Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, boba milk tea, boba juice or simply boba) (Chinese: 珍珠奶茶; pinyin: zhēnzhū nǎichá, also 波霸奶茶; bōbà nǎichá) is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in Taichung in the 1980s. Most bubble tea recipes contain a tea base mixed/shaken with fruit or milk, to which chewy tapioca balls or fruit jellies are often added. Ice-blended versions are usually mixed with fruit or syrup, resulting in a slushy consistency. There are many varieties of the drink with a wide range of ingredients. The two most popular varieties are bubble milk tea with tapioca and bubble milk green tea with tapioca.
The most accredited story about the creation of bubble tea is the Chun Shui Tang Teahouse in Taichung, Taiwan. The founder of the teahouse, Liu Han-Chieh, observed how the Japanese served cold coffee while on a visit in the 1980s, and applied this method to tea.The new style of serving tea propelled his business, and multiple chains were established. This expansion would be the stepping stone for the rapid expansion of bubble tea. The actual creator of bubble tea is Lin Hsiu Hui, the teahouse’s product development manager, who poured a sweetened pudding with tapioca balls into the iced tea drink during a meeting in 1988. The beverage was well received by the people at the meeting, leading to its inclusion on the menu. It ultimately became the franchise’s top-selling product.
An alternative origin is the Hanlin teahouse in Tainan, Taiwan, owned by Tu Tsong-he. He made tea using traditional white tapioca, which has the appearance of pearls, supposedly resulting in the so-called “pearl tea”. Shortly after, Hanlin changed the white tapioca balls to the black version that is seen most today.
The drink became popular in most parts of East and Southeast Asia during the 1990s. The drink is well received by global consumers from Canada and USA, specifically around areas with high Asian demographics.