Updated: Mar 26, 2022
There’s a buzz around Sydney for Taiwan’s most sought after drink that it’s common to see people with a bubble tea in hand on the streets of Australia.
But what exactly makes it so popular and what’s the history behind this drink? The market for it has become super saturated with Asian inspired flavours but just how did we get boba crazy? If you call yourself a bubble tea lover, let’s test your knowledge and have a good ol’ boba talk!
Bubble tea which has many other names like boba tea, tapioca tea and pearl tea, is a Taiwanese iced tea that has a layer of tapioca pearls that sit on the bottom of the drink. The tea-based can be mixed with milk, fruit, flavoured syrup and different toppings. With an aesthetic presentation and several flavours to choose from to cater to different tastes, the real question is why wouldn’t you love this drink?
Did you know the name bubble tea doesn’t actually refer to the tapioca pearls? Yes, that’s right! The drink was commonly prepared by shaking the ice, milk, tea and sugar in a cocktail shaker which resulted in a lot of bubbly foam and hence the name bubble tea!
THE HISTORY OF BOBA/BUBBLE TEA CULTURE
Boba culture started in the late '80s, most likely in Taipei (though other cities in Taiwan often claim ownership). Milk tea was already well-known in Taiwan, as tea drinking was a robust practice in East Asia. At the time, both shaved ice and tapioca balls were common desserts.
During one hot summer, a savvy food stall owner thought to combine three popular elements into one beverage—tapioca balls on the bottom, followed by a layer of shaved ice, and milk tea to fill out the rest of the drink.
The tea became known as boba because the term is slang for breasts in Chinese (a reference to the spherical shape of the tapioca balls).
Making the tapioca pearls and bubble tea is actually pretty easy and very fun to make- although based on my experience, it can be a little time-consuming!
Wanna experiment with flavours and try it yourself?
Follow the recipe below! (Little ASMR moment, anyone?)
Dominos in Taiwan have combined pizza and boba together! Do you think this is going too far or is this something you would try with your boba-crazy friends?
BUBBLE TEA PLACES
Chatime was one the first of the international bubble tea chains to arrive in Australia. Chatime often adds new flavours to their menu, whether they are there to stay or not. Their current release was the Pandan Iced Milky and the whipped Philly mouse (sorry to all those lactose intolerant people out there, but I know that won’t stop some of you!) Chatime is one of the few stores to make it clear that their toppings are vegetarian and gluten-free, not to mention that they also tell you the energy levels of the drinks. Let’s not forget about their loyalty card, where if you earn enough points (you earn 10 points for every $1) you can pay for your drink with your Chatime points! If it’s your first time having bubble tea, Chatime is a good place to start!
Recommended drink: Lychee Green Tea
Want to incorporate your skincare routine into your drink? Try Gotcha’s collagen range! Gotcha boasts that Gotcha Fresh Tea is farmed and picked from a single tea plantation in Mount Ali and therefore, claim unsurpassed, provenance. They also have their yogumuji (Japanese style yoghurt) series which is a must-try. They also put fresh fruit into the fruity teas like their lychee green tea (good luck getting it out of the cup though!) Want something truly unique? Try their cheese foam durian drink! What are you waiting for? Go visit your nearest Gotcha now!
Recommended drink: Aloe Vera Collagen
If you’ve fallen into the world of TikTok as we did, you’ve probably seen Xing Fu Tang on your for you page. Their selling point is their brown sugar pearl milk tea, which is definitely a must-try. Their pearl making procedure is displayed for all to see and when they are made, they are stored in a golden wok full of syrup. While admittedly their drinks are a bit pricey, they have some unique flavours you can try like their strawberry pearl milk tea and matcha pearl milk tea. Worried about being bored while waiting for your tea to be prepared? Not to worry, you can always check out your fortune! That’s right! All you have to do is pick a stick that has a number on it and then goes to the drawers and find your corresponding fortune. Test your luck, enjoy some bubble tea and head down to Xing Fu Tang!
Recommended drink: Signature Brown Sugar Milk Tea with Pearls
If you’re looking for an aesthetic, insta-worthy drink, Bubble Nini is the place to go! They also have cute names for their teas like Honey I’m Home and So Matcha Love, there are many beautiful drinks to choose from! Bubble Nini also caters to those who are vegan, diabetic or lactose intolerant, all you have to do is ask their staff for recommendations or for help customising your drinks! If you’re that person who always takes photos of their drinks before consuming it, Bubble Nini is a must!
Recommended drink: Strawberry kisses boba
Bio: Eunice Cruz is a Filipino-Australian currently in her second year of Journalism and International Studies (China Major) at the University of Technology Sydney. She is always eager to learn more about other Asian cultures and is particularly interested in Korean language and culture. She has a strong passion for food, beauty and make-up. She also has a keen interest in investigative journalism and is events director of UTS Journalism Society.