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The Surprising Reason Bubble Tea Is Called Boba
By Elaina Friedman
No matter which flavor you order, boba (also known as bubble tea) is just as fun to look at as it is to drink, thanks to those chewy pearls at the bottom. These smooth and toothsome "bubbles" are many people's favorite part of boba, so it's easy to guess that the drink was named after these tapioca pearls.
The alleged progenitor of boba tea, Taiwanese bartender Chang Fan Shu, added tapioca pearls to green tea and named it "pearl green tea," because it reminded him of the pearls his mother wore. After a few years, the drink took the simpler moniker of "boba," but this name has a funny hidden meaning.
"Boba" is actually a Chinese slang term for "breasts," and consumers began calling pearl milk tea "boba" because of the round shape of the tapioca balls. The cheeky name applies not only to tapioca pearls, but can also refer to jelly or red bean pearls, which are also commonly added to milk tea.