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The bubble that won’t burst

Originating in China in the eighties, bubble tea has stood the test of time and now it’s taking London by storm.

Taiwan’s biggest export of late is a burgeoning beverage trend that has been bubbling up across cities globally.

You’ve probably seen it already, or maybe you’ve even had it. Its distinguishing marks are easy to spot – a see-through cup filled with drink (colour: any), a big fat straw, and black globular balls. We’re talking, of course, of bubble tea.


Famous for its bright yellow decoration, Happy Lemon has pushed bubble tea to another level.

Bubble tea is very much rooted in traditional Chinese culture and their love of, you guessed it, tea. Invented in the eighties, the original recipe called for black tea, condensed milk and chewy tapioca balls.

The concept bubbled up from the Taiwanese Chun Shui Tang Teahouse. On a trip to Japan, its owner, Liu Han-Chieh noted how the Japanese loved cold coffee and upon returning applied the concept to tea. It was their product development manager, Lin Hsiu Hui who had the tapioca ball brainwave and slipped in the tiny globes of yumminess. The rest is bubble tea history.


Originated in Taiwan, Happy Lemon is one of the biggest bubble tea chains in the world.

These days you can get pretty much any variety of tea, with a wealth of zany-yet-delicious hybrid versions available from global bubble tea mixologists. Black tea, green tea, tapioca pearls, any kind of fruit juice, aloe jelly, normal jelly, coconut, banana, chocolate, ice cream, milk, cookies…if you can dream it, you can drink it. Served hot or iced to perfection, sweet or not so sweet, the beauty of bubble tea is its infinite customisations.

Fun fact – surprisingly, bubble tea’s name didn’t actually originate from the tapioca balls, it actually comes from the frothy, bubbly foam on top when shaken. Who knew?


Another world-renowned bubble tea brand, Chatime, also sweetens Chinatown with its superb bubble tea.

And that’s very much the ethos at Taiwanese bubble tea shop Happy Lemon, on Chinatown’s Newport Court. Who else would think to put rock salted cheese (mascarpone, nonetheless) on top of any one of three base brews (black tea, green tea or chocolate).

Ranked the 25th most delicious drink in the world by CNN, bubble tea has truly made its delicious mark. And, here comes the science bit – while some takeaway beverages may feel a removable lid is up to the job of spills, bubble tea knows it can do better. To stop thy cup runneth over, its lid gets vacuum-sealed in front of you (there’s a fancy machine and everything). This way, before you slurp, you can shake up the bubbles in the tea until your heart’s content. Thirsty yet?

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