What the heck is bubble, boba, or pearl tea?

Bubble teaIn certain parts of the United States, Bubble Tea, also known as Boba or Pearl Tea, has suddenly become ubiquitous – following on its huge success in Asia. But bubble tea’s popularity has happened so fast, many don’t know what it is. 

According to this CNN article, the boba phenomenon  began in one tea shop in Taichung,  Taiwan in the early 80s when a tea stand owner added tapioca pearls or “boba”  to cold, flavored tea. The tapioca used is not like the tapioca many of us are familiar with from tapioca pudding, but are rather big, black balls of chewy tapioca (their taste has been compared to  gummy bears). Because the pearls are about the size of small marbles, the tea is usually served with a gigantic straw to allow them to be slurped up. 

The tea is also flavored with a variety of ingredients  – fruits, chocolate, etc. – and often milk is added. Since coming to the United States, many boba shops now serve bubble tea without the tapioca, making it a flavored milk tea.

If you’ve tried bubble tea, let us know how you like it. And if you’d like to try it at home, the EYB Library found 22 recipes – check them out here.


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  • juliamckinney  on  July 30, 2012

    I love bubble tea. I can see how it can be an acquired taste for some, though. The tapioca is different…

  • dixiecaviar  on  July 30, 2012

    I tried bubble tea for the first time while in Taiwan—with the very people who claimed to have invented it! It was a wonderful experience, although I'm afraid no boba tea has since lived up to it…

  • Vanessa  on  August 3, 2012

    I love boba tea too! (Though I tried the durian flavor recently, that that was a mistake.) I wish that there were more places in Charleston that offered boba. While visiting Denver recently, we saw a place named "Cowboba" that is a combination steakhouse and boba tea joint ?!? Unfortunately, we weren't able to try it out …

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