The Buzz About Bubble Tea

boba2A new food craze that has rapidly grown is bubble tea, also referred to as milk tea or pearl tea. This very popular beverage is now widely available almost everywhere in the world. The concept originated in a teahouse in Taiwan during the late 1980s. A manager decided to test a new product during a meeting by pouring white tapioca balls into tea. It soon became the top grossing product at the teahouse and rapidly began to grow in Taiwan. Originally, bubble tea consisted of tea, sugar, and sweetened white tapioca pearls. The white pearls were then transitioned to the larger black tapioca pearls, called boba; that is what is commonly seen in bubble tea today.  As the idea grew in popularity and began to spread across the globe, tea houses started adding flavored syrups to the teas, creating more varieties. Bubble tea has become so popular, that in some countries, even McDonalds offers bubble tea on their menus! Bubble tea is a trend that has sky rocketed in popularity.

Bubble tea originally consisted of sweetened tea and sweetened tapioca pearls or balls, however there are now many variations to try. In order to create a wider range of flavors, tea shops started to add milk or non dairy creamers as well as syrups to create a wider range of flavor. Sometimes agar jellies or nata de coco (jellied coconut water), are substituted for the tapioca balls. In the summer, tea slushies that have a smoothie like textures are popular, and meant to be consumed fast as a way to help cool off. This sweet treat has endless combinations of flavors and pearls and there is an option for almost everyone!

Though the treat is very popular and can be vegan in most cases, the beverage is excessively sweet. Making the tea at home can be a healthier option. Simply leave out the milk, or substitute low fat milk or a non dairy milk substitute. This cuts down on the fat and cholesterol in the drink. Another option is to use less sugar in the tea or boba, as those commonly made in most stores are excessively sweet.

Making bubble tea in the dorm or at home is quick and a lot cheaper than going to the store.  The ingredients are inexpensive and is easy to find at the Asian Market or specialty store. Purchase the tapioca pearls in a large bag, your favorite flavor of tea, and dairy or non-dairy creamer. These ingredients will make a lot of tea and will last a long time. To brew the tea, simply steep the tea bag or tea leaves in hot water according to the directions. Next, let it cool on a counter, and then place it in the refrigerator to chill. Next, simply boil the dried pearls. Usually the pearls are boiled in sweetened water so they can absorb the sweetness, but that step is not necessary. The boba typically takes around 5 to 10 minutes of boiling. To make the final product, mix the brewed tea with your option of milk and add ice. Put the boba at the bottom of a cup and pour the iced tea mixture over the tapioca pearls. The best way to eat this treat is to use large straws so the pearls can be drunk. These straws are commonly found at local Asian markets,
or even some specialty stores. Once everything is mixed, enjoy the treat you just made!

Bubble tea is a great snack to enjoy anytime of the day. It’s relatively low maintenance to make and very fun to drink.  Trying to get all of the boba or jellies becomes almost a game, adding to its popularity. Bubble tea is the new craze that is here to stay!

Photo Credit: Michelle Przybilla

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