bubble tea

[ buhb-uhl tee ]
/ ˈbʌb əl ˌti /
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a frothy East Asian beverage consisting of sweetened tea with milk or flavorings, usually served over black pellets, or pearls, of tapioca.
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Also called boba tea, pearl tea [purl-tee] /ˈpɜrl ˌti/ .

Origin of bubble tea

First recorded in 1990–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does bubble tea mean?

Bubble tea, also known as boba, is a Taiwanese drink of tea infused with milk or fruit and served over tapioca balls, called bubbles or boba.

How is bubble tea pronounced?

[ buhbuhl tee ]

Where does bubble tea come from?

Bubble tea is usually said to have originated in Taiwan in the 1980s when a teahouse manager thought to put some tapioca balls—sweet, chewy globs usually made from cassava—into some cold tea.

In Taiwan, bubble tea is natively called pearl milk tea in Chinese, with the tapioca balls likened to pearls. In English, these balls are called bubbles, sometimes rendered as boba in Chinese and with boba sometimes used in the U.S. for the entire beverage.

The drink spread in Taiwan and East Asia in the 1990s and made the jump to the US in the 2000s, first spreading in cities with Taiwanese populations like San Francisco and New York, thanks especially to entrepreneurs like Boba Guys.

While bubble tea is traditionally made with black or white tapioca balls, other popular types include clear, flavored, popping, and mini boba. The tea can be served hot or, more commonly, iced and made from various teas, including, black, green, white, and herbal blends. Essential to the drink is its wide straw for slurping every last little boba.

How is bubble tea used in real life?

Bubble tea is a popular drink all around the world and comes in a wide variety of flavors. Major cities all around the world boast shops selling bubble tea. There’s a bubble tea emoji, and even National Bubble Tea Day, an informal holiday marked on April 30th. Keep in mind that bubble tea pearls can be choking hazards for children.



This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use bubble tea in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bubble tea

bubble tea

a cold drink, originally from Taiwan, of tea infused with fruit flavouring, shaken to produce bubbles, and served over tapioca pearls in a clear cup. It is usually drunk through a very wide straw
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012