What is Bubble Tea?
Bubble tea is a Taiwanese drink made from tea, milk, fruit, and tapioca pearls. Also known as boba (Taiwanese slang for pearls), this drink is shaken to make it frothy at the top and has a layer of ‘bubbles’ which bubble tea refers to. The beverage is usually very sweet and can be flavored with an array of ingredients. Sometimes, grass jelly, pudding, aloe vera, and other substances are substituted for the tapioca pearls.
- For good boba tea, the Q-factor—a Taiwanese concept for food that is of the exact chewiness—needs to be perfect.
- The tea is usually consumed with a straw and the bubbles at the bottom slurped through them.
The top boba tea brands in the US are:
- CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice
- Boba Guys
- Kung Fu Tea
- Fat Straws
- Tea and Milk
- Teapioca Lounge
- Seattle Best Tea
- Teassert Bar
Origin of bubble tea
Syrupy tapioca balls were commonly used in Taiwan to top up desserts. Milk tea was also a popular beverage. The credit for inventing the bubble tea goes to Liu Han Chieh, who added tapioca balls to cold milk tea at his tea shop, Chun Shui Tang. Another possibility is that boba tea was invented in the Hanlin Tea Room. The term ‘boba’ refers to 80s Hong Kong sex symbol, Amy Yip. Since its invention, this drink has branched out to include hundreds of different flavors and has become popular throughout the world.
Boba tea contains high amounts of calories and sugar. Studies suggest that many of these concoctions are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. A 16-ounce serving of bubble tea contains between 200 and 450 calories. Doctors recommend consuming this beverage in moderation to reduce the risk of obesity.
Most restaurants serve boba tea in different flavors. First, black tea is prepared. Then, a brown sugar syrup is prepared. The tapioca balls are boiled until they are translucent and then, in a glass, the prepared syrup is combined with them. Later, ice and black tea are added. Finally, the concoction is topped up with cream froth.
Bubble tea recipes
This drink can be made in hundreds of different flavors. Here are a few recipes:
- Classic Bubble Tea
- Strawberry Mango Tea
- Taro Boba Tea
- Milk Boba Pudding
- Coffee Jelly Almond Milk Tea
- Cream Cheese Foam Green Tea
One of the main ingredients in boba tea is milk, which is regulated by the FDA. Milk is defined as the lacteal secretion of healthy cows. It must be free of colostrum and must be pasteurized. Another main ingredient is tea, which is regulated by the USDA. It describes black tea as fully fermented, dry tea and specifies different labels for different sizes of black tea, although it does not permit selling tea dust. Sugar is also added into bubble tea and regulated by the FDA. This ingredient should be used in pure form for consumption.
Leslie Nguyen-Okwu, Boba Explained: A Taxonomy of Taipei’s Bubble Tea A sipper’s guide to the bouncy, chewy treat Taiwan has exported to the world, Eater
What’s in Your Boba?, The Public Health Advocate
Min, Jae Eun et al. “Calories and sugars in boba milk tea: implications for obesity risk in Asian Pacific Islanders.” Food science & nutrition vol. 5,1 38-45. 29 Mar. 2016, doi:10.1002/fsn3.362