Bubble milk tea goes by a lot of different names in different countries. Some simply call it bubble tea. Others call it pearl milk tea, tapioca milk tea, boba tea, or boba. Whatever it’s called, bubble milk tea originated in Taiwan during the 1980s. Making this drink requires four basic ingredients: tea (black or green tea), tapioca balls (which others call boba or pearls), milk, and ice. Over time, the drink became popular outside of Taiwan, and because others would like to stand out and be different, they started adding ingredients and toppings.
Bubble Milk Tea Trivia
- A story tells about how Tainan teahouse owner Tu Tsong-he bought white tapioca balls in the Ya Mu Liao market to make what we now know as pearl tea.
- Some say it was in Taichung, in a Chun Shui Tang tearoom, where the first bubble milk tea was made. The tearoom started selling cold tea, mimicking the cold coffee sold in Japan, and there was an instance when the tearoom manager added tapioca balls to the cold drinks which the customers enjoyed, giving birth (allegedly) to bubble milk tea. It was Lin Hsui Hui, an employee at Chun Shui Tang teahouse in Taiwan, who mixed fen yuan (a sweetened tapioca dessert) and Assam iced tea.
- Bubble milk tea became so popular that in 2012, all branches of McDonald’s in Germany sold bubble milk tea – all 800 branches.
- All of us who have had bubble milk tea in the past are familiar with the now-iconic “pearls” (or boba) in bubble milk tea. What many of us might not know is that it is made from the cassava root, which was consumed by humans as far back as the 1400s.
- Humans have been drinking tea since the 3rd century AD.
- Taiwanese immigrants introduced Californians to bubble milk tea.
Bubble Milk Tea Buying Guide
When buying bubble milk tea, first, make sure that none of the ingredients used in making bubble milk tea is compatible with your physical condition.
If this is your first time buying bubble milk tea and you have no idea where to buy, ask family and friends for referrals or read online reviews of bubble milk tea sold in your area.
When buying bubble milk tea, be prepared to be asked a lot of questions. The store attendant will ask the size of your order, the flavor you want, how much sugar you want, and what other add-ons you want including toppings. In some stores, they will even ask you what size and color of tapioca you want. It can be overwhelming at first but most of the time, the store attendant is accommodating and helpful.
Bubble Milk Tea Production & Farming in Texas
There are many stores, restaurants, food trucks, cafes, and stalls that sell bubble milk tea in Texas. These bubble milk tea businesses are mostly small, local businesses. Some became successful enough to start a chain of bubble milk tea branches. The ingredients of bubble milk tea are very common in Texas, making it easy to start and sustain a bubble milk tea business.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Bubble milk tea has been implicated in the past regarding the presence of deadly chemicals that should have not been found in this drink.
In 2011, news broke out about a Taiwanese bubble milk tea company using Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) as a thickening agent. DEHP is used in making polyvinyl chloride or PVC, and according to the US EPA, “acute exposure to large oral doses of DEHP can cause gastrointestinal distress in humans.”
The following year, news broke out about tapioca balls containing polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs like styrene, acetophenone, and brominated substances, according to German researchers from University Hospital Aachen. PCBs are carcinogenic chemicals. It means they can cause cancer. PCBs are typically found in motor oil.
Other ingredients that can be found in your bubble milk tea include artificial food colors and artificial flavors.
Bubble milk tea originated in Taiwan, but now, it is part of the contemporary food culture in many parts of the world including the US. Bubble milk tea came to the US in the 1990s, but it didn’t become popular until the 2000s. Bubble milk tea stores appeared in places with a high volume of Asian immigrants, like New York, San Francisco, and Southern California. Eventually, more bubble milk tea stores opened as the popularity of the drink spread across the nation; soon, there were stores in Minneapolis, Boston, Miami, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina, to name a few. While many of the earlier stores are businesses of Asian immigrants, later, Americans who enjoyed bubble milk tea started opening their own stores as well
Bubble milk tea is served in a sealed plastic cup. It is a watertight seal that allows you to shake your drink without spilling it. A straw with a diameter large enough to allow you to slurp the tapioca balls is used to puncture the plastic seal, like how we use straws in juice drinks in tetra packs.
Unlike other beverage products wherein the packaging contains important information like ingredients, health information, best before or expiration date, the plastic cup used in bubble milk tea often features just the brand or the name of the store.
Enjoying Bubble Milk Tea
The culture surrounding bubble milk tea is one that is young, fun, and relaxed. Drinking bubble milk tea is not just refreshing, it is also one way for individuals to bond with friends and spend time together. Some people think that because bubble milk tea has tea, milk, and tapioca, it serves the dual purpose of drink and dessert after a meal. The drink is sweet, and the tapioca is soft and chewy, and the ice makes the drink refreshing. Drinking bubble milk tea – hot or cold – always requires a straw.
The main criticism about bubble milk tea is that it is unhealthy. There are very few nutrients and a cup is often loaded with sugar. It is not advisable to make bubble milk tea a regular part of your daily diet.
An order of bubble milk tea is usually served in a sealed plastic cup, which means you can store it in the refrigerator. However, it is not ideal to store it for a long time because the tapioca will harden and when that happens, it is not enjoyable to drink anymore. The fact that this also contains milk means there is the possibility that your drink
Make your own bubble milk tea
Bubble milk tea is easy to make at home. The ingredients are available all year long and you can buy them in groceries or supermarkets. Drinking a homemade bubble milk tea is a great idea. For one, you are sure there are no artificial additives in your drink. If your family enjoys this drink too, then you can make this a bonding activity with a refreshing and delicious reward.
Yield: This recipe makes 2
- 1 cup tapioca pearls
- 4 cups tea
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- ice cubes
Step 1. Mix tea and sugar.
Step 2. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, refrigerate for two hours or until completely chilled.
Step 3. Add the tapioca pearls.
Step 4. Add ice and a straw for drinking.