Bubble Tea: What Is It?

There is so much confusion around what Bubble Tea is. I mean, everyone knows what 'bubbles' and 'tea' are, however, most traditional english tea drinkers are left a little dumbfounded upon first hearing about the combination of the two. When I first stepped into a bubble tea shop in Bath a few years ago, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. When I asked what an ‘original’ tea tasted like, the girl looked at me like I was mad and replied “tea”. It was all very unhelpful and strange. I now know that it tastes like a strong yet sweet cup of English tea- usually served cold. Since then, I have scored myself a brilliant part time job at Pearls Bubble Tea on my University campus (how convenient?!) and I LOVE it. My love for the job and the product has led me to want to introduce bubble tea to those of you who don’t know what it is, or who are a little afraid to give it a go.

Me and my Pearls girl Mona
Before I get into it, I’ll give you a little intro to what bubble tea is! Bubble tea is also known as ‘boba tea’, ‘pearl milk tea’ as well as many other names that it has gained around the world. Bubble tea is a drink made from a base of green or black tea, which is flavoured using powders and syrups. The drink originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and is spreading fast throughout the world. It has become popular in the UK over the past few years after having such a good response in the US.

The ‘bits’ that you see floating around in it are a variety of things; they can be classic black ‘boba’ pearls made from tapioca, or fruit jellies, popping pearls, seeds, beans, custard and lots more fun things! We call these ‘toppings’, even though they usually rest at the bottom of the cup - crazy, eh?! Toppings really make the drink fun because every now and then when you take a sip, you’ll get a tasty treat come up through the extra-wide straw so you can really have your tea, and well, eat it too! The toppings are all optional, so don’t be put off bubble tea if you’re not so into having bits in your drink!

Sweet and chewy Tapioca pearls

Varieties of drinks
Bubble tea shops usually have a huge range of flavours. The shop I work in has over 50 flavours! You can even mix and match these flavours if you’re into funky tastes, so go for it! Some bubble tea shops also use fresh fruit in their bubble teas so you can even get some of your 5 a day!

We sell fruit teas and milk teas. The difference between the two is that all of the fruit teas use a green tea base, with your choice of flavour of fruit syrup mixed with it (plus any toppings of your choice). The milk teas are a little more complex, but i'll explain that a little later. You can have your drink made cold, hot, warm, with/ without ice, or even have it blended into a slushie, so there really is something for everyone.

Left: A mystery fruit tea with tapioca and basil seeds. Right: strawberry & vanilla milk tea with tapioca and apple jelly.
Fruit tea
These are refreshing, sweet and light. A lot of people are put off because they ‘don’t like tea’, but believe me, you wouldn’t know you are even drinking tea! They are prefect for the summer because their icy fruitiness is just what you need in the heat.

Milk tea
The milk teas can use a black OR green tea base, depending on the flavour of the drink. At Pearls for example, chocolate milk tea uses black tea, and banana milk tea uses green tea – it’s just the way that Pearls does it and the recipe that we use, although other brands use different recipes. Flavoured powders are mixed with the tea, and you can add any toppings you like. Milk teas are like a thin milkshake. Anybody with a dairy or similar intolerance has  probably just turned off, I can tell! But, stay with me folks! We use a non-dairy creamer for our ‘milk’ teas so they are perfectly fine for you guys with intolerances, and still incredible for everyone else! *Steady on, vegans! The creamer contains a dairy derivative which isn't suitable for you guys (cries).*

Fruit jellies and popping pearls

We mix our special powders with tea to create a yummy, smooth drink which you can enjoy cold or warm.

Despite the huge amount of fans of bubble tea, many people dislike it because it’s a bit odd. I’ve heard bubble tea to be described as ‘bath water with left over bath bomb bits in it’, ‘frog spawn juice’ and other unappetizing names. However, your opinion could vary so much depending on which drink you try! With so many flavours available, you’re bound to dislike a few of them- just like I do! But I’d definitely recommend that if you don’t like your first bubble tea, try another, because there’s a whole other variety out there for you to try: fruity vs milky! 

My favourite: vanilla slush!

Fun fact: the name 'bubble tea' comes from the bubbles that are created when the drink is shaken!

What's your favourite flavour?!

Peace out, and enjoy your tasty teas!
Olivia x


  1. That looks delicious!! I really want to try some now! Thanks for sharing Olivia xx


    1. Thanks Daisy! I'd seriously recommend it! I've literally just been over to your blog too- we must both enjoy reading/writing about drinks haha! xx