How did tapioca balls of all things end up in tea? And why is this somewhat strange beverage so popular?
Well, the answer to the latter is probably a tricky one and I would rather not venture down that path for now. As for how tapioca balls ended it tea, the trend seems to have begun in Chun Shui Tang, an antique teahouse in Taiwan.
Reportedly, a staff working at this Taiwanese franchise thought of adding Tapioca pearls into her favorite iced tea as a way of enjoying the pearls in the hot weather.
It happened to be an instant hit among her colleagues and regular customers, and soon began appearing on the menus of other teahouses in the neighborhood. This was roughly 3 decades ago. Today boba tea or bubble tea has gained quite a following all over the world, and especially in Southeast Asian countries.
The chewy “boba” or bubbles are essentially made of cassava starch (tapioca flour), water and brown sugar (along with some black food coloring added for aesthetics in most commercial settings). They were originally used for a thickening agent in desserts, as a cheaper substitute for pearl sago.
The beverage itself may be either white, black or green tea, (with added flavoring), but it’s not always as simple as that. Specialty shops are known to add some peculiar ingredients to their tea, perhaps in an attempt create unique concoctions that will draw in the crowds.
While all that starchy sweetness does no favors for one’s health, boba tea is widely enjoyed by people of all ages, and the many specialty boba shops popping up across the globe is enough proof of this. What makes it so appealing, you ask? Maybe it’s the fructose-induced pleasure, maybe it’s the fun texture of the pearls, we’ll never know.
Believe it or not, boba culture is a thing that exists. For many Asian-Americans, visiting their favorite boba shops is as much of a social experience as going for a coffee with friends, and it’s an integral part of their daily life.
For others, it’s more to do with a fascination with the hype. People in Japan have quite literally waited in lines to get a taste of this trendy beverage as soon as popular Taiwanese brands landed there. Not too long ago in Jakarta, an entire festival dedicated to the celebration of boba tea had taken place, and now Singapore is getting ready to welcome fans into the pastel wonderland of The Bubble Tea Factory.
Whatever the reason for its popularity, the boba tea craze is definitely here to stay, at least for a couple more years. With an expected market value of $3,214 million by 2023, this drink with humble beginnings is sure to cause much more of a sensation.
Wondering where you can grab your boba tea here in Male’? Secret Recipe Maldives had recently added it to their menu, although it had run out of stock pretty soon (as most good things unfortunately do), but we have our fingers crossed!
Words by Sadha