The Iconic Milk Tea #3

What comes to your mind when we talk about bubble tea?

Hmm.. should we add pearls or not? Should we have the one with milk? Which flavor should we have? Any toppings?

I remembered the first time when I sipped my first cup of bubble milk tea. I was in my teens, and bubble tea was trendy among students with everyone raving about the sweet black chewy pearls. If your bubble tea has no black pearls, it is not called bubble tea! Bubble tea stalls started mushrooming across our tiny island from taiwanese themed cafes to pasar malams! That was in the early 2000s.

In those teenage years, drinking bubble tea is like bonding time with our kakis. We’ll chat about our favorite stars, which good movies are coming up and where to holiday as we sip and chew on the pearls. If it’s a taiwanese themed cafe, listening to popular Chinese songs, ordering a piece of coffin toast, some tian bu la (tempuras) or a bowl of oyster mee sua are some sure to eat great food that goes well with any flavor of bubble tea!

Originating from Taiwan, before bubble tea was created, it was first known as hand-shaken tea (shou yao), which was first introduced by Chang Fan Shu. The tea was made using cocktail shakers resulting in a layer of rich and silky bubbles that coated the drink. At that time, there were no black pearls in the drink.

As we traced further down, we found there were 2 variations of how the black pearls were invented and added to the tea. One, was by Tu Tsong He, an entrepreneur who decided to add fenyuan (tapioca balls) into green tea. From there, he added bigger tapioca balls for a richer and chewier taste which became the classic bubble milk tea loved by fans across the continents!

Another version was by Lin Hsiu Hui, a product manager at bubble tea chain Chun Shui Tang. Out of fun, she poured some tapioca balls into her Assam tea and drank it in the staff meeting. Everyone at the meeting loved the new taste and she decided to roll it out at their outlets.

Be it Tu or Lin version, the outcome was bubble milk tea with black pearls became a hit in Taiwan. Its popularity spread across Asia like China, Japan, Singapore and even to the U.S and Europe!

From the classic black pearls, the toppings have evolved into fruit flavored pearls, fruit jellies, puddings and other types of toppings!

Do you have a favorite bubble tea?

Have you tried making your own bubble milk tea at home? We've found a link that shows how to make this addictive drink!

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