Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, or simply boba)
The most widely accepted story for the origin of bubble tea comes from the Hanlin tearoom in Tainan, Taiwan. In 1986, in the Ya Mu Liao market, teahouse owner Tu Tsong-he got the inspiration when he saw white tapioca balls. He then made tea using the traditional white tapioca balls, which have the appearance of pearls, supposedly resulting in the so-called "pearl tea". Shortly after, Hanlin changed the white tapioca balls to the black version, mixed with brown sugar or honey, that is seen today. At many locations, one can purchase both black tapioca balls and white tapioca balls.
An alternative origin story is the Chun Shui Tang tearoom in Taichung, Taiwan. Its founder, Liu Han-Chieh, observed how the Japanese served cold coffee (while on a visit in the 1980s) and applied this method to tea. The new style of serving tea propelled his business, and multiple chains were established. This expansion began the rapid expansion of bubble tea. The creator of bubble tea is Lin Hsiu Hui, the teahouse's product development manager, who randomly poured her fen yuan into the iced tea drink during a boring meeting in 1988. The beverage was well received at the meeting, leading to its inclusion on the menu. It ultimately became the franchise's top-selling product.
The drink became popular in most parts of East and Southeast Asia during the 1990s, especially Vietnam. The drink is well received by foreign consumers in North America, specifically around areas with high populations of Chinese and Taiwanese expatriates. In contemporary times, bubble tea has achieved cultural significance outside of Taiwan in some areas for major East Asian diaspora populations.