The sudden craze and addiction of bubble tea amongst youths has caused a boom in the bubble tea business. Countless establishments have popped up all over Malaysia, and most of them claim to be “Taiwan’s No. 1 Bubble Tea.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re simply curious or an avid fan of bubble tea, you must have at least tried one of them. With over 50 brands of bubble tea available in Kuala Lumpur alone, it is no wonder that Malaysians are all spoilt for choice.
Origins of Bubble Tea
Bubble tea is also known as boba or pearl milk tea. The most common form of bubble tea would be milk tea containing ‘pearls’ or tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink and is served with an oversized straw. This drink was originally created in Taiwan during the 1980s.
Two rival chains lay claim to being the sole creator of the addictive and highly desired drink, Hanlin Tea Room in Tainan and Chun Sui Tang in Taichung. It was claimed that Tu Tsong-he from the Hanlin Tea Room invented the drink on a whim by adding white tapioca balls into his iced teas.
On the other hand, Liu Han-chieh of Chun Sui Tang noticed that the Japanese enjoyed iced coffee, so he tried out the concept with tea. The addition of pearls to iced tea occurred in 1988 when Liu poured some tapioca balls into iced teas during a meeting. Although the matter was never resolved, it is still a remarkable invention that came to be.
With tea-drinking already the norm in the East, naturally, milk tea was already well-known throughout Taipei. Bubble tea is a versatile beverage that is often made up of milk tea, black or oolong tea, fruit flavours, sweeteners and tapioca pearls (boba). The common misconception is that the “bubbles” refer to the pearls when in actual fact, the name bubble tea came from the formation of bubbles when the drink was shaken.
Endless Bubble Teas
There are seemingly endless varieties of bubble tea. With the popularity of bubble tea spreading fast throughout the globe, it is no wonder that there is said to be over 250 kinds of bubble tea. It may be a little daunting to consumers that are new to the scene but do read on for a simple introduction to the world of bubble tea. When ordering bubble teas, customers have various choices to make, including the type of tea, milk and additional toppings.
Types of Tea in Bubble Tea
Most bubble tea is made using black tea, green tea or oolong tea. Some fragrant variations such as jasmine green tea is also used.
Black tea (or red tea, as they call it in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) – black tea, specifically Earl Grey, is the most favourable option for bubble tea.
Green tea – Bubble tea fans also adore their drink to be made using green tea powders such as matcha and even jasmine green tea.
Oolong tea – The favourite is standard oolong tea, but green oolong is also seen as a popular option.
Coffee – It seems that some variation of bubble tea involves the combination of both milk tea and coffee.
Types of Milk added to Bubble Tea
To give bubble tea its creamy texture and flavour, milk and milk products are often added. These include non-dairy creamer, fresh milk, condensed milk, ice cream, soy milk, Calpis (or similar yogurt-like drinks) and even coconut milk. At times, milk is not added to sour fruit flavoured bubble teas because the acidity from the fruit or fruit syrup may curdle the milk.
Types of Toppings or Additives in Bubble Tea
Tapioca pearls – Traditionally 1/12th inch in diameter and is available in black, white or paste colours.
Boba – Larger tapioca pearls that are about 1/4th inch in diameter.
“Frog eggs” or Shan Fen Yuan – Wild basil seed that is referred to as frog eggs, due to its uncanny similarity when added to liquid.
Taro balls – These cooked, sweet balls are made from taro plant are often purple in colour.
Sweet potato balls – These are shaped like a log that has been cut cylindrically into chunks. These are yellow in colour.
Konjac jelly – This is a sort of vegan gelatine that is commonly found around the world.
Aloe Vera jelly – These usually come in cubes.
Nata de Coco jelly – These are often cut into strips and are considered the healthier option compared to tapioca pearls.
Where to find Bubble Tea in Malaysia
Readers may want to try out unique handcrafted pearls in the Taiwan-based Cha Wan Jia. Located strategically in SS15, Subang Jaya, they offer customers rainbow pearls, mango pearls, sakura pearls and even dragon fruit pearls in their beverages. These drinks are not only refreshing to the palate but are aesthetically pleasing, which has led them to capture the hearts of many youths.
Image Credit to: Kevyn Tapnio
One of the few brands that came to Malaysia in the initial wave, The Alley remains a familiar favourite among Malaysians. With their signature deer logo, The Alley pride themselves in crafting their own sugar cane-based syrup and making their own pearls or “deerioca,” as they call it, from scratch.
Image Credit to: The Phnom Penh Post
KOI Thé made its debut in 1Utama Shopping Centre in 2017. Now with multiple locations across the nation, their signature golden bubbles set them apart from the rest of the brands which usually use black pearls.
Image Credit to: Hanna McLean
Tiger Sugar became an overnight sensation with its signature beverage, Brown Sugar Boba Milk Mousse. Despite being a newcomer to the market, long queues can be seen at all of its outlets. The drizzled brown sugar at the side of the cups mimics tiger stripes, which is how the brand got its name.
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