Two tea establishments in Taiwan claim to have invented tapioca milk tea the drink, not tapioca balls the ingredient. In 1983, an employee at Taichung City’s Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House concocted the first cup of bubble tea – so called because of the bubbles in the shaken mix of tea and syrup; tapioca, or boba, was not added until 1987 at this premises. Hanlin Tea House in Tainan City began to serve a similar drink with white-colored tapioca balls – also in 1987. If this novel, non-obvious beverage recipe were patented, or unimaginably kept a trade secret, then we would be enjoying it in a very different way today.
At Thai restaurants nowadays, I make sure to call my favorite dessert by its correct name sago pudding instead of tapioca pudding. Sago is extracted from palm stem pith, while tapioca from cassava root. The infamous Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 – 1908) was said to have once enjoyed an all-natural tapioca dessert prepared by the Taiwanese envoy. Both Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House and Hanlin Tea House should be credited for re-sizing the tapioca balls; they might have invented the fat straws too.
So when did tapioca balls stop being all-natural? Do McDonald’s McCafe locations in Germany still serve boba tea? Some tea shops offer a substitute known as healthy boba, which is not boba at all but konjac.
Popping boba seems a popular topping choice at self-serve yogurt parlors. On the other hand, Heart boba – a red bean in the middle – can only be savored during a visit to Taiwan.
I have never heard of Sago pudding but after watching the video, if I can get the ingredients, I’m definitely going to try some. It looks exceptionally good. I tend not to even peruse Asian restaurant dessert menus as I never had found anything that I enjoyed so I stopped looking. I’ll keep my eye open for Sago pudding next time I’m enjoying Thai. Thanks for turning me on to this unusual dessert.
I’ve never been a fan of bubble tea however. I think it’s a texture thing for me.
I recently tried pandan waffle (I call it “green waffle”) at a Vietnamese eatery, delicious!
I mentioned “pandan” because the video specified it as an ingredient.
I love the tea with the little gummy tapioca balls. I purchased some black ones at the Asian market, and plan to make a batch of boba in the next few days. I wonder if it would be okay to use coconut milk? Can’t wait! Thanks for the distinction, Ifang!
I thought you had already cooked that bag of boba. I am not sure why – there was a period that so many of my friends, including guys, tried to prepare boba tea at home. We also had discussion on how we liked our boba; most of us preferred chewy, and one person liked it hard, which most likely was left-over from two days ago…