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Bubble Tea: Tea Meets Tapioca

Have you heard of Bubble tea? It is an interesting name and a unique beverage which originated in Taiwan.  The bubbles are actual tapioca balls in the tea, they look like little black pearls at the bottom of the drink. There are generally two types, a fruit and a milk flavored version. The Chinese name for this type of translates to Pearl Milk tea. Another characteristic of the tea, is a very wide straw so the tapioca balls can be sucked up when drinking the tea. Children like to use the straw as a “weapon” to spit the balls at each other. It contains no alcohol and is not carbonated. It will remind of a drink and a dessert all in one!

Most recently it has become very popular in the late 1990’s, although it originated over 10 years ago. It is a mixture of ice or hot tea, cream and flavorings. The original version of the tea was black tea, tapioca balls, milk and honey. Although there have been numerous variations on the original. Most generally, there is less sugar used than carbonated beverages or soft drinks.

The tea was then modified with fruit versions such as peach or plum. Today you can find tea shops similar to coffee bars and juice bars. Other flavors used are raspberry, mocha, coconut, cinnamon and other flavors. These flavorings are added as syrups, powder or the actual pulp of the fruit. The mixture is then shaken similar to a milk shake. Any tea shaken is considered bubble tea because bubbles form after the shaking process.

The tapioca pearls are made from the cassava plant. The balls are boiled and cooled. Once cooled, they are coated with honey or sugar. The consistency of these little gems is somewhere between jello and gum. They are approximately the size of a marble.

Another variation of the beverage is to use flavored jellies instead of tapioca balls. Popular flavored jellies used are coconut or cognac jelly.

The first bubble tea shop originated in Taiwan in the 1980’s and has since grown. It has grown in popularity in the United States, in areas where there is a large amount of Asians. There are franchises in the United States, called Quickly and Lollipop that are growing in popularity. Other restaurants in California are Fantasia and Sweetheart Café.

This beverage can be made at home with ice tea mix, sugar, mint leaves and milk. The pearls can be bought in Asian grocery stores or on the internet. An unopened bag of pearls can last up to six months. You can add a variety of flavors depending on your taste. Some people prefer a fruity version without any milk products. However you decide to try this delectable beverage, at the very least try it and you will become hooked!

Read about hydrangea tree, mimosa tree and other information at the Gardening Central website.
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