Bubble tea, bbt, boba, whatever you want to call it - everyone agrees that this concoction from Taiwan, a beverage that also doubles as a snack due to the chewy tapioca pearls, is simply addictive.
It’s the bubbles, or the boba, at the bottom of your cup that makes this fun-to-look-at drink different from any other drink on the planet. So, who came up with bubble tea? How is it made? And why do we love it so much?
If you have never tried bubble tea, you might wonder what the hype is all about, but you’ll know it the moment you try it. As they say, when you know, you know. In the meantime, here’s all you need to know about this kawaii drink!
What is bubble tea?
This is a complicated question because bubble tea can refer to many different drinks as the variations are endless. Sometimes, bubble tea doesn't even contain tea. But to go back to its roots, let’s say it all begins with tea: green, black, oolong, or sometimes even white tea forms the base of the drink.
The tea is then mixed with a creamy ingredient, and there are many options: regular milk, almond milk, oat milk, and everything in between. The resulting liquid is very aromatic and rich.
Then there are the sweeteners. From sugar, agave, to honey, you can sweeten your tea (or not at all) with anything, but it’s important because it changes the taste.
Finally, we have the toppings. This is the final element that gives bubble tea its charm, and the most popular topping is of course the namesake bubbles. Also called tapioca balls, pearls, or boba, the bubbles are made from cassava starch, a root vegetable from South America that is also referred to as yuca. Tapioca is gluten free and has a fun, chewy texture that's reminiscent of yuca bread and mochi. Other toppings include fruit, fruit jelly, aloe vera, beans, and even popping bubbles - instead of tapioca based chewy bubbles, popping bubbles burst with flavored juices.
With so many options for customization, no bubble tea is alike. As mentioned, some drinks don’t even contain tea, but use fresh fruit or fruit juice instead. There are even cheese foam bubble tea, where the star topping is, well, cheese (yes, people do drink this and like it!). Bubble tea is hard to define, but it’s always delightful.
Where does bubble tea come from?
There are competing claims to who invented bubble tea, and it remains unclear if there is one inventor we can attribute this delightful drink to, but we do know it started in Taiwan in the 1980s. Drinking tea has always been part of Asian cultures, and tea stands have existed for centuries.
It was the fierce competition between tea stands that boosted the creativity of tea vendors and made them start selling cold tea, tea with milk, flavored tea, and finally tea with tapioca pearls. See, fair competition is fantastic - it forces people to push boundaries and evolve.
Today you’ll find bubble or boba tea shops in six continents (sorry, Antarctica), and it’s just getting more popular by the hour.
What's all the fuss about?
You might have noticed that bubble tea shops are popping up left and right in your neighborhood, especially if you live in a city like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. It's a great business to be in because of high profit margins and the drinks basically sell themselves through social media. Bubble tea is so photogenic, you can't help but take a pic before you sip.
There are also many variations of bubble tea, so it's a great conversation starter when you want to share with your friends your latest favorite new bubble tea shop. At the core of the boba craze is the undeniable fact that bubble tea (good bubble tea, not the fake powder stuff, but boba drinks made from high quality tea and real milk) is super delicious.
The chewy texture and bounciness of tapioca is a delightful experience in your mouth. The milk tea is refreshing and, especially at 50% sugar, doesn't make you feel terrible about yourself afterwards. Bubble tea has been around in the United States since the late 90s, but has been experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity due to social media. The combination of FOMO (fear of missing out) and a product that doesn't disappoint ensures that bubble tea is here to stay and will only get more popular.
Is bubble tea good for you?
If food that makes you happy is good for you, then bubble tea is amongst the healthiest drinks around. Haven't you heard that a boba a day keeps reality away?
But in all seriousness, bubble tea is fine to enjoy, as long as you're not overdosing on sugar and you partake in moderation. Tea is a powerful antioxidant which helps your body age slower and prevent diseases, especially when it's brewed properly using loose tea leaves and not tea bags. Milk is a good source of calcium and energy, and in moderation, it’s a fine addition to your diet. Nowadays you can also choose to enjoy your bubble tea with healthier milk variations like almond milk and oat milk. The bubbles themselves are mostly carbohydrates from starch, so they do not have much nutritional value, but again, as long as you're moderating your consumption of bubble tea, it's just like another dessert drink.
If you are concerned about the quality of the bubble tea you consume, try one of our DIY bubble tea kits to have absolute control over the sugar and bubbles in your drink!
Try different combinations and flavors and find the bubble tea that matches your personality. And if you know someone who hasn’t tried it yet, don’t wait, show them what they’ve been missing!