In recent years, bubble tea, the millennial drink of selfie-snapping fame, has become a phenomenon in culturally diverse communities across the United States, including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Lately, this immensely popular drink has even become a staple in Corvallis.
Bubble tea, often referred to as boba, milk tea, pearl tea, or tapioca tea, is a popular drink of Taiwanese origin. Traditionally, it was served as a chilled drink made of a tea base combined with milk (coconut or dairy). Today, however, tea shops offer a myriad of base options, with the three most common being a base of sweetened fruit juice, a base of flavored tea, or a fruit-flavored milk base.
With so many options, the novelty drink is easily identified by the tapioca pearls that rest at the bottom of the glass, providing for a sensory drinking experience. The beverage can be further enhanced by adding flavorful toppings, such as jellies (aloe, grass, lychee) and chopped fruit (strawberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple, and melons).
Served in sealed cups with specially designed straws used to suck up the chewy tapioca balls that rest on the bottom, the “bubble” of bubble tea refers to the foamy bubbles on top of the drink, created by shaking ice and the liquid base in a cocktail shaker, thus creating the namesake.
The origins of bubble tea are a point of contention in Taiwan, with several Taiwanese tea companies claiming rights to discovery of the trendy beverage. According to Daily Meal, the drink was inadvertently discovered in a 1980’s Taiwanese teahouse, where a product developer found herself bored during a business meeting and dumped a bit of her fen yuan (a sweetened tapioca pudding) into her Assam iced tea. It quickly garnered popularity amongst Taiwanese teens, and thereafter, became a staple of street vendors. No matter how it was first discovered, the bubble tea craze quickly migrated throughout Asia and then expanded to Western culture.
While bubble tea is unlikely to replace an afternoon caffeine fix, this unabashedly indulgent drink, often served in technicolor hues, has bridged a cultural gap dominated by millennials looking for their next guilty pleasure. If you’re in the mood for a delicious beverage with a creative concept, treat yourself to bubble tea, the Taiwanese beverage sporting a chewy snack at the bottom!
A couple of places to enjoy bubble tea in Corvallis include DIY Tea & Beyond (1849 NW 9th Street) and Bowtie Boba (1555 NW Monroe Avenue).