By Peter Hong
Growing up in San Diego County, I was frequently exposed to a variety of beverages beginning at a young age. As I became older, my parents frequently drove me to numerous boba shops, and it was during these trips that I realized I had an overwhelming passion and love for boba. What used to be weekly trips to the nearby boba store became semi-weekly, and from there on out became daily trips. I would order a variety of drinks scattered throughout the menu, and I would vaguely recall the names of the the certain drinks that I chose to compare them with other competing stores. I was soon catching myself involved in intense debates with my friends and family over which place has the chewiest boba, and the best tasting teas or smoothies. It was at this point that it was clear that boba had a profound impact on my life, but many still wonder: where did this phenomenon start and what exactly is boba?
For starters, the term boba (tapioca balls or pearls) refers to miniature cassava starch balls mixed with brown sugar. Boba can also refer to the beverage and the tapioca balls combined (bubble tea). These tapioca balls are commonly used as compliments to traditional milk teas such as Thai Iced Tea or Jasmine Milk Tea, and its circular yet perplexing shape makes it very easy for consumers to endlessly chew on. Although tapioca balls are most commonly used in milk teas, it can be added to any drink including: hot or cold teas, smoothies, coffee, juice, and even soda. It is generally acknowledged that boba/bubble tea originated from Taiwan, and became popular in the United States through many Taiwanese and Asian neighborhoods promoting this delicious beverage. In terms of sales, many stores flourish near high school or college campuses, as well as inside of large commercial malls. With the addition of other snacks into the menus of the boba stores such as crispy chicken snacks, more and more people are succumbing to the boba world, becoming boba enthusiasts. Boba stores are now frequently spotted with many college students, who use the stores as a hangout to catch up with friends or to focus on some last-minute studying in peace. Furthermore, the next time you see an odd-looking drink in the hands of a college student typing away at their laptop, please do not shy away from it, and instead insist on trying one for yourself.