If you’re anything like me, you are probably unfamiliar with bubble tea. Most people think of little tea pots or tea bags when they think of the tea people drink. However, in the 80s the project manager for the Chun Shui Tang tea house, Ms. Lin Hsiu Hui, had a unique idea.

She was in a meeting, and she brought her favorite dessert and an iced tea in with her. While listening to everyone talk, she decided to try pouring the balls from her tapioca pudding into her drink and drank it. What she created became the very first bubble tea, reports CNN GO.

“Everyone at the meeting loved the drink and it quickly outsold all of our other iced teas within a couple of months — even after 20 years on the menu, bubble tea makes up 80-90 percent of our sales and Taiwanese are proud of this home-grown drink,” says Lin.

Today, bubble tea shops occupy nearly every corner of Taiwan’s streets. They spread to neighboring countries like Japan, South Korea and China and then to the rest of the world. Had Lin trademarked the product, they could have wound up multi-millionaires.

If there is such a demand from Taiwanese and overseas Chinese for Chun Shui Tang’s teas, why not go “Starbucks” and expand to satisfy the clientele? “We have over 30 teahouses in Taiwan now but we go to great lengths to find quality staff. It takes up to six months for a bar worker to learn to make the 80 or so tea drinks on our menu and we want to find committed staff who really love tea and tea culture,” says Lin.

Their bubble teas are made to order and are usually shaken, not blended as in other shops. A refractometer, which measures sweetness in drinks and food, is used to assess the sweetness of each drink to match the customer’s specifications. Think of it like telling a waiter how you would like your steak cooked.

Photo by Kate Ausburn

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