One of the most famous things ever invented in Taiwan, boba tea, also called bubble tea, bubble milk tea, pearl milk tea, has transformed the street food scenes all over Taiwan, Asia, North America, and the world. But, do you know where it came from?

History of Boba

Nobody can confirm the real story of where boba came from. However, it is commonly acknowledged that Chun Shui Tang Teahouse (春水堂人文茶館) in Taiching, Taiwan, was the one who started it all. In the 1980s, it was one of the first vendors to sell iced milk tea, which the owner added to the menu after discovering iced coffee in Japan. Shortly after, one of their employees decided to mix the tapioca pearl balls into her glass of iced milk tea. At the time, tapioca balls were only served in a traditional Taiwanese dessert called fen yuan (粉圓). People would add them to shaved ice, tofu pudding (Douhua 豆花), and other traditional desserts.

Different Types of Boba 

There are many different types of boba pearls that have been created since the 1980s, and more varieties continue to pop up, as teashops up their game in the boba tea competition!

Black Boba: Also known as brown sugar boba, this is the original kind and the most common type of boba you see at teashops.

Clear Boba: Clear boba pearls are made from cassava root, a vegetable in the yam family. You can find these at most teashops.

Flavored Tapioca Boba: To make the clear boba more interesting, flavored syrup or fillings are added. For example, One Zo teashop makes flavored boba in house, including honey boba, taro boba, caramel boba, and black sesame boba. The possibilities are endless.  

Popping Boba: Also known as juice balls, these are filled with fruit juices. They burst in your mouth as you chew on the pearls.

Mini Boba: These are just the same flavor as the black boba, only smaller, about half the size as the regular ones.

According to a market report by Reuters published in early 2019, the global bubble tea market was valued at $5,370 million in 2018, and is expected to reach $11,000 million by the end of 2025. This represents a growth rate of 9.3% from 2019 to 2025. To compete in this growing market, businesses are also looking to expand in non-beverage items, such as boba pizza, boba ice cream bars, boba pineapple cake, just to name a few!

What’s your favorite boba tea? There’s really no wrong answer : )

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