Boba is bubbling up


Senior Ignes Lim enjoys a refreshing boba drink after school

photo courtesy of IGNES LIM


In recent years, boba drinks have become a game-changer in the refreshment industry.

Boba is typically served as a drink that is made from a tea base, mixed with milk, flavoring and tapioca balls that create an addictive texture that entices consumers and leaves them craving more. Names for this trendy beverage include tapioca milk tea, bubble tea and pearl milk tea.

According to, boba is derived from the starch of the cassava root, also referred to as yuca, a vegetable from South America. The root is ground into a flour, boiled in water, cut into round balls, and boiled again in sugar water to create tapioca pearls. 

Many have theorized that the creator of this bubble tea is Liu Han Chie from Chun Shui Tang teahouse in Taichung, Taiwan. According to, in the early 1980s, he experimented with cold milk tea by adding fruit, syrup, candied yams, and tapioca pearls.

According to the theory, Chie combined zhen zhu, also known as tapioca chewy balls, shaved ice and milk tea— giving birth to the delicious treat.

As time passed, boba’s appeal broadened from Taiwanese enclaves into North America. According to, boba first migrated to the west coast of America in the 1990s, where it became a part of Taiwanese-American culture, which later continued to spread across America. 

Boba’s unique taste has intrigued drink shops all over the world, leaving room for plenty of flavor experimentation. Over the years, different options and new flavors of boba have been explored. According to, there are 250 choices and the most popular boba flavors are fruity and creamy, including avocado, black milk tea, chocolate, coconut, coffee, honeydew, mocha, passion fruit, strawberry, and other flavors.

What began in a little store in eastern Asia has become a cultural phenomenon, and odds are that boba will continue to clench society’s thirst for culinary adventure.

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