Bubble Tea | Bubble Tea Description, History and Popularity

Bubble Tea | Bubble Tea Description, History and Popularity

Bubble Tea

Bubble tea, often referred to as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, Boba tea, or simply boba, is a tea-based beverage that was invented in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It was first introduced to the United States by Taiwanese immigrants in California's Los Angeles County in the 1990s, but it has since expanded to other nations with sizable East Asian diaspora populations.

Although chewy tapioca balls (also known as "boba" or "pearls") and tea are the main components of bubble tea, it can also be mixed with other toppings like red beans, grass jelly, or aloe vera. Although there are many other tastes and kinds, pearl black milk tea and pearl green milk tea are the two most popular ones ("pearl" signifies the tapioca balls at the bottom).

Bubble Tea Description

Bubble teas can be divided into two groups: milk teas and teas without milk. A choice of black, green, or oolong tea may be used as the base for either variety of bubble tea. Bubble Tea usually made with fresh milk or powdered milk, milk teas can also be made using condensed milk, almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk, its depends upon the individual choices.

In the first known form of bubble tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, syrup, and hot Taiwanese black tea were combined. Today, cold servings of bubble tea are the most typical in making process. The starch of the cassava, a tropical shrub famous for its starchy roots that was introduced to Taiwan from South America during Japanese colonial control, was originally used to manufacture the tapioca pearls that give bubble tea its distinctive flavour. These were quickly supplanted by larger pearls.

Today, some coffee shops produce bubble tea exclusively.  Although some coffee shops might sell bubble tea in glasses, the majority of bubble tea establishments in Taiwan use plastic cups and a machine to seal the top with heated plastic cellophane. The technique prevents spills until the tea is ready to be consumed and enables the tea to be shaken in the serving cup. A larger-than-average drinking straw known as a boba straw is then used to pierce the cellophane, allowing the toppings to pass through it.

Due to its attractiveness, bubble tea has inspired a number of delicacies with the flavour, including ice cream and candies. The rapid growth in the demand for bubble tea and the linked industries may present chances for potential market expansion. In comparison to a market value of $2.2 billion in 2021, the size of the bubble tea market was estimated to be $2.4 billion in 2019. By the end of 2027, the bubble tea market is anticipated to be worth $4.3 billion. The biggest bubble tea retailers in the world include Chatime, CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice, and Gong Cha.

Bubble Tea Variants


There are many different types of bubble tea, but they often contain black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and even white tea. Yuenyeung, a different variant that was first made in Hong Kong, combines black tea, coffee, and milk.

The bubble tea beverage is also available in blended tea drink types. These versions of bubble tea frequently involve the blending of ice cream or smoothies made with fruit and tea.


Although there are numerous ways to making the chewy spheres seen in bubble tea, tapioca pearls  are the most frequently used ingredient. The additives that are combined with the tapioca affect the colour of the pearls. The majority of Boba pearls are made of black sugar.

Jelly is available in a variety of shapes and flavours, including mango, coffee, coconut, konjac, lychee, grass, and rectangular strips. The customary toppings for Taiwanese shaved ice sweets, azuki bean or mung bean paste, provide bubble tea an additional delicate flavour and texture. Many bubble tea cafes also sell aloe, egg pudding, grass jelly, and sago in their drink. Other well-liked toppings for bubble tea include popping boba and spheres with fruit liquids or syrups within. Mango, strawberry, coconut, kiwi, and honey melon are some of the flavours.

Ice and sugar level

Some vendors of bubble tea have attempted to market their goods by packing them in distinctive shapes, like this lightbulb, as an alternative to the common takeaway cup with plastic sealing.

Customers frequently have the choice of how much ice or sugar they want in their bubble tea at these establishments. Ordinarily, the levels of sugar and ice are described (e.g., no sugar, less sugar, typical sugar, more sugar), and they correlate to quarterly intervals (0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%).


Packaging of Bubble Tea

In Southeast Asia, bubble tea is typically sold in plastic takeout cups that are either plastic- or round-cap-sealed. By packaging their products in bottles and other unique shapes, new competitors in the market have tried to stand out. Some people have even abandoned the bottle in favour of plastic bags with seals. However, the conventional plastic takeaway cup with a tight-fitting top is still the most popular packing style.

Bubble Tea Preparation method

The components (sugar, powders, and other flavorants) are traditionally combined by hand in a bubble tea shaker cup before serving.

A bubble tea shaker machine is used in many bubble tea establishments today. As a result, there is no longer a need for people to manually shake the bubble tea. Additionally, it lowers the need for additional staff members because one barista can make numerous cups of bubble tea.

Jhu Dong Auto Tea, a bubble tea establishment in Taiwan, manufactures bubble tea entirely by machine. The ordering, making, and collection phases of the bubble tea sales process are all totally automated. 

History of Bubble Tea

Taiwan has been consuming milk and sugar with its tea since since the Dutch colonised the island between 1624 and 1662.

There are two conflicting theories regarding who first discovered bubble tea. One is related to Taichung's Chun Shui Tang tea house. Liu Han-Chieh, the company's creator, started serving Chinese tea cold after seeing that coffee was also served cold while visiting Japan in the 1980s. His business grew as a result of the novel way of serving tea, and several chains that serve this tea were founded. The company's product development manager, Lin Hsiu Hui, claims that the first bubble tea was created in 1988 when she added tapioca balls to her tea at a staff meeting and encouraged others to try it. The beverage was introduced to the menu since it was well received by all meeting attendees. In the end, it became the best-selling product for the franchise.

Another claim that bubble tea was invented is made by the Hanlin Tea Room in Tainan. It says tea shop owner Tu Tsong-he was inspired to invent bubble tea in 1986 by white tapioca balls he saw in the neighbourhood market of Ah-bó-liâu (also known as Yamuliao in Mandarin). He afterwards made tea with some customary Taiwanese snacks. The Pearl tea was created as a result of that.


With its escalating popularity, bubble tea swept throughout East and Southeast Asia in the 1990s. The bubble tea craze among young people spread quickly in places like Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore. People would wait in line for more than 30 minutes in some well-known stores just to get a cup of the beverage. A variety of bubble tea foods, including bubble tea ice cream, bubble tea pizza, bubble tea toast, bubble tea sushi, bubble tea ramen, etc., have been created in recent years by boba aficionados, who have become obsessed with the beverage.


In Taiwan, bubble tea has evolved from a simple beverage into an enduring symbol of the country's culinary heritage. Taiwan officially proclaimed April 30 as National Bubble Tea Day in 2020. The bubble tea illustration was put out as an alternate passport cover design that same year. According to Al Jazeera, bubble tea has come to be associated with Taiwan and is a significant domestic and international emblem of Taiwanese identity. Taiwan is represented by bubble tea in the context of the Milk Tea Alliance.

Hong Kong

Black tea that has been brewed and evaporated milk are used to make the traditional milk tea of Hong Kong. While milk tea has been a part of people's daily lives for a while, a new wave of "boba tea" was introduced when Taiwanese bubble tea businesses, such as Tiger Sugar, Youiccha, and Xing Fu Tang, expanded into Hong Kong.


Since the 1990s, when the concept of putting tapioca pearls in milk tea first entered China, bubble tea has grown in appeal. According to estimates, coffee consumption in recent years has been outpaced by bubble tea by a factor of 5. Data from the QianZhen Industry Research Institute show that in 2018, the market for tea-related beverages in China was worth 53.7 billion yuan (about $7.63 billion). The yearly revenue from bubble tea restaurants topped 140.5 billion RMB (approximately $20 billion USD) in 2019. Although Taiwanese bubble tea chains like Gong Cha and Coco are still well-liked, more regional brands like Yi Dian Dian, Nayuki, Hey Tea, etc., are now gaining market share.

The growing preoccupation with bubble tea among young people in China has changed the way they connect with one another. A new informal technique of saying thank you is by buying someone a cup of bubble tea. Additionally, it is a popular topic on social media and among friends.


By the late 1990s, bubble tea had made its way into Japan, but it failed to make an impact on the general public. Japan didn't finally experience the bubble tea craze until the 2010s. Cities started to see the emergence of shops from Taiwan, Korea, China, as well as local businesses, and bubble tea has since become one of the most popular social fads. Bubble tea has become so widespread, particularly among teenagers, that teenage girls in Japan created language for it: tapiru. The phrase, which in Japanese is short for sipping tapioca tea, took first place in a 2018 study of "Japanese slang for middle school females." Because of the popularity of tapioca tea, a temporary tapioca theme park opened in Harajuku, Tokyo, in 2019.


Many people in Singapore like the beverage known locally in Chinese as bubble tea. The beverage started being offered in Singapore in 1992, and by 2001, young people were drinking it like crazy. The fierce competition and price war amongst stores, however, meant that the popularity did not persist for very long. As a result, by 2003, the majority of bubble tea establishments had shuttered, and the drink had lost its appeal. The popularity of the beverage only briefly increased when Taiwanese brands like Koi and Gong Cha expanded to Singapore in 2007 and 2009, respectively. As new companies like The Alley and Tiger Sugar hit the market in 2018, interest in bubble tea grew at an unprecedented rate in Singapore. Social media was also a major factor in this resurrection of bubble tea.

United States

Immigrants from Taiwan introduced bubble tea at Californian Taiwanese restaurants in the 1990s. A food court in Arcadia, California, and Fantasia Coffee & Tea in Cupertino, California, are where some of the first standalone bubble tea shops may be found. After that, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, chains including Tapioca Express, Quickly, Lollicup, and Q-Cup appeared, bringing the Taiwanese bubble tea trend to the US. The nickname "boba" for bubble tea is widely used within the Asian American community.

Asian Americans' cultural identities began to be shaped by the beverage as it got more and more popular in the US. The Chinese-American brothers Andrew and David Fung named this phenomena "boba life" in their 2013 music video for the song "Bobalife." The "boba life" is a manifestation of Asian Americans' quest for both cultural and political recognition. Boba stands for a subculture that Asian Americans as social minorities might define themselves as. Additionally, it is insultingly used in the epithet "boba liberal."

The Northeast and Southwest of the country also have significant bubble tea restaurant populations. This is mirrored in the coffeehouse-style teahouse franchises that are native to the areas, like Kung Fu Tea in New York City, Boba Tea Company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and No. 1 Boba Tea in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Southwest is home to many Hispano, Navajo, Pueblo, and other Native American, Hispanic, and Latino American cultures, which is why there are so many boba tea establishments in Albuquerque and Las Vegas.

The Suez Canal's obstruction in March 2021 combined with a severe shipping and supply chain issue on the West Coast of the United States to result in a shortage of tapioca pearls for bubble tea businesses in the United States and Canada. Since the essential component, tapioca starch, is mostly farmed in Asia, the majority of tapioca consumed in the United States is imported.


In the 1990s, individual bubble tea businesses as well as those for other regional beverages like Eis Cendol started to spring up in Australia. As early as 2002, when the Bubble Cup franchise unveiled its first location in Melbourne, chains of outlets had already been formed. Although bubble tea was first linked with the massive number of university students from Asia and the fast-growing Asian immigration, it has gained popularity in various communities in Melbourne and Sydney. "You'll frequently see friendship groups from different backgrounds gather to drink bubble tea together." A bubble tea franchise will have a location in several suburban shopping centres.


Late in 2012, Mauritius's first bubble tea store debuted, and ever since then, the majority of the island's shopping centers have included bubble tea shops. Teenagers began to frequent the bubble tea establishment as a hangout.

Bubble Tea effects on Health

Since bubble tea had grown so popular in Singapore, Mount Alvernia Hospital in Singapore issued a warning in July 2019 about its high sugar level. The hospital acknowledges the advantages of drinking green tea and black tea in lowering the risk of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, but warns that the addition of other ingredients, such as non-dairy creamer and toppings, may increase the tea's fat and sugar content and the risk of chronic diseases. Trans fat is present in non-dairy creamer, a milk substitute, in the form of hydrogenated palm oil. The hospital issued a warning that there is a direct correlation between this oil and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Another issue with bubble tea is its high calorie level, which is partly brought on by the tapioca pearls, which can account for up to half of a 500ml serving's calories due to their high carbohydrate content.

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