How to decipher bubble tea

Bubble Tea Nushi Mazumdar/THE REVIEW
Tarp bubble tea at Tbaar.

Senior Reporter

Bubble tea or boba tea has become increasingly popular, and with good reason. This sweet and delicious drink offers customers many flavor options to enjoy.

Bubble tea originated in Taiwan but has taken the U.S. by storm, with over 800 shops selling this delicious drink. Bubble tea can be found all over campus at places such as at Tbaar, Tastea 101, Little Teriyaki, Pho Ever, Qualitea, Central Perk and Banh mi Boy.

The bubble tea that is typically consumed is actually bubble milk tea, which consists of some sort of milk, whether dairy or non-dairy, but is often a non-dairy creamer. Bubble tea may also come without any milk, so vegans can rejoice in their ability to choose any item from the entire menu, which is especially rare anywhere on campus.

Although bubble tea is primarily known as an iced tea, it takes many forms, such as slush, smoothies or milkshakes. Bubble tea may also be hot if preferred and can include black, green, oolong or white tea.

However, the toppings are the most crucial aspect to bubble tea. One of the distinctive features of bubble tea is the sweet and spongy tapioca pearls, which consist of tapioca starch and brown sugar. Sago pearls are also a form of starch with a tough texture, but are smaller size than tapioca pearls and are translucent color.

Unlike the tapioca pearls, popping bubbles are thin, soft and can squeeze out juice, typically fruit-flavored, when pressed in your mouth. Similarly delicious bubble tea toppings include beans — specifically mung and adzuki beans, which are not only tasty but filled with antioxidants. The mung bean or green bean is a sweet yet nutritional superfood that provides a decent dose of protein to build and maintain muscle. The adzuki or red bean is also sweet but has a creamier consistency compared to the mung bean, while offering a high-fiber content, keeping you full for longer.

There are also fruit jellies, which are especially popular for their sweet, smooth taste. Similarly, herbal jelly easily breaks apart in your mouth and is known for its black color. Like jelly, pudding is also smooth and sweet but consists of whole milk, lactose-free milk, non-dairy creamer and sugar, so it is creamier and thicker than jelly. Much of these toppings are somewhat difficult to find on campus, but Tastea 101, Qualitea, Tbaar and Pho Ever offer these options.

Most of the bubble tea flavors are relatively straightforward fruit flavors, such as honeydew, mango and strawberry, but there are a few exotic and strange flavors that customers may not understand.

Bubble TeaNushi Mazumdar/THE REVIEW
Rose oolong tea at QualiTea.

One of the most popular flavors among bubble tea aficionados is taro, a starchy vegetable known for its purple color. Although the concept of drinking vegetables may induce gags, taro bubble tea is actually very sweet and is often compared to cookies and cream. For anyone willing to try taro bubble tea, it is found at almost any bubble tea store on campus.

Similarly, Thai tea, a strongly brewed black tea with various spices such as cardamom, star anise and tamarind, is a less-common choice. Chai tea latte fans would especially enjoy this strong yet sweet flavor.

Any newcomers to the world of bubble tea can expect a variety of options, from toppings to flavors that can easily be mixed and matched to create a drink suited to your specific tastes. Considering the deliciously addictive nature of bubble tea, it will not be long before you have tried all of these various toppings and flavors.

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