What is Bubble Tea?

There’s another popular drink that’s taken the world by storm. Bubble tea, or boba, i...

What is Bubble Tea?

Move over, Champagne! There’s another popular drink that’s taken the world by storm. Bubble tea, or boba, is a refreshingly sweet tea-based drink that can be made in a number of ways and with a diverse range of flavours. Here, we give you some background on this bubbly beverage and share with you with a delicious bubble tea recipe for how to make bubble tea at home, using our Nerada Black tea of course.

Bubble tea goes by quite a few names. In addition to bubble tea and boba (named for the tapioca ‘pearls’ that are a key ingredient), its other monikers include pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, boba tea and zhen zhu nai cha. The drink has its origins in Taiwan, where it began ‘popping up’ in the early 1980s.

Like the bubbles in your mouth, its popularity exploded in the 1990s, especially among young people, and spread quickly throughout East Asia and South-East Asia. Originally, it featured hot Taiwanese black tea, but these days, you’ll most often find it served cold.


Bubble tea comes in many varieties and flavours. There are both milk teas and non-milk teas, and, of the non-milk varieties, there are even fruity, juice-based versions.

Tea, of course, serves as the base, and standard recipes typically call for black tea, green tea, or oolong. Milk options vary, too, with bubble tea incorporating regular milk, condensed milk, powdered milk, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk. Then – and most important – there are the unique ‘bubbles’ for which the tea is famous. Generally, these are indeed tapioca pearls, small balls of tapioca starch that comes from the cassava plant.

In their pure form, these pearls are hard, white, and lacking in flavour. However, by cooking them with flavoured syrups, they evolve into those springy, textural, slurp-worthy bubbles that make this drink one of a kind. Even the colour of the pearls can change depending on the ingredients combined with the tapioca. The most common are black tapioca pearls, which get their colour from blending with brown sugar.

There are alternatives to tapioca pearls, such as flavoured jellies in varying shapes and sizes, that deliver a similar unique texture to boba. Flavours can include coconut, lychee, mango, coffee and more. Then there are ‘popping boba’, similar to tapioca pearls but with fruit juices or syrups inside them. These come in myriad flavours, such as mango, passionfruit, melon, strawberry, kiwi or coconut.

Too many options? Just want to try the classic? Go for a basic milk tea, which typically comprises black tea, frothy milk, ice, and the famed tapioca pearls.

If you don’t feel like venturing out, you can even make bubble tea at home. Try this delicious recipe that serves 4 and heroes our Nerada Black Tea. Find recipe here.