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  • What is Bubble Tea?

    Bubble tea, is a popularized beverage that originated in tea shops in Taichung city, Taiwan. Since the 1980s, various drink recipes have occurred but most bubble teas contain a tea based mixed with milk, fresh fruit, or fruit syrup. There are also ice-blended versions of this drink that are come in fruit flavors, similar to Slushies. The pearl milk tea or “boba milk tea” is one of the most famous variant of bubble tea, wherein it contains small chewy balls known as pearls (Fenyuan or Boba) that are made of tapioca starch.


    This refreshing beverage began its rise to international recognition, from Taiwan to other countries in the East Asia, then to Australia, and then the Chinatowns of North America, and the college towns of the American west coast. Bubble teas are also available in tea cafes in the United Kingdom and are continuing to spread all across the globe.

    Common Bubble Tea Varieties

    Several variants are available, depending on the ingredients added and on the used type of tea. However, the most popular kinds are pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶), green tea with pearls" (泡沫綠茶), pearl green tea" (珍珠綠茶), pearl black tea (珍珠紅茶), and pearl green milk tea" (珍珠奶綠).

    Fruit Bubble Tea

    Photograph by Navin75.

    Main Types

    Milk teas and fruit-flavored teas are the two general distinct types of bubble teas. There are some stores that are offering hybrid fruit milk teas that include powdered dairy or non-dairy creamers, and some have a fresh milk alternative to offer.

    Some shops have signature ice cream shakes made from local sources of ice cream or 100% crushed-fruit smoothies with tapioca pearls varieties. Several bubble tea vendors in America sell milk smoothie that do not contain any tea ingredients, but are similar to bubble tea. Honey, stevia, agave, aspartame and other sweetener substitutes are offered by some small cafes upon special request of the customer.

    Some of the oldest known bubble tea consisted of a mixture of small tapioca pearls, hot Taiwanese black tea, condensed milk and sweeteners such as honey syrup. Numerous varieties were created when this drink became popularized throughout Asia, and it can be served hot or cold.

    Bubble Tea Recipe Base

    The different ingredients used in making bubble tea depend on the tea house, but green tea, black tea, and coffee are the most common basis of this beverage. Earl Grey and Oolong are the most common black tea varieties, while jasmine green tea is a mainstay at almost all tea houses. The Hong Kong style of bubble tea is called as yuanyang, named after the "mandarin duck” that is consisting of half coffee and half black tea. Some tea houses are also offering decaffeinated versions when they are brewing fresh the tea base.

    A glass of iced Taro bubble tea

    Photograph by stu_spivack.

    The use of milk in bubble tea is still optional though there are many tea houses that use it. Non-dairy creamers are used as a substitute instead of milk due to the fact that it is easier and cheaper to use than perishable milk,  and because much of the East Asian population is lactose intolerant. Soy milk is also used as an option in Western countries, and is widely used by those who are not fond of dairy products. These add-ons provide consistency and distinct flavors to the drink.

    Bubble Tea Flavours

    Some of the different widely used flavours include watermelon, green apple, strawberry, grape, pineapple, mango, avocado, kiwi fruit, passion fruit, peach, lychee, coconut, jackfruit, honeydew, cantaloupe, and banana.

    Popular non-fruit flavors such as chocolate, mocha, coffee, taro, lavender, barley, pudding, almond, sesame, rose, ginger, caramel and violet, are also made available.

    Some shops offer sour fruit flavors, but milk is not added as the acidity can curdle the flavor of the milk. Several stores in the United States provide a list of flavors to choose from. There are other varieties of this beverage that include blended drinks, wherein some have coffee-blended into them, and even smoothies.

    One of the distinct characteristics of bubble tea is the tapioca balls that provide a chewy tidbit and special texture to the drink. Jelly is also used as an alternative to tapioca balls that are cut in rectangular, cubes, or star strips in flavors such as lychee, mango, konjac, grass, coconut jelly, and green tea. Because bubble tea is now so popular, instant single-serving packets of boba drink are now commercially available.