What is Bubble Tea? Really? Give Me Some, Please!

So, what is bubble tea? Bubble Tea (also referred to as milk tea or boba) is a tea-based beverage that originated in Taiwan. The drink is made out of milk, black tea, and sugar, with spoonfuls of caramelized tapioca balls known as ‘pearls’ or ‘boba. 

Anytime is an excellent time for a cup of bubble tea. If you’ve never had bubble tea, you may be curious about all the fuss.

You’ll understand once you try it.

But, what is bubble tea exactly, and where did it originate from?

what is bubble tea

Here’s everything you need to know about the drink — from its history to its wide variety of flavors.

If you live in America, you’ve probably noticed the sudden influx of bubble tea shops in your area. It’s a terrific business.

From 2020 to 2027, the bubble tea industry is poised to increase from its current value of $2.4 billion to $4.3 billion.

Not only is it delicious, but the drink is photogenic too. You can’t resist snapping a picture of your bubble tea before you slurp it down.

Bubble tea also comes in a plethora of flavors. With so many choices and shops out there, no bubble tea is ever the same. There are tea, juice, and milk-based versions. There’s even a “cheese foam” variety, where the standout ingredient is, of course, cheese!

What is in Bubble Tea?

a bubble tea shop

The term “bubble tea” may apply to a wide range of beverages.

In fact, bubble tea may sometimes be made without tea. But, to return to its roots, bubble tea starts with tea: green, oolong, or even white tea.

Here’s a quick rundown on the elements of bubble tea: 


Black or green tea is often used as the base for bubble tea. Other syrups such as peach, strawberry, and lychee may be added to taste. The addition of milk may also make the bubble tea a creamier, more decadent beverage.

Other kinds of tea are now used in boba tea shops, and some boba teas contain no tea at all. 


You’ve probably noticed that some bubble teas have a translucent appearance, while others are thick and creamy. Fruit-flavored boba teas often do not include any creamer.

Milk tea, red bean, taro, pudding, and coconut, on the other hand, commonly use milk or powdered creamer to improve their taste and give them a milky texture.


One of the most often used bubble tea sweeteners is honey. Sweetening bubble tea may help counterbalance the tea base’s bitterness and improve the beverage’s taste.


When it comes to bubble tea, the most popular topping is, of course, the namesake bubbles. Bubble tea is often ordered with tapioca pearls, often known as boba.

Tapioca is produced from cassava starch, a South American root vegetable. The pearls are boiled and seasoned with honey or sugar.

It is gluten-free and has a chewy, playful texture similar to mochi!

The result is a delicately sweet, chewy accent that makes drinking bubble tea much more enjoyable.

There are also other options for toppings such as fruit, jam, aloe vera, grass jelly, and popping bubbles.

What is the History of Bubble Tea?

a cup of green bubble tea

The origins of bubble tea all began in Taiwan. However, there are some controversies surrounding who invented bubble tea first. Two tea shops claim the fame — Hanlin Teahouse and Chun Shui Tang in Taichung City.

Taiwanese company Chun Shui Tang was known as a pioneer in the creation of the froth black tea in 1983. After seeing cold coffee offered in Japan, the shop’s creator, Liu Han-Chieh, invented the concept of offering chilled Chinese Tea.

In 1988, Lin Hsiu Hui, accidentally came up with the notion of bubble tea when she combined a Taiwanese treat called “fen yuan,” a sweetened tapioca pudding, with her Assam milk tea.

The Hanlin Teahouse in Tainan City is another possible point of origin. In 1986, Tu Tsong He added white “fenyuan” to the drink as a way to add a look of pearls.

This might be one of the famous reasons why bubble tea is also called “pearl tea”. Instead of using white tapioca balls, Hanlin opted for dark ones, giving rise to the popular bubble tea drink we know and love today.

As time went on, more and more tea shops started serving bubble tea.

At some point in the late 1990s, vendors started using a new sealed lid instead of the original open one, and this is how Taiwan’s bubble tea became so well-known today.

Whatever the case, it’s evident that bubble tea has achieved widespread acceptability and won’t be disappearing any time soon.

Bubble tea is now so popular that it can be found on practically every street corner, and competing establishments are always inventing new flavors. 

Franchises including Gong Cha, Kung Fu Cha, 50Tea, and Chatime have also started launching locations internationally. 

What are The Different Varieties of Bubble Tea?

a beautiful orange bubble tea

Part of the fun of bubble teas is the versatility. Milk tea is the most common flavor for bubble tea. However, there are so many more options to choose from.

Because the drink may be created with (or without) many components, the possibilities are endless.

Here are the most common varieties of bubble tea that you can find: 

  • Milk Tea – A mixture of milk and brewed tea. 
  • Black Tea – This is a general term for teas that have been prepared without the addition of milk. Fresh tea (or freshly brewed tea) is also available in this category.
  • Fruit Bubble Tea – This is a non-caffeinated and non-dairy beverage made from fresh fruits or concentrated fruit syrups. 
  • Smoothies – A blend of dairy or fruit bases. 
  • Fresh Milk – This drink uses fresh milk as its base. It is usually caffeine-free. 
  • Salted Cream – This type of bubble tea usually uses tea as its base and is topped with a think blend of cream. 

There are so many different flavors of bubble tea today. You’ll be spoiled for choice. There are also unique boba flavors for every shop and country you visit. Not sure what to order? Here’s a quick list of the common bubble tea flavors:

  • Classic Milk Tea – You can never go wrong with classic milk tea. Caramelized tapioca pearls are added to milk, which is then shaken up with the crushed ice. There are variations made with various types of kinds of milk and teas.
  • Brown Sugar Bubble Tea – This milk-heavy boba tea contains a generous amount of sweet brown sugar syrup and tapioca pearls.
  • Cheese Tea –  Cheese powder and salt are whipped into heavy cream before being layered on top of cold tea to create a delicious froth.

What Is The Difference Between Bubble and Boba Tea?

two types of bubble tea with ice cream

There is no difference between boba and bubble tea. People have given the drink several nicknames as it has grown in popularity.

Many people refer to the beverage as ‘Bubble Tea, Boba Tea, Boba,’ or ‘Milk Tea,’ depending on where they reside. 

In fact, boba is slang for breasts or nipples in Chinese. The name was coined by a bubble tea store in the 1980s as part of a distinctive marketing strategy. They dubbed them ‘boba’ to get more people to try tapioca for the first time. The campaign was a success, and the phrase has now spread across China and the rest of the world.

Google Trends shows that ‘Bubble Tea’ is the most popular term in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

In the United States, ‘Bubble Tea’ is the most often used word throughout the East Coast, as well as in Washington and Oregon. ‘Boba Tea’ is more well known on the West Coast and in several southern states (such as Texas and Florida).

Is Bubble Tea Healthy?

Ahhh, people always ask this question; fair enough too. We know that tea is healthy, is full of antioxidants, and has proven health benefits, so what about bubble tea?

Well, no, generally, it is not a healthy drink. It is enjoyable to drink, it tastes great, it looks great, but there can be huge amounts of sugar added into it and on top of it.

So if you want to look after your health, drink bubble tea in moderation and opt for a cup of Green Tea to look after your health.

What Is The Point of Bubble Tea?

People ask this often, and for avid tea drinkers like myself, I can say that drinking bubble tea is an experience, a treat even.

Sure there are tea elements inside of it, but with the addition of balls, toppings, and a lot of sugar, the tea, and its benefits get lost in the mix.

Like many things these days that go viral, boba tea looks great and is visually appealing; so many people post, like, and share pics of it.

Would the tea be so popular if it wasn’t for social media? Who knows?

So enjoy in moderation and take a pic or two to show your friends!

What Is Bubble Tea? – The Bottomline

Bubble tea is a delicious, refreshing drink that’s popular with people of all ages. It can be found in many parts of the world, too. So if you’re intrigued and want to try it, here’s everything you need to know about where it comes from. 

Bubble tea is a fun and unique drink from afar, but once you get to know it better, you’ll see there are many more reasons to love it.

It’s a classic drink that never goes out of style — and why would it?

There’s always room for more bubble tea in your life.

Happy Sipping