After seeing the enormous queue outside Salisbury's newly opened bubble tea shop, CUPP, you could be forgiven for wondering “What’s the hype?”.

Here is an explainer on what it is, where it comes from, and of course; why it’s so popular. 

What is bubble tea?

Bubble tea is an Asian drink made by blending tea and sometimes ice, milk, fruit, or fruit juice, with tapioca pearls (bubbles). 

The tea usually comes in a plastic cup, covered with a plastic seal, and a thick plastic straw is used to piece open the top. 

Tapioca ‘boba’ tend to get a bit of a marmite reception in the UK, so nowadays you’ll find fruit syrup alternatives that are delightfully colourful.

A particularly special recipe, and one of the most popular in Asia, is Taro Milk bubble tea (made from a root vegetable with the same name) and it is lilac in colour.

Make sure to put the straw in on a flat surface if you’re a newbie, and the trick is to spread the film covering taut, stabbing in the straw with confidence, or you might find it spilling all over you. 

Why is it called bubble tea? 

Surprisingly, it is not actually called bubble tea because of the aforementioned ‘boba’, but because of the vigorous shaking involved in the blending process of the tea which leads to floating bubbles. 

This is a very important element, particularly for a cold bubble tea, the foam named ‘Shou Yao’ in Chinese.  

Where did it come from?

There are no official records of where bubble tea actually came from, but the general consensus is that the first blend appeared in Taiwan.

Some date this to the 1980's where it started as a post-work pick me up and then took off.

Other accounts suggest it came about as early as the 1940s at an izakaya (Japanese style pub or inn) in Taiwan under Japanese rule during WW2.

There is no doubt that since then it has become a global phenomenon. 

There’s even a national bubble tea day on April 30.

Why did it become so popular? 

Admittedly, Salisbury is a bit late to the bubble tea market, with the first Bubble Tea shop starting out in Soho, London, in 2011. 

That first resturant has now become a well-known chain which those who are not new to the ‘boba’ industry will recognise, Bubbleology, boasting 69 sites across the world.

It is rare to come across a bubble tea shop now without at least a bit of a queue, particularly prestigious Boba venues in London which are never without one. 

The novelty of all the different colours, flavours and customisation options draws in a wide market, particularly from younger generations, according to business fortune insights on the bubble tea market. 

According to the BBC, prominent restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin described it as “chewy and odd”.

She said: “It's slippery and strange, but weirdly more-ish.”

READ MORE: Live updates on CUPP bubble tea's opening in Salisbury

Have you had a bubble tea at CUPP yet? Let us know what you thought of it. We're collecting responses and photos in the pop-up box below. 

Anything else you'd like to know about bubble tea? Ask in the comments and we'll see if we can answer.

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