Challenge 0: Bubble Tea

Bubble tea, known by some as tapioca tea or “boba,” is a drink which first emerged in Taiwan during the late 1980’s and would later explode in popularity in the United States first during the 1990’s and then again during the mid to late 2000’s. The drink is traditionally composed of two main elements: Some kind of tea—which is often but not always milk-based—and quarter-inch wide, brown to black-colored tapioca balls. Distinguishing itself from other popular beverages on the market, bubble tea offers the consumer a texture experience in addition to the taste experience. The tea itself, while integral to the bubble tea as a beverage, plays a rather minor role in the overall bubble tea experience. That should come to no surprise considering the continued survival and success of bubble tea shops around the United States, despite the more ubiquitous and often more economic option of Starbucks. When people spend an extra dollar or two on a cup of bubble tea, they do so not primarily for the flavor of the drink; rather, they do it for the experience of stabbing a giant straw into the plastic sealed lid to reach the chewy, slightly sweet tapioca balls. Having lived in a small town around the time that bubble tea exploded in popularity, I first became acquainted with the drink second-handedly, through descriptions from friends who had the privilege of experiencing the drink for themselves during their latest visits to the closest “big city.” By the time I finally tried bubble tea for myself, the hype behind the beverage was so great that it didn’t really matter how the drink tasted—my positive opinion of bubble tea had been formed well before I ever took my first sip. To a certain degree, I still carry that early idealization of the drink with me. To this day, when I pass by a bubble tea shop, a part of me feels as giddy and delighted as I felt when I tried it for the very first time.

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