Taiwan – Taiwanese Bubble Tea and Beyond – by Megan Beckerich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[Photo of Taiwanese Bubble Tea, from : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bubble_Tea.png , see also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_tea ]
If you have the chance to visit a trendy café or restaurant, you may happen to spot something on the menu called bubble tea, or boba tea, depending on the area. Exploding in popularity worldwide in the past decade, this tasty and unique beverage has an interesting history behind it and very noticeable effects on contemporary tea culture in the world. bubble tea is a recent phenomenon, originating in Taiwan in the 1980s. Originally found in Taichung (western Taiwan) this drink was a creative risk taken by a man named Lin Hsiu Hui, inspired by Japanese cold tea serving methods, and immediately became a smash hit spawning a very popular beverage that would spread in popularity throughout East and Southeast Asia.
[Yours truly enjoying a traditional black tea bubble tea in Tainan (and jumbo mango ice)]
Originally made with Taiwanese black tea and tapioca balls, other flavors and combinations were tested out to immense success. The next immediate flavor added was green tea, but now any flavor imaginable is available in shops, restaurants, and street venders. Still, the majority of flavors make use of fruit teas or milk teas (or both) but classic black and green remain popular as well.
[Sample vacuum seal on a bubble tea-individual stores often used different prints on these covers]
Given that bubble tea originated in Taiwan, it goes without saying how ubiquitous this drink is when venturing through any Taiwanese city, but my experience is limited mostly to Taipei. I can say in all honesty I consumed a lot of bubble tea during my time in Taipei, in addition to many other local favorites.
From my experience, trying bubble tea in Taipei (or anywhere in Taiwan really) is an absolute must. Tea is cheap in Taipei, often being priced around $1USD for a fairly large cup, and it is conveniently portable. Many shops vacuum seal a plastic lid over your drink to minimize spillage, and provide a small plastic bag to carry the drink around in, while giving you use of your hands to do other things (like eat dumplings or hold an umbrella-or both). Bubble tea can also be very gourmand, with some stores offering very fancy and unique flavors (tomato lemon is a surprisingly refreshing combination).
On menus, bubble tea is often called zhenzhu naicha (pearl milk tea) and can also be prefaced with the specific flavor of tea, such as hong (red) or lǜ (green) but many other flavors exist.
While bubble tea is probably the most prolific and culturally important, similar drinks are popular in Taiwan (and East Asia). I’ve had the pleasure of trying a lot of these, so I want to briefly talk about them as well. “Foam tea” paomo hongcha (foam red tea) is very popular in Taiwan as well, and was something I first learned about in a reading passage for my Mandarin class. “Red” is often used to refer to black tea, and this drink is hot black tea with sugar and ice that would be foamy in taste and appearance. This particular tea is not served with the tapioca bubbles. Another popular style of drink would be the plethora “jelly” beverages available. I visited Starbucks in Taipei and Hong Kong and in both I saw “iced coffee with earl grey jelly” and “iced tea with lemon jelly” and many more varieties (perhaps sadly, I chose to try a dark chocolate matcha confection instead). I tried a variety of jelly teas and coffees from other shops and venders with flavors ranging from coffee jelly to plain jelly (just sugar) to even grass jelly! Not all of these beverages need to be specially ordered in tea shops though, jelly drinks can be bought in cans in vending machines (one of my favorite drinks in Japan was Minute Maid’s white grape with aloe jelly I bought from a vending machine on campus almost every day) and some convenience stores.
[Dark chocolate matcha confection. Sadly not a bubble tea]
Tea is not just limited to traditional green or black tea, and discovering the plethora of flavors and varieties available in Taipei (and anywhere in the world) is a rewarding and delicious experience.
Megan is a student at Northern Kentucky University.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu