To some degree, bubble tea can be construed as anything but tea. Although some versions of the drink may intentionally leave out the essence of tea (as a personal choice), at the core of virtually every bubble tea on the planet is the world’s most adored drink: tea.
And that should mean every time you slurp boba tea via a larger-than-usual straw, you are reaping all the health benefits that genuine tea from the Camella Sinensis plant carries.
It’s hard to deny Asia’s role in the worldwide spread of tea. China, today, is not only the biggest tea producer in the world contributing to as much as 2.6 million tons (44.7%) of the global output of 5.9 million tons yearly (2018 study) but also it has been traditionally credited as the original source of tea thousands of years ago.
But when it comes to the global market, no country may have a more direct hand in the spread of tea than the United Kingdom. Ever since that glorious day in 1664 when the first batch of tea landed on British soil — the heart of the empire where the sun never sets — tea drinking became a national pastime in the United Kingdom.
You may have your fave type of tea nowadays. But, move over Earl Grey, English Breakfast or black tea, learn how bubble tea is poised to be the most sought-after drink on the planet, thanks to England. Read on.
The Empire where the Sun Never Sets Meets a Magical Drink
Between the 18th and 20th centuries, the British Empire became so vast it was dubbed “the empire where the sun never sets”. As it acquired one territory after the other, the English nation’s influence was undeniable. The empire had establishments in just about every continent you can imagine: Africa, America, Asia and Europe, not to mention numerous islands across the planet.
At its heyday, historians contend the British Empire controlled about 25% of the planet’s landmass. Such a region was so extensive, daylight can be found in one of its territories at any given time. Hence, the apt description.
Indeed, just thinking about it can make anyone shudder in disbelief. Note: By 1913, just right before the First World War, the British dominion has over 412 million people. Today, the official language used by 67 countries is English, not to mention that it’s the one and only lingua franca for international trade.
Great Britain’s journey to becoming a world power wasn’t always a pretty picture. It was a long and arduous climb. For one, you can say the English were rather late on the global scene.
In the 16th century, for instance, the Spanish Empire (1492 to 1976) dominated the world stage more than any, subjugating the people of Latin America for more than a century. It’s also the reason why California and Texas were occupied by Spanish settlers.
In contrast, the English were still warming up when the Spanish Empire was already at its peak. The start of Britain’s dominance was laid between the years 1497 and 1583. It was King Henry VII who commissioned the first explorers in 1496. From that time on, Great Britain never relented easing out its rival empires in the process.
The British empire’s greatest conquest occurred between 1583 and 1783 during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign and her heir, James VI. It was during this period that saw Britain took over what many consider its most prized conquest: North America.
It was also during this period that the empire bumped into something that would change its people’s habits for good: tea. Now it’s a quintessentially British drink.
Small wonder, the phenomenal Alice in Wonderland book by legendary writer Lewis Carroll spoke of tea-drinking countless times.
And the world was never the same. It was love at first sight for England. Initial prices for tea was so steep - £6 to £10 per pound of the herb (£600 to £1,000, today) - the drink was essentially a luxury for aristocrats and the high rollers of society. So in demand was the concoction, King Charles II married the Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese princess, in 1662 with a chest of tea as dowry. Capturing her subject’s imagination, the future queen would become tea’s greatest ambassador to Europe.
It was but a matter of time before tea was introduced to every corner of the Empire that Never Sleeps. And yet, though tea + sugar seemed to have attracted chests upon chests of money to run the empire, its introduction was met with mixed results.
In the 1830s, when the Indian state was under British rule, the first tea plantations were established right in Assam. And you guess it right. These tea cultivars came a long way from China to make another tea empire happen.
Today, India is the second-biggest tea producer in the world, next only to China. The Hindu nation coughs up 900,000 tonnes of tea while China produces up to about 2.6 million tonnes yearly.
A rival European company, the Dutch East India Company, is credited as the one who introduced tea to America in the 1660s. Like in Europe, the tea culture - with all the fine display of teaware and its somewhat arcane tea rituals - was identified with the wealthy. However, slowly America became a colony of the British who managed to wrest control of the vast territory from other European colonizers (e.g., French).
But introducing tea via its chief importer from Asia, the powerful East India Company, met a lot of resistance. No doubt tea was a choice drink in America in the 1700s. But wary of the tax levied on tea drinkers, something colonial America thought was an affront to being subjects of the crown as they were not represented in the British parliament, the Americans took drastic action against tea shipments.
On December 16, 1773, a large shipment of valuable tea was destroyed in the Boston harbour. Dubbed as the Boston Tea Party, such strong actions lighted the fires of the American Revolution a decade later.
England’s Cuppa Tea: The Rise of Bubble Tea
There’s really something about tea and royal families. Take the Chinese, for instance. As legend would have it, it was emperor Shen Nung, about 5,000 years ago, who discovered tea, albeit accidentally. Throughout the history of China, from one dynasty to another, tea was enjoyed by emperors and imperial courts who ruled the nation.
From British Royalty to Everyone
You might think about the British royal family. Well, for starters, 17th-century queen Catherine of Braganza definitely set the bar for tea drinkers. Though the royal blood may not have directly introduced tea to the British nation, she was the celebrity that pushed for its wide acceptance. Soon, tea became identified with the elite societies of Europe.
Even today, the royal family provides a strong affiliation to tea. For one, her majesty, Queen Elizabeth enjoys black tea — with no sugar added. Like most Britons, the queen starts each and every morning in a very quintessential way: a cuppa tea together with biscuits.
The British nation is following her lead. Great Britain, a nation of over 56 million nationals, is a tea nation. And yet, over 165 million cuppa tea gets drunk daily. On the other end of the spectrum, only about 90 million cuppa coffee is consumed daily — quite a gap. You’re looking at 60.2 billion cuppa tea drank year in year out.
Graph 1: Consumption by Tea Type in England (Statista 2017)
Black tea is the dominant kind of tea that England loves. When it’s taken with milk, it’s usually called white tea. So, all in all, black tea tops the charts. Even though loose leaf tea provides a more flavourful experience, tea bags are the more practical way of consuming tea.
Earl Grey, the tea named after UK Prime Minister Charles Grey in 1830, is also black tea infused with Bergamot. Another common black tea is the English Breakfast which is a blend of black teas that tend to be a lot stronger than other tea types.
Bubble Tea to the Front
All these tea types common to England, however, point to a more recent development that is bound to take the country by storm: bubble tea. Years ago, the ‘80s drink invented in Taiwan is virtually unknown on this side of the planet. Today, it’s a different story altogether. The tapioca-laden drink is ubiquitous on High Streets, from the biggest cities of England to the smallest towns.
With the rate it is rising in popularity, bubble tea is bound to spread far and wide in the sphere of influence of the United Kingdom. A quick look at how the concoction became a sought-after phenomenon in North America should be telling. Take note that boba tea (named after those large tapioca balls, dubbed “boba”, in reference to the busty assets of Hong Kong actress Amy Yip) was already in America in the ‘90s. But it was not until recently that the drink’s fame exploded like wildfire on a land that used to swear allegiance to the British Crown.
Below are five reasons why bubble tea is bound to conquer the hearts of every British national and its fame spread all over the kingdom and its wide-reaching sphere of influence.
A Most Customizable Drink
If tea types were to be in a contest and be tested on how extensive each one can customize itself, bubble tea would win hands down. It’s no contest.
For starters, bubble tea can be any tea. What that means is you can use any particular tea type, be it black tea or green tea, for your boba tea. All you have to do is add milk, sweetener and those luscious tapioca balls. And voila!
Even better, you have countless ways to customize bubble tea. You can add fruits, serve it cold or serve it hot, and use a host of other ingredients to make it all even more mouth-watering.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common ingredients you can customize bubble tea with.
Tea Options in Bubble Tea
The proof of the pudding is always in the testing. You can always visit a bubble tea store. But if you want more control over what goes into your mouth, the best way to do that is to make one. Here are simple steps to follow to get to your bubble tea treat.
Health On the Go
Right off the bat, know that tea comes with a whole set of health benefits. All that catechins and antioxidants found in tea means your way to a healthier way is a lot easier. To boot, as a nootropic drink, you can check out the benefits of tea when you taste the drink. It’s no accident Buddhist monks who meditated for hours were the first ones to promote tea in their wide travels.
Without a doubt, this enviable set of health bonuses from tea has helped make it the #1 drink on the planet. But there’s a caveat. Drinking tea from the traditional cup-and-saucer method is bound to put you in a box. You simply can’t enjoy tea if you’re in a hurry.
But not if bubble tea can’t help it. As boba is offered in portable plastic cups with those large straws, you can drink it while on the run. Indeed, it’s one convenient way to energize your day while on the go.
To make the most of boba tea, here’s a guide you should follow. It’s five simple steps to your healthiest bubble tea ever. Take note that too much sugar in any drink is never good. The best way to enjoy the drink to its fullest is with moderation.
Social Media Sensation
In the age of social media, you really can’t hide something so delicious. And another reason why bubble tea is set to conquer more hearts on the planet than any other tea is it’s a certified social media hit.
Yes, that’s true. If there was any tea type that has graced Facebook, IG, and TikTok more than any, it’s bubble tea. And it all makes sense. All the possible customisations of bubble tea a person can make have made it a social-media worthy trend more than any. The fruit combination of tea, milk and extras are attracting a lot of attention in the digital space. Starting with Instagram.
Of Millenials and Gen Z
Markets come, markets go. What is immediately clear in any market is that market leaders can be a huge catalyst for the adoption of a product. Queen Catherine of Braganza in the 17th century was a classic example of that. She singlehandedly, by example, raised the bar and focused people’s attention on the merits of tea. And how alluring drinking one is.
In today’s England market, however, new market leaders abound. Call them the Catherine Braganzas in modern times.
And there never is a more influential generation in today’s market than the millennials and the younger Generation Z. The reason is simple. Today’s Gen Z and millennial generations hold more economic power than the generations that precede them. That is true for England and the rest of the planet.
- In 2020, England has 14.25 million millennials, more than any generation.
That certainly is one rude awakening. The thing is these new generations love the excitement that bubble tea is putting on the table. And the number shows.
No doubt there’s an increasing demand for premium beverages these days. A CLSA consumer survey showed 94% of those between the age of 20 and 29 has bought bubble tea in the past three months, as reported on Bloomberg.
Think of the marketing potential. Gen Z and the millennials are the biggest adopters of social media. A little math should tell you bubble tea is definitely moving up.
Wrapping Things Up
England, without a doubt, helped spread tea all over the planet, from India to America to Canada. The influence of the Empire Where the Sun Never Sets was the hand that moved the adoption of the nootropic drink for more people than can be imagined. So successful was this drive, pundits observed tea enabled the British Empire to expand even more. More than any product imported from the East.
Every time a particular type of tea is consumed, the primary element of bubble tea is laid. For what is boba but tea + milk + syrup + tapioca rolled into one. So by spreading tea all over the globe, the British Empire laid the foundations of boba. Add the highly-viral nature of the drink, and you know when it comes to global dominance, bubble tea is all set.