How to look at Bubble Tea

© copyright 2020 Joanna Stromska, Ryerson University

To look at bubble tea you don’t have to just experience with sight alone. Sight is one important aspect of experiencing food after all ‘we eat with our eyes’ is a popular saying. But we also experience it with our sense of smell, taste, and touch. Bubble tea itself is something visually stunning while the diagram shown is not too expressive in colour as it is to show the components that make up the drink. Many different ingredients can be combined to make up bubble tea which can show a rainbow of colour. What makes a drink, bubble tea is the small balls (the bubbles) at the bottom which can be called many things such as boba, pearls, popping pearls, and jelly. The name corresponds with what the spheres are made up of. Boba and pearls can mean the same thing depending on which shop you get your bubble tea from. Boba is always black and it gets its colour from being made of tapioca flour. Boba also has a distinct texture when you bite into it which can make it an acquired taste. I find it to be chewier than gummy bears but also very sticky in the way it always gets stuck in my teeth. The taste is what makes it different as it doesn’t really have a taste per se, besides being mildly sweet. However, there are other options for the people who are not a fan of boba. I find that popping pearls are what made me truly fall in love with this drink. As they are small jelly balls filled with juice. They come in a selection of flavours most common being mango. The best description of eating one is similar in the way caviar feels. As it essentially pops in the mouth hence its name. Lastly jelly in bubble tea is different from what you know as jello. They are cut into cubic shapes and are much thicker in texture so they hold their shape inside the drink and like popping pearls are made up of many flavours such as lychee, mango, strawberry or aloe, etc.

Drawing of a glass of bubble tea with descriptive captions around it.
Joanna Stromska “Bubble Tea” Drawing, Ink on Cardstock, January 31, 2020. © Joanna Stromska

The liquid component of the drink is more complicated as bubble tea does not need to contain tea to be named such. But the most common teas used are green and black tea. They are then mixed with a variety of flavours. These can be juices such as mango, peach or strawberry, etc. Or you can mix the tea with milk which is the second name used in bubble tea which is milk tea. But if you are not a tea drinker there are other options, such as smoothies or milk ‘tea’. This milk tea is made up of flavours such as taro (a purple sweet potato found in Asia), or matcha, etc. with milk and the bubbles on the base. Bubble tea allows for tea drinkers to have more fun with their favourite drink. A thing that for a long time only coffee drinkers had the luxury of having.