Pearl tea, which is also commonly referred to boba or bubble tea, was first introduced in the 1980’s by a Taiwanese street vendor who created the sweet and usual cold beverage to sell to children after school.
In just a few years, word quickly spread throughout Asia about the luscious, strange concoction of tea, milk, flavoring, ice and black tapioca balls (or pearls) that have a chewy consistency and settle at the bottom of the glass.
In the late 1990's, demand soared as scores of bubble tea parlors opened in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and all over South East Asia.
Then, the beverage's appeal came West and cafes began selling the unqiue tea beverage in almost every major Asian population center.
Recipes vary but include blending hot black or green tea with flavoring and/or milk and shaking with ice until chilled. Then cooked, sweetened tapioca pearls are added just before serving.
There are generally two types of this tea:
The tapioca balls are made from the cassava root, a starchy root that originated in Central or South America and later spread worldwide.
Preparation includes boiling the marble-sized balls for 25 minutes until they are cooked thoroughly and have a chewy consistency.
Next, the balls are cooled and, since they have little-to-no taste, are soaked in sugar, syrup or honey solutions.
Extra-large straws are needed to drink pearl tea and enjoy the refreshing, dessert-like beverage.
As popularity for the beverage continues, new recipes and variations are being introduced – some that do not even include brewed green or black tea from which boba tea originated.
Some variations include: