The History of Bubble Tea
Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s but the exact origins of the drink are strongly debated.
It’s widely agreed that bubble tea (also known as pearl milk, tapioca milk, or boba tea) originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. The exact origins, however, are unclear. There are a number of competing accounts. Let's look at the history of bubble tea.
The Origin Dispute
The title of inventor is claimed by two competing Taiwanese teahouses. The Hanlin Tea Room in Tainan argues that it first created the drink back in 1986 when the owner, Tu Tsong-Hu, decided to add tapioca balls to black milk tea. However, the Chun Shui Tang tearoom in Taichung insists that an employee named Lin Hsiu-hui invented the beverage in 1987 by mixing her favourite childhood snack, tapioca balls, with iced milk tea and lemon black tea.
The debate over the history of bubble tea has raged ever since. Even after filing several lawsuits against one another and going to court in an attempt to resolve the dispute, neither one was able to patent their product successfully.
Rise In Popularity
The bubbly beverage exploded in popularity in the 90s, spreading across East and Southeast Asia. Shops began opening all over the globe, carrying the bubble tea trend as far as the US, UK and Australia.
Though black tea was originally used, green tea, oolong tea, and white tea are all popular. The tapioca pearls have also evolved over time, with the introduction of fruit powders and addition of elements like almond jelly and red beans. More recently, the bubble tea craze has transcended beverages to be included in various foods such as ice cream, toast, and pizza.
Bubble tea has now become synonymous with Taiwan, representing a symbol of the nation’s culture and food history. There is even a National Bubble Tea Day in the country, celebrated on April 30th. Takeaway tea shops can be found on almost every street corner, with new flavours being continually developed to compete against rival chains.
Bubble Tea Today
Today bubble tea is more popular than ever. And there are no signs that the growth is slowing. All across the UK more and more shops are opening to serve boba to the masses. There has been a growth in boba being added to the menu of traditional cafes to broaden their appeal.
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