Where Does Bubble Tea Come From?

Have you ever wonder where does bubble tea come from? Read to learn more about how this treat became popular and spread from Asia to the rest of the world!

Where Does Bubble Tea Come From?
Bubble tea is the signature beverage in East Asia

One of the great things about the modern world is that it is a melting pot of a variety of cultures. This includes bubble tea, which has become a signature beverage in East Asia but has quickly spread to the rest of the world.

Perhaps you like the chewy texture of tapioca pearls. Maybe you like the creamy nature of the milk tea. Regardless, there is always something satisfying that comes with popping the straw through the sealed plastic. 

Where did bubble tea food and drink come from? Who is responsible for inventing it? There are several key points to note. 

A Brief History Of Boba Tea

What is bubble tea? Even though many people associate black tea with Asia, there are numerous other types of tea as well. This includes bubble tea, which started during the early 1980s. Even though its original origin is still highly debated, bubble milk tea was first established in Taiwan. 

At the time, shaved ice and tapioca balls were considered, deserts throughout Taiwan and Southern China. Eventually, someone decided to combine three popular elements into a single beverage. This included:

  • Tapioca balls on the bottom 
  • A layer of shaved ice in the middle 
  • Milk tea on top, which would spread throughout the rest of the drink

As this popular beverage spread throughout Taiwan, it would expand to other parts of China as well. Of course, bubble tea has also spread to the United States as well, hitting the West Coast, such as Los Angeles, California, before spreading across the entire country, such as New York.

Bubble Tea Evolves To Include Numerous Toppings

variety of toppings
You can request a variety of toppings for your bubble tea

Since the 1980s, bubble tea has evolved to include a wide variety of toppings. Even though bubble tea lovers can still get the classic pearl milk tea, restaurant owners experimented with a variety of fruit powders and syrups.

Even though many restaurant owners still offer actual fruit, it gets expensive and goes bad quickly. Now, there are dozens of flavors of Chinese tea available. 

Furthermore, bubble tea drinkers can also request a variety of toppings. Popular examples include red beans, egg pudding, almond jelly, and grass jelly. In addition, bubble tea drinkers can also swap out the milk tea for a non-dairy creamer.

This works great for people who are lactose intolerant or who are looking for something that is a bit sweeter, such as brown sugar.

Finally, even the tapioca balls themselves have undergone several evolutions. For example, instead of getting traditional tapioca balls, some people might prefer tapioca balls that are filled with additional flavors including taro, cassava root, lychee, watermelon, strawberry, and a variety of other choices.

This is just another way for bubble tea drinkers to customize their beverages to meet their specific needs.

Bubble Tea Becomes A Staple Of Asian And American Culture

In Taiwan, bubble tea remains a staple of the nightlife. There are hundreds of street food stands that line so the biggest cities in Taiwan. Now, there are hundreds of food stalls, and how much everyone congregates days after work and school. Bubble tea is a popular snack people get while shopping at these grocery markets.

If you visit Taiwan and look around at the seafood markets, you will see everyone holding some type of bubble tea or iced tea from Boba Guys or some other shop.

In the 1990s, bubble tea began to spread to the United States as well. It was brought to the United States by Taiwanese people who were moving to the area. As coffee shops in the United States began to expand their offerings, it no longer seemed like a big leap to offer bubble tea in the United States as well.

Given that so many American people are captivated by Asian culture, bubble tea was treated like any other Asian food or drink. Many people in the United States compare adopting bubble tea to adopting stir-fry, sushi, ramen, Asian ice cream, and many other Asian foods and beverages.

Even though this may have seemed like a pipe dream decades ago, bubble tea is now one of the most popular beverages in the United States as well, with many comparing it to Starbucks.

Popular Twists On The Bubble Tea Beverage

various bubble tea in a wooden table
Asking for a tapioca tea drink with fruit juice or sweetener is one of the popular twists

As bubble tea has been adopted in the United States, there are numerous popular twists that people like to explore. A few examples include:

  • Ordering bubble tea with light or no sugar to cut down on the carbohydrate content
  • Asking for a blended bubble tea, turning it into a smoothie
  • Ordering bubble tea without ice in order to maximize the amount of liquid in the cup
  • Adding flavor popping pearls that can replace traditional tapioca balls 
  • Asking for a tapioca tea drink with fruit juice or sweetener

As bubble tea continues to evolve, more twists, flavors, and options will be added as well. A few popular flavorings include green tea, matcha, and oolong.

Final Word on Where Does Bubble Tea Come From

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan during the early 1980s. From there, bubble tea shops spread to the rest of China, Japan, Hong Kong, and even the United States. Throughout the years, bubble tea has evolved significantly to encompass a wide variety of flavors, textures, and customization styles.

As bubble tea continues to spread, more options will emerge, providing everyone with an opportunity to tailor their bubble tea to meet their specific needs. 

Want more? Check out our guide to boozy bubble tea.

FAQs About Where Does Bubble Tea Come From

Is bubble tea Chinese or Japanese? 

Bubble tea actually originated in Taiwan, which is considered to be a part of China. From there, it spread to the rest of China, Japan, and the United States. 

What country is famous for bubble tea? 

A lot of people associate Japan with bubble tea; however, it is more closely associated with Taiwan. 

What are the little balls that pop open in bubble tea? 

These are tapioca balls. They have a rubbery, chewy texture to them. Now, it is possible to order popping pearls that have a variety of flavors including mango, watermelon, lychee, and others.


  • David R

    Job experience includes extensive work as a teaching assistant, tutor, and guest lecturer and extensive employment in the healthcare field. Have published multiple research papers and numerous poster presentations on various healthcare research topics. Find David on WriterAccess.