Bubble tea also known as boba, is a tea beverage that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. The literal translation from Chinese would be pearl milk tea. The word bubble refers to “bubbling”, the process by which certain types of bubble tea are made, and not the actual tapioca balls/pearls). Drinks with large pearls are consumed along with the beverage through wide straws, while drinks with small pearls are consumed through normal straws. Bubble tea is especially popular in many East Asian and Southeast Asian regions such as China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Brunei, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more recently popularized in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. You can read more about tapioca here: Tapioca Pearls, Boba and Sago Seeds.
Bubble tea is a mixture of iced or hot sweetened tea (black or green), milk, and often other flavorings. The distinctive characteristics of bubble tea are the black gummy balls made of tapioca or, more commonly in East Asia, yam starch called pearls, boba or balls that sit at the bottom of the cup. The pearls are larger than those found in tapioca pudding, with a diameter of at least 6 millimeters, but smaller ones are occasionally used.
Bubble drinks are usually cool, refreshing, and a sweet drink with tapioca pearls sitting on the bottom of a clear cup. Sometimes the drink is made with fresh fruits, milk, and crushed ice to create a healthy milk shake. You can also find drinks that are made of powdered flavoring, creamer, water, and crushed ice. And if you like it like the Asians do, the cool drink usually includes a healthy tea, infused by a flavoring.
The original bubble tea consisted of a hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and honey. As this drink became more popular, variations were created. Initially iced versions with a hint of peach or plum flavoring began to appear, then more fruit flavors were added until, in some variations, the tea was removed entirely in favor of real fruits. Today you can find shops entirely devoted to bubble tea, similar to juice bars of the early 1990s. They usually contain colored pearls that are chosen to match whatever fruit juice is used, in addition to brightly colored oversize straws for sucking up the pearls.
Drinking the pearls through a straw is common, usually a large diameter straw is provided to accommodate the particular size of the pearls. A common error for the inexperienced consumer of the beverage is to empty the container of fluid before all of the pearls are consumed, thus making it difficult or impossible to collect the pearls with sufficient vacuum using a straw.
The consistency of tapioca pearls are somewhere between jell-o and chewing gum.
Bubble tea has many other names, including: bubble tea, bubble cup, tapioca tea, pearl tea, milk tea, booboo, hen zhu nia cha, boba drink, pearl tea drink, boba ice tea, boba, boba nai cha, zhen zhou nai cha, pearl milk tea, pearl ice tea, black pearl tea, tapioca ball drink, BBT, PT, pearl shake, QQ (which means chewy in Chinese) and possible many others.
On the picture below you can see ready bubble tea (powdered green tea) mix which taste generally like sweetened green tea with milk. You can use tapioca pearls for any fruit smoothie, milk shake, drinking chocolate or any other drink you can imagine. If you can’t find fat straws, serve your drink in shorter glass with a spoon ;)
Drink on the picture with black tapioca pearls has been made from ready green boba tea mix, rainbow tapioca pearl drink has been made of simple banana milkshake with added brown sugar. To prepare it, cook some large tapioca pearls in hot water, for 5 minutes, then rinse with cold water, drain, place in the glass, pour over drink of your choice.