Bubble tea, 珍珠奶茶, or pearl milk tea whatever you call it has always been one of the most popular drinks in Vancouver. Yet, have you ever wondered where it came from?
Well first, I think it might be helpful if I first explained how bubble tea gets its name. The “ancestor” of bubble tea originated in the early 80’s from a tea shop called Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) in Taichung, Taiwan. Unlike the fully loaded pearl milk tea, the oldest form of bubble tea was made by mixing cold black tea with fructose syrup using a shaker. According to Liu Han-Chieh (劉漢介), the founder of the tea shop, his wife named it bubble tea after seeing the layer of foam that ended up on top of the tea.
After successfully marking a turning point for Taiwanese tea culture, Liu introduced the pearl milk tea in 1987. In the beginning, other ingredients were added to the milk tea such as fruits and sugar coated yam. Yet, not much popularity was gained during that time. It was only after the drink was introduced on a Japanese television show that had lead to its viral popularity in Taiwan.
*Just a side note for those who are curious about how the pearls are made. The ingredients used to make them include tapioca starch, cassava and potato flour. Today, the ready-made pearls are usually available in supermarkets (at least for Taiwan). To cook the pearls, all you have to do is to put them in boiling waters until they float to the top. To maintain the chewy texture of the pearls, it is best to soak them in syrup.
Today, different kinds of bubble tea are sold in different countries. For example, in Taiwan, there is a drink called “Rainbow Pearl Milk Tea” where the pearls are colored with natural food ingredients. In Vancouver, there is also many different combination that you can make by adding different ingredients such as grass jelly, nata, and bite- size vermicelli into different drinks such as red bean milk, green milk tea, and taro milk tea just to name a few.
For me, the pearl milk tea had always been my childhood memory in Taiwan. Sipping on the silky milk tea while enjoying the chewy texture of the sweetened pearls, an enjoyable moment of refreshment.