquerque and Las Vegas have a large concentrations of boba tea restaurants, as the drink is popular especially among the Hispano, Navajo, Pueblo, and other Native American, Hispanic and Latino American communities in the Southwest. [44] [45] [46] [47]

A massive shipping and supply chain crisis on the U.S. West coast, coupled with the obstruction of the Suez Canal in March 2021, caused a shortage of tapioca pearls for bubble tea shops in the U.S. and Canada. [48] [49]

In May 2011, a food scandal occurred in Taiwan when DEHP (a chemical plasticizer) was found as a stabilizer in drinks and juice syrups. [50] [51] In June the Health Minister of Malaysia, Liow Tiong Lai, instructed companies selling "Strawberry Syrup", a material used in some bubble teas, to stop selling them after chemical tests showed they were tainted with DEHP. [52]

In August 2012, scientists from the Technical University of Aachen (RWTH) in Germany analyzed bubble tea samples in a research project to look for allergenic substances. The result indicated that the products contain styrene, acetophenone, and brominated substances, which can negatively affect health. [53] The report was published by German newspaper Rheinische Post and caused Taiwan's representative office in Germany to issue a statement, saying food items in Taiwan are monitored. [54]

Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed in September that, in a second round of tests conducted by German authorities, Taiwanese bubble tea was found to be free of cancer-causing chemicals. The products were also found to contain no excessive levels of heavy-metal contaminants or other health-threatening agents. [55]

In May 2013, Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration issued an alert on the detection of maleic acid, an unapproved food additive, in some food products, including tapioca pearls. [56] The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore conducted its own tests and found additional brands of tapioca pearls and some other starch-based products sold in Singapore were similarly affected. [57]

In May 2019, around 100 undigested tapioca pearls were found in the abdomen of a 14-year-old girl in Zhejiang province, China after she complained of constipation. [58] However, physicians believe that consuming tapioca pearls should not be a concern, as it is made from starch-based cassava root which is easily digested by the body, similarly to dietary fiber. [59]

In July 2019, Singapore's Mount Alvernia Hospital warned against the sugar content of bubble tea since the drink had become extremely popular in Singapore in recent years. While it acknowledges benefits of drinking green tea and black tea in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer, respectively, the hospital cautions the addition of other ingredients like non-dairy creamer and toppings in the tea, which raises the fat and sugar content of the tea and increases the risk of chronic diseases. Non-dairy creamer is a milk substitute that contains trans fat in the form of hydrogenated palm oil. The hospital warns that this oil has been strongly correlated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. [60] [61]

Types of Milk in Bubble Tea

Milk and milk-like ingredients are often added to give bubble tea a creamy texture and flavor. Different flavors and styles of dairy and dairy-like ingredients may be used.

    (by far the most popular "milk" used)
  • Fresh milk (freshly made or pre-made)
  • Lactose-free milk
  • Calpis and similar yogurt-like drinks

Some of the tart fruit-flavored bubble teas are only available without milk because the acidity of the fruit syrup can curdle the milk.

Bubble Tea Tales: The History of Boba

No other caffeine fix is quite as aesthetically satiating as bubble tea, the Taiwanese sweet-milk-and-tea-based drink. But where did it come from and how did it get so popular?

Served in a plastic cup over ice with a straw big enough to suck up the black tapioca balls jostling around the bottom, bubble tea is part dessert, part iced caffeinated tonic—a stunner of a to-go beverage that has the photogenic alchemy of a cronut. (It’s not surprising it’s a dessert star on Instagram with #boba and #bubbletea racking up over a million posts each). Which is exactly why the sweetened tea has gone beyond the niche drink category. According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global market for bubble tea was valued at nearly $2 billion in 2016, and is projected to grow by at least another billion by 2023.

How to Make Bubble Tea

The base recipe for bubble tea is very simple. You can purchase tapioca pearls from most Asian grocery stores. Boil them until they plump up, which should only take about 5 minutes. You can turn off the heat and allow the remainder of the pearls to sit in their water and even refrigerate them that way. Use a slotted kitchen spoon to strain off the pearls you want to use in your tea.

Then, brew a strong cup of black tea and allow it to cool. You don’t want to put hot tea in a cold drink. The temperatures will compete, bringing your bubble tea to room temperature before you’ve had a chance to enjoy it.

You can sweeten your black tea with any sweetener you’d like. You can use sugar, but alternatives like honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar will work just as well. Sweeten to your desired preference.

Pour the tea over the tapioca pearls and add your milk. You can use dairy milk if you usually prefer dairy milk, but plant-based milk works just as well. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk can lend a delicate flavor to your bubble tea.

Remember that you’re going to need that special large-diameter straw in order to be able to enjoy your boba tea the way it’s meant to be enjoyed. The tapioca pearls are a part of the drink, and they aren’t going to find through your standard reusable stainless steel straw.

How to Make Boba Pearls at Home

To start, fill a large pot about halfway full with water and bring it to a boil. If desired, you sweeten your water with liquid sweetener drops—I like to use stevia or monk fruit drops. It’s optional, but it’s a nice way to infuse some sweetness into the tapioca balls as they cook.

Then, when the water is boiling, add in your uncooked black tapioca pearls—as much as you plan to use immediately. Each homemade bubble tea recipe below calls for ⅓ cup boba pearls, but I just cooked my entire bag of tapioca pearls since I was preparing multiple boba drinks. Lightly stir the boba pearls until they begin to float, then cover and boil for about 3 minutes.

After boiling, remove the pot from the heat and drain the boba pearls. You can pour them into a colander, but I prefer to use a slotted spoon to gently remove them from the hot water.

Finally, transfer the cooked tapioca pearls in a bowl and cover with room temperature water until you’re ready to use them. (This will prevent them from sticking together.) When you’re ready to serve, add a few tablespoons of cooked boba pearls into a cup, pour homemade bubble milk tea on top, and serve with a boba straw!

Basic Bubble Tea Recipe / Homemade Boba Tea Recipe

Each homemade boba tea recipe that I designed follows the same basic formula. This isn’t any kind of traditional or authentic boba ingredients list, but a simple framework that YOU can use to come up with your own bubble tea recipe at home!

Keep in mind, each of the recipes below yields 2 servings. That means you distribute the ⅓ cup of cooked boba pearls into 2 cups, followed by blended milk tea mixture. (Of course, you can serve up larger boba drinks with more boba pearls, the nutrition will just be different!)

But, if you’d like to make just a single serving boba drink, you can use the amounts below to come up with your own homemade boba flavors! My basic bubble tea recipe per drink would be as follows:

Watch on YouTube: DIY Boba / Bubble Tea Recipes

What is Bubble Tea?

The only way I can describe it is as the yummiest drink on the face of the planet. Really. If you can’t tell already, I, personally love this drink with a passion that knows no bounds. It’s basically a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan way back in the 80s but has grown more and more popular internationally over this decade. It has two types – fruit based and milk based. And it’s got plenty of delicious flavors and add-ons like grass jelly, fruit jelly, basil seeds, whipped cream and every boba tea lover’s fave – black tapioca pearls! In fact, it’s these tapioca balls that can make anyone spot it from afar!

What Are the Bubbles in Bubble Tea?

Also known as pearls, the bubbles in boba tea are usually tapioca balls, which are made from tapioca starch extracted from the root of the cassava plant. Their chewy texture makes drinking the bubble tea all the more amazing. Some boba tea bars also have fruit bubbles made of fruits like lychee, strawberry and peach. Contrary to their name, they’re not bubbles at all because they’re solid!

Bubble Tea Ingredients

Despite it’s intense flavor, an Asian bubble tea typically has just four ingredients.

  • A base such as milk, water or tea (usually black or green)
  • Flavorings, which can be in the form of a syrup, powder, fruit juice or fruit puree.
  • Honey or sugar
  • Pearls and jellies

Bubble tea is also known as boba drink, pearl tea drink, boba ice tea, boba, boba nai cha, zhen zhou nai cha, pearl milk tea, pearl ice tea, black pearl tea, tapioca ball drink, BBT, PT, pearl shake, QQ (which means chewy in Taiwanese) and possibly many others.

Bubble drinks are usually cool, refreshing, and a sweet drink with tapioca pearls sitting on the bottom of a clear cup. Sometimes the drink is made with fresh fruits, milk, and crushed ice to create a healthy milk shake. You can also find drinks that are made of powdered flavoring, creamer, water, and crushed ice. And if you like it like the Asians do, the cool drink usually includes a healthy tea, infused by a flavoring.

Tapioca pearls are black, but can sometimes be found to be white or transparent. Depending on the ingredients of the pearl, the color varies. I've been told that the white and translucent pearls are made of tapioca starch in it's natural form. The black pearl includes tapioca starch, sometimes cassava root, brown sugar and caramel which add the black color.

The consistency of tapioca pearls are somewhere between jell-o and chewing gum. In fact, many people think it's somewhat of a 'gummy bear' texture. Nonetheless, the way the tapioca feels when you chew it is absolutely unique. The tapioca pearls used in bubble tea are the size of a marble. The tapioca pearls are also known as the "boba" in the bubble tea drink. This is because it is described as having the same texture as the female breasts.

One thing is for certain. Bubble Tea is not a fad. It's a trend. This drink is addictive. If you've had a good one before then you know what we're talking about.

How To Make The Best Bubble Tea Using Tapioca Pearls

I was in New York City when I first heard of Bubble tea. My friends insisted I try it. This was many years ago and Bubble Tea is now a national if not world craze Bubble tea or Boba is everywhere!!

What is bubble tea and more than that what were those amazing balls at the bottom of my cup? Tapioca were the amazing pearls at the bottom of my drink. What is tapioca and where did it come from?

Things to consider before putting tapioca in your cup

The tapioca in a bubble tea makes for an interesting drink. It’s a high sugar and carbohydrate beverage that tastes amazing. Not much of a nutritional beverage as it is a fad. Green or black tea are the foundation to the bubble teas. Some bubble teas can have milk added making them a milk tea.

Saying that I have to admit I’ve had my share of bubble teas and enjoyed each one. The straw is fun, also fun. It’s larger and sucks up those tapioca pearls and if you are not careful could be a choking hazard.

The fun part of the tapioca pearls would be to make them.

While it’s fun to make it also requires attention while cooking.

Tapioca is safe for most people to consume. There have been reports of toxicity in tapioca. Those reports were soon re-examined and determined not to be true. The biggest problem with Tapioca and Bubble tea are the sugar and carbohydrates.

While bubble tea is tea based some may think of it as a healthy drink. The opposite is more the case. With little nutritional value and that sugar and carbohydrates.

Bubble tea is a fan favorite around colleges and universities. It’s a late night pick me up and a fun place to hang out during the weekends.

Enjoy your occasional bubble tea and you will be fine. All things in moderation.

Here comes the Tapioca and Bubble Tea

This is a tea blog. The topic of tapioca will lead us to the beverage it is most commonly used in.

Bubble tea had it’s first start in Taiwan. From there bubble tea spread to the United States, as well as other countries. Through it’s cult following amongst the college age generation.

Noone knows the real history of bubble tea other than it was first created in Taiwan. More than that it is speculation and rumor.

The base of bubble tea is tea but the real star of bubble tea are the translucent sweet pearls at the bottom of the cup. The tapioca pearls.

Tapioca comes from the cassava plant. That plant was brought to South American and the African regions by Portuguese and Spanish Colonists. Besides making tapioca the cassava root is also mashed into soups or fried into fries. I’ve recently found the Yuca root in a local store. The cassava plant is a versatile plant. It is used for many things including the thickening of soups and desserts.

The plant is easy to grow and harvests in 18 months from start to harvest. Most cassava plants are grown from propagules (cuttings) from mature plants. These harvest from 8-12 months.

The flour for the tapioca is taken from the starch of the cassava root. That starch is made into a powder, mixed with water, flavors and dyes. Then it is rolled, cut and shaped into the pearls. From there it is cooked in a syrup mixture taking the neutral taste to a sweet one. The texture is chewy.


  • Adds bulk to many soups and desserts
  • Is the fun in bubble tea
  • Easy to digest by most people
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to get
  • Gluten Free
  • Nut free
  • Grain free



  • 2 cups water
  • 6 black tea bags
  • ½ cup medium black tapioca pearls
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • ½ cup tapioca pearls, cooked
  • ½ cup ice
  • brown sugar syrup, to taste
  • 1 cup black tea , chilled
  • ¼ cup half & half
  • In a medium pot over high heat, combine the water and tea bags. Bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and let the tea cool to room temperature.
  • Bring a medium pot of water to boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the tapioca pearls and boil until softened, about 20 minutes.
  • Drain the pearls through a strainer.
  • Set the strainer with the pearls over a medium bowl. Add the brown sugar to the strainer and pour the hot water over.
  • Stir to dissolve the brown sugar.
  • Soak the pearls in brown sugar syrup for 30 minutes. Store the bubbles and syrup separately until ready to serve.
  • Assemble the tea: Divide the pearls and ice between 2 glasses, then add the brown sugar syrup, tea, and half and half.
  • Stir with a wide-opening straw, then serve.

The benefits of tapioca and bubble tea

One of my grandmother’s favorite desserts was tapioca pudding. I was five year old and I could never imagine EVER eating a tapioca pearl. . Today whenever I get a chance I love to have a bubble or boba tea. It’s interesting as you grow and learn to experience things. Now those tapioca pearls cause me to remember my grandmother and her tapioca pudding. I bet she would have loved bubble tea.

Bubble tea also known as Boba, Pearl or Tapioca tea. Bubble tea can be made with tea, milk, sugar, honey, tapioca pearls, fruits and any variation you’d like to make it.

What are tapioca pearls?

Tapioca pearls are made from a starch. This starch is taken from the Cassava plants root. The starch can be made into a flour and mixed, cut and made into tiny Boba Balls.

Who created bubble tea?

While no one knows who or why bubble tea was created, I can verify the world is a better place with it.

Most often you will hear credit going to Liu Han Chie, she is the owner of Chun Shui Tang tea house in Taichung. It is said that at some point someone decided to drop the very bland, now sweetened tapioca into a glass of tea. The tea world will never be the same. The chewy drink originates in Taiwan. In the 1980s a beverage visionary decided to put the pearls into a cup of sweetened iced tea, NPR reported. Many tea companies claim they invented the beverage. Credit is frequently given to Liu Han Chie. Liu is the owner of Chun Shui Tang teahouse in Taichung, according to the Daily Meal.

Are tapioca pearls healthy?

Tapioca pearls are not considered healthy. They are high in carbohydrates and if soaked in a syrup the sugar content also is very high. The tapioca itself is almost 100% carbohydrate. There are other nutritional elements but very small even trace amounts.

One cup of dried tapioca pearls contain:

Nutritional chart for tapioca pearls from the USDA

1/2 cup (76g) of dry, pearl tapioca

  • Calories: 272
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0.8mg
  • Carbohydrates: 67.5g
  • Fiber: 0.7g
  • Sugars: 2.5g
  • Protein: 0.1g
  • Tapioca is Gluten Free

Being gluten, nut and grain free tapioca is a choice of many people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity. As well as nut allergies. Many gluten free recipes use tapioca powder for allergen free baking.

Tapioca is a source of calcium and iron

Because so many people are in need of calcium tapioca pearls contain 30.4 milligrams of calcium. This can help supply the loss of calcium through exercise and normal body functions.

One cup of tapioca pearls has 7-18 mg of iron. Yet you may need to consume vitamin C to help with absorption.

Tapioca is Fat free

While not much in health benefits there is very little if any fat in tapioca pearls. Those on keto diets would be disappointed.

What do tapioca pearls taste like?

Tapioca itself has little to no flavor. The flavor comes after the balls are boiled in a sugary liquid. Food coloring and flavors can be added during the mixing process.

What are tapioca pearls made of

Tapioca comes from the root of the cassava plant. Starch is taken from that root, dried and made into a powder. That powder is then mixed with ingredients to create the pearls.

Is Tapioca Gluten Free?

Can tapioca pearls be dangerous

Tapioca pearls may contain traces of acetophenone and styrene. This does not mean that they are toxic or pose a serious health threat. The most pressing health concern about bubble tea is the high amounts of carbohydrates. These carbs are found in the tapioca balls, which can certainly lead to an unhealthy diet.

Another disputed health claim are the carcinogenic chemicals in the tapioca samples. This dispute was researched at the University Hospital Aachen

These particles were found in sample tapioca balls from an unnamed chain in Germany. The tapioca came from Taiwan. Since the findings there has been a great debate. Wang Can-geng is also disputing these concerns. Wang is a leading manufacturer of bubble tea.

There is a call to refute these warnings but yet enough concern for this author to include in my article.

Why is bubble tea so addictive?

SUGAR. Here is an article about the addictive nature of sugar!

What does boba stand for?

Interesting enough Chinese people do not use the word Boba to describe bubble tea. If you speak Taiwanese you will understand why. It translates to “big breasts”. Int Spanish the word means “foolish” or “fool”.

Alternatives for tapioca pearls

Blueberries – While not giving the exact mouth feel, taste or texture. It’s definitely a health option to the tapioca pearls. I am not sure the blueberries will stay on the bottom. They will fit in the straw.

Clear Jel – This can be a good substitute if you have it handy. It can be hard to find. It does make a great substitute because it’s a modified food starch and reacts the same way that tapioca does. Clear Jel is used in canned pie fillings and a thickening agent for jams and jellies.

Jelly Strips – You can make jelly with gelatin and cold water. These won’t’ be balls but can be cut into pieces. You can also flavor them with teas as well. They will be a bit more chewy than the Tapioca. If you use a grass fed gelatin you can add a bit of nutrition to your bubble tea.

This recipe from MNN for how to make Jelly Strips.

Jelly Strips or bites for Bubble Tea

  • Mix together 2 tablespoons of gelatin with ¼ cup of cold water. Let sit while you do step
  • Brew two bags of Jasmine green tea (organic and fair trade preferred) in ¾ cup of hot water for 5-6 minutes.
  • Squeeze tea bags into the cup, and stir in 2 tablespoons of sweetener of choice (I used honey)
  • Add to the bowl of gelatin and water.
  • Stir to melt the gelatin. (If the tea is no longer hot enough to completely melt the gelatin, simply pour into a small saucepan and heat gently until it has just dissolved.)
  • Pour into a loaf pan and refrigerate until it has set.
  • Once it has set, run a knife around the edge of the pan to help loosen it, and turn out onto a cutting board. Cut into bite sized pieces and use 3-4 tablespoons per cup of bubble tea.


While we have to all agree that bubble tea is not a healthy drink. Tapioca as well is nothing more than a starch full of carbohydrates. But put the drink all together and you have a fun and enjoyable beverage that you can enjoy now and again.

My motto is everything in moderation. I compare a bubble tea beverage to that occasional donut some of you may pick up on your way to work. It’s enjoyable and tastes amazing. Will it benefit our bodies, probably not. But every now and again we need that sweet something to boost our soul.

Warning, I must. Sugar is extremely addictive. That is why this author is very careful of the sugar and carbohydrates she consumes. I’d not eat a donut. Okay maybe one when I go home and visit a local shop, it’s blueberry.. okay I regress.. back to the bubble tea.

So go enjoy your bubble tea, suck put those tapioca balls through that large straw and remember to take a selfie!

So when was boba or tapioca pearls introduced to bubble tea?

Boba or tapioca pearls were put into bubble tea not too long after the creation of “bubble tea”. It was in the 1980s when Liu Han-Chieh introduced Taiwan to boba pearls in iced tea.

The addition of tapioca pearls to iced-tea was actually not done purposefully. It is said that Liu Han-Chieh’s product development manager poured tapioca pearls from a Taiwanese dessert, called fen yuan, into her Tea for fun and drank it. After doing so, others tried doing the same and loved it. This is when it became clear to Liu Han-Chieh that he had to start selling boba pearls with iced tea, and that was the creation of modern bubble tea!

That concludes this article! We hope that you enjoyed this article and learned something cool today about bubble tea’s origin! Now whenever someone asks where does bubble tea come from, you can tell them that bubble tea originated from Taiwan!

What was your favorite part of this article? Did you find anything particularly interesting? For the Talkboba team, we were mind blown to find out that bubble tea was called bubble tea way before tapioca pearls were added to the tea! Let us know what you thought was the most interesting thing down in the comments!

Watch the video: Eröffnung Bubble Tea-Store Pasing . (August 2022).