Delete
Migue Fernández
What exactly is bubble tea, the Asian beverage craze that is taking Malaga and the Costa del Sol by storm?
Food and drink

What exactly is bubble tea, the Asian beverage craze that is taking Malaga and the Costa del Sol by storm?

Such businesses are proliferating across the province thanks to the demand from younger customers

Juan Soto

Malaga

Monday, 8 April 2024, 15:11

Compartir

The trendy drink in Asia has carved a niche for itself in the taste-buds of the people of Malaga. Bubble tea, or simply boba tea, has become a product that is becoming ever more popular throughout the province. The proof lies in the large number of bubble tea bars springing up all along the coast.

The beverage started up in Taiwan in the late 1980s. It is a sweet drink made with tea, flavoured with fruit or other ingredients and accompanied by tapioca pearls, which gives it an intriguing contrast between the liquid drink and the lumpiness of the tapioca balls. It is a very versatile drink, as it can be drunk either hot or cold, and with or without milk.

In Malaga there are currently numerous establishments specialising in this type of product, mainly international companies or entrepreneurs from other countries where this drink already has a long tradition and is widely accepted. Tapio Bubble Tea, TeaOne and Teeamo are some of the most well-known names, although the list is growing practically every week. "It's a product that appeals to people of all ages", say the bubbñe tea entrepreneurs.

One of the characteristics that make this drink original and completely different has to be the tapioca balls that are placed at the bottom of the drinking-cup and drunk at the same time as the tea. They are completely round pearls (like jelly beans), made from the starch extracted from the root of the cassava, to which different flavours can be added to provide contrast with, or simply to match the flavour of the drink. Some can even be made to explode in the mouth with a fizz.

Bubble tea is a very versatile drink, as it can be made in a variety of flavours.
Bubble tea is a very versatile drink, as it can be made in a variety of flavours. Migue Fernández

Bubble tea's popularity soon spread in the 1980s from Taiwan to nearby countries and then to the USA, where it became very popular thanks to the many Chinatown business districts. It is said to have originated at the Chun Shui Tang tea house in Taichung, Taiwan. There, Liu Han Chie began to experiment by mixing cold milk tea with fruit, syrup, caramelised sweet potato and tapioca balls. This invention was not very popular at first, but its appearance on a television programme led to widespread demand, especially among Taiwanese businessmen.

Among the companies that already offer this beverage in Malaga, Tapio Bubble Tea stands out as one of the pioneers to set up in the provincial capital. Initially they opened a small store in Calle Ollerías although, in a short time, and due to being very well received, they opened a second establishment in Calle Armengual de la Mota. Their growth has been so exponential that they are even considering franchising the brand.

The business is run by Alexandra Alexe and her husband, a Romanian-Taiwanese couple, who opened the business in September 2020 in the middle of the pandemic after realising that it was a type of business offering not yet in Malaga. "In Taiwan people drink coffee like here, four or five a day and there is a drinks bar every two or three streets", she explains.

Tapio Bubble Tea. It was one of the first specialist stores to open in Malaga city and now has two premises.
Tapio Bubble Tea. It was one of the first specialist stores to open in Malaga city and now has two premises.

After living in different countries and then coming to the Costa del Sol, they realised that there was nothing like this here and decided to open a niche business, believing it to be an attractive product that could work in the city, as there is a clear interest in Asian cultures here. Well, they were not wrong. "We were the first and now there is not a week that goes by without another business of this type opening for trade", they admit.

Bubble tea is a product that appeals mainly to young people aged 15 to 30, although undoubtedly anyone trying it will repeat the experience. Initially it appeals to the eye, largely due to its colourful and 'instagrammable' aesthetics, although its real strength is its flavour. People who have already tried it describe it as a sweet drink with the tapioca balls providing a contrast on the palate, giving you something to play with and, on top of that, it can be made in different colours to make it even more eye-catching. "Young people are very interested in everything that has to do with Asian culture; cuisine, music, entertainment... and without a doubt this drink is in the top 3", says Alexandra Alexe.

Another business that has started to offer the bubbly beverage in Malaga city is ODream's, one of the latest tea-shops to open. The Belgian chain has taken over premises on Avenida de La Rosaleda in an 80 square metre space that promises to be an oasis for those with a sweet tooth. In their case, they combine bubble tea with other sweet products, mostly doughnuts, as they assure us that the combination is perfect. "It's a product that is becoming very popular", they state.

ODream's: The Belgian chain has just opened its first store in Malaga city, combining bubble tea with flavoured doughnuts.
ODream's: The Belgian chain has just opened its first store in Malaga city, combining bubble tea with flavoured doughnuts. Migue Fernández

The managers of TeaOne Málaga, a company that has just opened its second business premises in Malaga, are also of the same opinion. Iranian businessman Reza Ghasemi currently has a shop in Calle Carretería and has opened another shop-space in the Vialia shopping centre due to the other's great success. In his opinion, it is a drink with many benefits that bewitches children and teenagers. "It has many fans all over the world because it is unique, natural and healthy".

Bubble tea at home too

The worldwide craze for bubble tea has led to large food chains also taking an interest in this product. Although until now it could only be tasted in specialised establishments, a Spanish company has just launched the first ready-to-drink bubble tea on the market. It is BubbleGo, a drink that can already be found on the shelves of El Corte Inglés and Carrefour supermarkets, among others.

TeaOne Málaga prepares 15 different flavours, all of them fruit-based, both with and without milk. The company belongs to a German company with premises all over the world and they certainly knew that the Costa del Sol was one of THE places to be. As to their target consumers, Ghasemi says: "It's the most interesting drink around for young people aged 12 to 18 as they don't drink coffee or alcohol".

Reporta un error en esta noticia

* Campos obligatorios