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Bubble tea

Bubble tea

Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk teabubble milk teatapioca milk teaboba tea, or bobaChinese珍珠奶茶pinyinzhēnzhū nǎichá波霸奶茶bōbà nǎichá) is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s.[1][2] Taiwanese immigrants brought it to the United States in the 1990s, initially in California through regions like Los Angeles County,[3] but the drink has also spread to other countries where there is a large East Asian diaspora population.

Bubble tea most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls (“boba” or “pearls”), but it can be made with other toppings as well, such as grass jellyaloe verared bean, and popping boba. It has many varieties and flavors, but the two most popular varieties are pearl black milk tea and pearl green milk tea (“pearl” signifies the tapioca balls at the bottom).


paper straw for bubble tea compared with a more typical plastic straw

Bubble teas fall under two categories: teas without milk and milk teas. Both varieties come with a choice of blackgreen, or oolong tea as the base.[1] Milk teas usually include powdered milk or fresh milk, but may also use condensed milkalmond milksoy milk, or coconut milk.[4]

The oldest known bubble tea drink consisted of a mixture of hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls (Chinese粉圓pinyinfěn yuánPe̍h-ōe-jīhún-îⁿ), condensed milk, and syrup (Chinese: 糖漿; pinyin: táng jiāng) or honey.[5] Nowadays, bubble tea is most commonly served cold.[5] The tapioca pearls that give bubble tea its name were originally made from the starch of the cassava, a tropical shrub known for its starchy roots[6] which was introduced to Taiwan from South America during Japanese colonial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] While some cafés may serve bubble tea in a glass, most Taiwanese bubble tea shops serve the drink in a plastic cup and use a machine to seal the top of the cup with heated plastic cellophane.[10] The method allows the tea to be shaken in the serving cup and makes it spill-free until a person is ready to drink it.[11] The cellophane is then pierced with an oversized straw, now referred to as a boba straw, which is larger than a typical drinking straw to allow the toppings to pass through.[12]

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.[13] The market size of bubble tea was valued at $2.4 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $4.3 billion by the end of 2027.[14][15] Some of the largest global bubble tea chains include ChatimeCoCo Fresh Tea & Juice and Gong Cha.



Bubble tea comes in many variations which usually consist of black teagreen teaoolong 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.[11] Boba ice cream bars have also been produced.


Tapioca (boba)

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][16]

Jelly comes in different shapes: small cubes, stars, or rectangular strips, and flavors such as coconut jellykonjaclycheegrass jellymangocoffee and green teaAzuki 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), and sago also can be found in many bubble tea shops.[11][17] Popping boba, or spheres that have fruit juices or syrups inside them, are another popular bubble tea topping.[18] Flavors include mango, strawberry, coconut, kiwi and honey melon.[18][19]

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.[20] One shop described the effect of the cheese foam as “neutraliz[ing] the bitterness of the tea…and as you drink it you taste the returning sweetness of the tea”.[21]

Ice and sugar level

Some bubble tea sellers have tried to market their products by packaging it in unique shapes, like this lightbulb, offering a change from the traditional takeaway cup[22] with plastic sealing.

Bubble tea shops often give customers the option of choosing the amount of ice or sugar in their drink.[23] Sugar and ice levels are usually specified ordinally (e.g. no ice, less ice, normal ice, more ice), corresponding to quarterly intervals (0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%).[23]


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[24] and other interesting shapes.[25] Some have even done away with the bottle and used plastic sealed bags.[26] Nevertheless, the traditional plastic takeaway cup with a sealed cap is still the most common packaging method.

Preparation method

The traditional way of bubble tea preparation is to mix the ingredients (sugar, powders and other flavorings) 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 staffing needs as multiple cups of bubble tea may be prepared by a single barista.[27]

One bubble tea shop in Taiwan, named Jhu Dong Auto Tea, makes bubble tea entirely without manual work. All stages of the bubble tea sales process, from ordering, to making, to collection, are fully automated.[28]


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] One is associated with the Chun Shui Tang tea room (Chinese: 春水堂人文茶館) in Taichung.[1] Its founder, Liu Han-Chieh, began serving Chinese tea cold after he 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, said 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 became the franchise’s top-selling product.[8]

Another claim for the invention of bubble tea comes from the Hanlin Tea Room (Chinese: 翰林茶館) in Tainan. It 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”.[29]

On 29 January 2023, Google celebrated Bubble Tea with a doodle.[30][31]

For more infomation, please refer to Wikipedia:

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