There Are Bubbles In My Tea
At first sight, flavored tea with tapioca balls or pearls may seem a very unusual beverage. The color of the tea can range from a pale milky tan to a pastel green or even the hue of orange sherbet depending on the flavor. Dark opaque balls sink and pile to the bottom of the standard plastic cup usually sealed at the top with cellophane or (dome lid). An oversized straw usually patterned in a bright color is punched into the cellophane for drinking the tea and slurping the tapioca balls.
It can almost be considered a national drink in Taiwan where it originated and took by storm in the 1980’s. Since then, it has attracted a following in many other countries including the rest of Asia and here in the states. Hundreds of bubble tea cafes have opened in California alone.
Known by a variety of names including boba tea, pearl tea, pearl milk tea, or boba nai cha, the drink was first served in Taichung, Taiwan. The most accredited story regarding its origin belongs to the Chun Shui Tang Teahouse. Liu Han-Chieh, the owner, took the Japanese concept of serving cold coffee and applied it to tea in his establishment. In 1988, his product developer Lin Hsiu Hui poured her dessert, a tapioca pudding, into her iced tea during a meeting, and behold, a new idea was born. It quickly became the best-selling tea on their menu.
Most tea shops offer two major types: milk teas and fruit-flavored teas. Another variation is fruit smoothies. Beyond this, there are a myriad of options. The tea can be cold or hot, but chilled and served with ice is definitely more commonly ordered. The most popular drinks are green or black tea and milk-based. Milk can be omitted, and even the amount of sugar can be customized to ones liking for sweetness. Fruit flavorings can also be added and include mostly tropical fruits like passion fruit, kiwi, and lychee. Non-fruit flavors such as ginger, mocha, or taro are other options.
The tapioca balls, which come in different sizes and can also be flavored, provide a chewy snack within the drink.As odd as this creation may seem to those who aren’t familiar with it, try it and you might just hooked on this fun, bubbly beverage.
San Francisco Restaurants & Cafes serving bubble tea:
Ten Ren Tea
949 Grant Ave. (at Jackson St.)
Cool Tea Bar (2 locations)
643 Clay Street (between Montgomery St. and Kearny St.)
728 Pacific Ave. Suite 118 (between Grant Ave. and Stockton St.)
Bubble Tea & Dessert Cafe
1788 32nd Ave. (at Noriega)
Boba Guys (2 locations)
429 Stockton Street (between Bush St. and Sutter St)
3491 19th Street (at Valencia St.)