Bubble tea is now officially a global trend in the beverage market. Even though the world’s love affair with the drink began in China during the 1980s, Bubble tea exploded into international consciousness between 2000 and 2004.
What exactly is this interesting cold tea that everyone seems to enjoy? Where did it really come from? What is the best way to prepare it? And finally, how can people discover more about bubble tea, find out where to buy it, and learn about purchasing bubble tea kits?
What is Bubble Tea? Who Invented It?
It’s easy to be confused about bubble tea because the drink goes by so many different names depending where it is sold. Also known as boba, boba milk tea, pearl milk tea, tapioca pearl drink, PT, momi milk tea, bubble drink, QQ, boba ice tea, zhen zhu nai cha, BBT, and boba juice, it is thought to have been invented in Taichung, Taiwan around 1982. Why “bubble”? That name caught on because the shaking process used to prepare the tea causes a layer of foam to form on the surface.
No one can pinpoint the exact date or place of its origin, but by the late 1980s, bubble tea was a bona fide hit in and around Taiwan. The most basic configuration of ingredients usually includes flavored fruit jelly, tapioca balls, fruit, milk and ice. The whole conglomeration is typically shaken or blended vigorously.
While there are hundreds of different ingredient combinations, standard bubble tea sold in most Asian countries today contains tea and milk, or green tea and milk. Those who drink it for the first time often note its lightly sweetened taste, less than soft drinks. Bubble tea is served cold and is a non-carbonated beverage that contains no alcohol (unless you add your own) and very little caffeine.
How to Make Bubble Tea at Home
One of the best things about bubble tea is that it’s easy to make in the comfort of your kitchen. To whip up a 16-ounce serving, complete with tapioca pearls, do the following:
Assemble a half-cup of cooked-then-chilled tapioca pearls, a cup of crushed ice, one cup of your favorite tea (green, orange pekoe, or strong black work best for a first-time tasting, and make sure it is already chilled), a teaspoon of sugar or honey, one cup of milk.
Put the tapioca pearls into a large glass, but place everything else in a shaker or blender and mix until there is some foam/froth on top. Pour the mixture over the pearls and be sure to use an extra-wide straw, or just use a spoon to eat the pearls as you drink the tea.
Note: Preparing the pearls is simple. Place one cup of them into a pot that contains 7 cups of boiling water. Let the pearls boil for about 15 minutes and then simmer them for 15 additional minutes. Rinse them off with cold water and they’re ready to use in your bubble tea.
Where to Find Bubble Tea Kits and Utensils
Many coffee and tea shops in Asia, the U.S., Europe and Africa sell bubble tea made fresh. If you want to make some at home, but wish to simplify the shopping and preparation, there are bubble tea kits for purchase online. Most kits include wide straws, tea powder mix, tapioca balls ready to use, and optional sweetener.
For those who would rather do most of the preparation themselves, there are many varieties of tapioca pearls for sale, some for use with black tea and some for green tea specifically.
Believe it or not, sometimes the special straws are the hardest “ingredient” to find, but they are easily obtainable via Internet sellers.
So many people fall in love with bubble tea that a small publishing niche has grown up around the beverage. Because there are so many different ways to make it, recipe varieties are virtually endless. Look for books online and in the food section of local bookstores.
Shhhh. Adults Only!
Want to try bubble tea the way bartenders prepare it? There are a few books out that list all the alcohol options for bubble tea recipes. “Sailor Moonshine” is just one of the more popular versions of alcohol-added bubble tea.
There is no end in sight for the bubble tea craze, as the popularity of the drink has now traveled literally all the way around the world.