I went to bubble tea school and visited the world’s first bubble tea shop…
It's supposedly definitive that bubble tea was invented in Taiwan. But the inventor’s identity is unclear: teahouses in Taichung and Tainan each claim the title.
In Taichung, the Chun Shui Tang teahouse (春水堂人文茶館) began serving iced tea in the early 1980s, after its founder observed the popularity of iced coffee in Japan. In 1987, his product manager added black tapioca balls on a whim, fellow employees loved it, and bubble tea was born. Maybe.
A year earlier, the owner of Tainan’s Hanlin Tea Room (翰林茶館) spotted white tapioca balls in a local market. In a flash of inspiration, he took some home, added them to cold milk tea, and bubble tea was born. Maybe.
Lawsuits from both sides—and a decade of litigation—failed to reach a conclusion. The courts ultimately decided that, as a non-trademarked, non-patented product, anyone can make bubble tea and therefore it’s not necessary to know the inventor. A friendly, equivocal, unsatisfying outcome.
So, in an unfriendly, unequivocal, but very satisfying move, I’ve decided to call it:
Taichung’s Chun Shui Tang teahouse is the true inventor of bubble tea.
Which is convenient, because that’s where I went yesterday, on a 340km round-trip bubble tea odyssey…
On an unrelated note…
Today, January 5, 2024, marks my one-year anniversary in Taiwan. I forgot to celebrate. But I’ll be celebrating my one-year anniversary in Kaohsiung—this coming Monday—by leaving town. I’ll be embarking on a solo huandao (環島), literally ‘around the island’, circumnavigation of Taiwan by scooter.
I plan to post daily updates, starting the night of January 8. Weather, scooter, and body permitting, the trip will take 11 days.