A plastic cup with coloured bubble tea in a street
What is bubble tea?

What is Bubble Tea and Why Is It so on Trend?

3 minutes

A few years ago, if you’d asked where to get bubble tea in the UK, you’d have been met by puzzled looks. But this drink trend has taken the UK by storm. You’ll find it on restaurant menus, at coffee shops, and at pop-up food stalls across the country. Bubble tea is everywhere. But what is bubble tea and what’s all the fuss about?

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What Is Bubble Tea?

As the name partially suggests, bubble tea is made from a tea base that’s mixed with milk and ice and sometimes fruit juice. So far, so good. 

What makes bubble tea different to other drinks is the addition of chewy tapioca pearls.
The pearls are sometimes called bubble tea popping balls as they pop when you chew them. 

Served in a plastic cup with a thick straw to suck up the tea and chewy tapioca pearls, bubble tea is halfway between a drink and a snack. Sweet and refreshing, yet filling. The milk and tapioca pearls give bubble tea a creamy, silky texture. It’s slightly sweet, but the tea means it’s not overpoweringly so. You can make the base with fruit tea or add fruit juice to the mix. 


What is bubble tea? Bubble tea served in a bar with bowl of additional pearls
A glass of bubble tea with its popping tapioca balls

Where Did Bubble Tea Come From?

If your first question was “What is bubble tea?”, your next might well be “Where did it come from?”. Bubble tea has really taken the UK by storm in the last ten years or so, but it’s been a big thing in Asian countries since the 80s. If you visit Taiwan or Hong Kong these days, you’ll still find bubble tea everywhere.

In fact, it’s thought to have started life as a combination of Japanese-style iced coffee and the Taiwanese love of tapioca.
Someone had the bright idea of combining the two and a trend was born.


A tall glass of bubble tea with lid
Bubble tea is thought to have originated in Taiwan.

How Do You Make Bubble Tea?

If you want to try bubble tea for yourself, you can easily make it at home. The main ingredients are tea, milk, sugar, and the all-important tapioca pearls, those famous bubble tea popping balls

Look for quick-cook tapioca balls that are ready in 5 minutes to make things even easier. Simply brew the tea and leave to cool. Do the same with the tapioca pearls. Once the tea and the bubble tea popping balls are ready you can make a sugar syrup and mix all the ingredients together.

Man preparing glasses of bubble tea, with ice cubes and popping pearls
Bubble teas served in a glass on the go, perfect snack-and-drink in the street

Would you rather try bubble tea in a café or restaurant?

Check out the menu the next time you go out to a Chinese restaurant, you might be able to enjoy a bubble tea with your food! It’s not just restaurants, lots of cafés and bars now offer bubble tea, and there are even bubble tea shops specializing in this delicious drink and snack rolled into one. 

If you still think bubble tea isn’t your thing, how about trying smoothies first?
Or a more traditional option like afternoon tea instead?
Whatever the type of tea, it’s always a treat to take some time out of your day to relax!

Book a restaurant table for an afternoon tea in London

Three plastic cups with different coloured bubble tea
Discover a wide range of bubble teas at your favourite snack and bar.


Bubble tea in a nutshell!

Bubble tea is also called pearl milk tea and boba tea. It’s made using tea as a base and then adding milk and fruit juices and tapioca pearls.

Yes! The balls are tapioca pearls and are completely safe to eat. It’s best to chew them as it makes them easier to digest.

Bubble tea is as healthy as you make it. Choose a bubble tea with fruit juice to up the vitamin content and watch the sugar levels.

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