The bubble milk tea craze has taken Malaysia and various other countries by storm. With the rise of bubble milk tea across the globe, this Taiwanese drink has caused the boom of various milk tea establishments in Malaysia. In every city or major shopping mall, there will be multiple bubble tea shops serving their signature drinks.
While some prefer black tea, the drink is mainly milk tea mixed with chewy tapioca balls. The tapioca balls are commonly referred to as pearls, bubbles and boba.
What is Bubble Milk Tea?
In the 80s, bubble tea was first invented in Taiwan. With countless variations of flavours and toppings, the drink has stolen the hearts of many. Unlike Western teas, the unique ingredient of ‘pearls’ in the tea makes the drink enjoyable with bursts of sweetness as you bite into the pearls.
Boba, or ‘pearls’, being the more colloquial term, are tiny starchy tapioca balls ranging from 5mm to 10mm in diameter. It has a jelly-like texture, and taste rather bland in its original form. Vendors tend to soak them in brown sugar syrup for the tapioca balls to absorb the sugar concoction before adding the ‘bubbles’ into tea.
A cooling drink for the humid weather of the region, no wonder Bubble Milk Tea is so popular in Southeast Asia!
History of Bubble Milk Tea
Besides the fact that it came from Taichung, there’s not much known about how this drink came about. There are, however, two likely origins.
The first being Tu Tsong-he’s random encounter with white tapioca balls at a nearby market. As he brought them home to try it out alongside his tea-time beverage, it resulted in what was to be known as pearl tea.
The second story, which has somewhat more credibility, starts with a visit to Japan, where a tea house owner was inspired by how the Japanese would serve their iced coffee. The owner applied the same technique to the tea he sold, and while it became popular, it wasn’t until his daughter randomly added fen yuan (粉圓) to her tea during a boring meeting that Bubble Milk Tea was truly born.
With origins steeped deep in Taiwanese culture, the drink happens to be immensely popular in the States, especially in regions where Vietnamese communities thrive. No surprise there as Vietnam is also the first country after Taiwan where the bubble milk tea industry boomed.
Variations of Bubble Milk Tea
Bubble Milk Tea has evolved over the years. Since it’s a trendy drink, vendors love to come up with trendy flavours with the timeless milk tea base.
In the past year, we’ve seen durian-flavoured milk tea grace the stalls of Tealive, Crème Brûlée Milk Tea from Royaltea, even an alcoholic variation in Singapore. In Vietnam, a local favourite seems to be the Rice Milk Tea from Chamichi.
Whatever your preference, it seems like there’s always a bubble tea to meet your cravings, which goes to show how incredibly versatile this drink is.
However, boba lovers should be warned of the unhealthy side effects of this sugary treat. An average cup of bubble milk tea can have up to 335 calories, which is roughly 30 minutes on the treadmill, to give you a better picture.
But fear not, because of how customisable it is, patrons can reduce their sugar levels in each drink. For our lactose-intolerant friends, drinking fruity tea with boba still provides the cooling sensation without ever having to consume any dairy.
Where to Find Bubble Milk Tea
In almost every street or mall in the city, you are sure to find a myriad of bubble tea shops. But for those days where you’re too tired to venture out for bubble milk tea, you can explore your options via foodpanda too!