The Origins of Bubble Tea
Bubble tea, also known as boba, has become a beloved drink around the world. But did you know that it originated in Taiwan by complete accident? One afternoon in 1987, during a boring business meeting, the manager of a Taiwanese dessert shop named Chunshuitang, Lin Xiuhui, accidentally threw tapioca balls into milk tea (1). This led to the unintentional discovery of how delicious boba milk tea could be.
Since then, bubble tea has become a cultural phenomenon, spreading from Taiwan to other parts of Asia and eventually to the rest of the world. Its popularity is due in part to its unique texture, which comes from the chewy tapioca balls, and the variety of flavours and toppings available.
It should also be noted that tea originates from China (1), and the practice of adding milk to tea originates from Britain. Due to the British colonial rule over Hong Kong, the practice of adding milk and sugar (sometimes condensed milk or evaporated milk to black tea became popular in Hong Kong in the 1950s (2)(3). We have these many cultural influences to appreciate for the bubble tea that we enjoy today.
[image from Hu, 2019]
With my family based in Hong Kong and Alric’s based in Taiwan, we truly feel that bubble tea is not just a drink, but a symbol of the blending of cultures, and the power of pushing boundaries. It’s something we both feel so proud of; something that can be shared and enjoyed by others, no matter where you are or where you come from.
However, there has always been a concern about how frequently we should be drinking bubble tea, particularly when trying to make conscious choices to lead healthier lifestyles and become more educated about our eating habits. Although high-quality tea and sophisticated brewing techniques can be used, the addition of large amounts of sugar and creamers to thicken the consistency and enhance the taste of bubble tea can result in an unhealthy beverage when consumed frequently. In our pursuit for gains, bubble tea became something we could no longer enjoy.
The Beginning of Far East Alchemy
It was on a train, heading home from work one evening in 2019, that a tired and hungry Alric craving bubble tea questioned why there was such a lack of interesting supplement flavours on the market. He’d gone home to do some more research, and the further he delved into his exploration, the more committed he became to bringing this idea to life.
In hindsight, it felt like a blip. But what was a full year spent developing the initial flavours, became the reality of the first FEA launch on 29 June 2020.
Along this journey, we realised that bubble tea was not the only thing that those who were health conscious seemed to unintentionally avoid; but most foods of our cultures were too, regarded as ‘unhealthy’, such as yumcha or noodles.
We all begin our health and fitness journeys in a similar way; it’s an innocent assumption to make. But the longer you’re on the journey, the sooner you realise that there’s much more to health and fitness than chicken, rice and broccoli, or working out 6 days a week.
Far East Alchemy became more than just a protein bubble tea company. The name and brand was created to represent a movement that others could relate to; something that both represents and celebrates our heritage whilst embodies the belief that leading healthy lifestyles can be enjoyable and do not need to be restrictive.
We’re so grateful for all of you who have joined us on this journey so far. Whether you’ve been here from the beginning or popped by recently to check us out, we appreciate all of you.
Stay tuned for our latest upcoming products, instant boba sachets and our first boba tumbler!
- Jiayi Wu (2020). What Makes Bubble Tea Popular ? Interaction between Chinese and British Tea Culture. *The Frontiers of Society, Science and Technology*, [online] 2(16), p.-. doi:https://doi.org/10.25236/FSST.2020.021614.
- Vick (2021). *Hong Kong-style Milk Tea: An Intangible Cultural Heritage*. [online] Muigarden.com. Available at: https://muigarden.com/party-tray/86-blog/97-hong-kong-style-milk-tea-an-intangible-cultural-heritage.html [Accessed 28 Feb. 2023].
- Hu, C. (2019). *The Secret Life of Hong Kong Milk Tea*. [online] Foodie Hong Kong. Available at: https://www.afoodieworld.com/celia-hu/2019-01-07-the-secret-life-of-hong-kong-milk-tea [Accessed 28 Feb. 2023].