Bubble Tea and Wushu

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Bubble tea also known as boba or pearl milk tea is a sweet, delicious beverage many wushu practitioners drink after practice. Many flavors include fruit, Thai ice tea, taro, matcha, or buko pandan and the drink features chewy balls of tapioca called ‘bubbles’ or ‘pearls’. Savory and delicious, the beverage comes with a large, colorful straw of your choice. While enjoying the tea flavor, it becomes a fun exercise to catch the pearls on the bottom of the drink. This beverage has become a staple of refreshment after a long wushu practice. After drilling nandu and sections, groups of wushu athletes come together to socialize and drink this refreshing beverage. How did it become a popular post-practice refreshment?

One of the two origins of bubble tea came from an accident in Taichung, Taiwan in the 1980s. As legend has it, the staff member Liu Han Chie of Chun Shui Tang teahouse was enjoying a cup of iced milk tea and accidentally dropped a dessert containing tapioca balls. This resulted in the first bubble tea and he started to experiment with fruit, syrup, candied yams and tapioca balls. Seeing the value of the product, they started to sell it at Chun Shui Tang teahouse. Although the drink wasn’t patented, the drink became a global sensation. During the 1990s, the drink spread in popularity in parts of Southeast Asia. Since then, bubble tea cafes has spread to regions across South America, Canada, Europe and the latest South Africa. In the United States, bubble tea shops hit college towns and Southern California. Bubble tea had become widespread appealing to many customers young and old.


Bubble tea is the conventional Asian-American trend and Wushu team tradition. After a wushu practice, everyone comes together to walk to the local bubble tea store then read the list of colorful flavors on the menu to order. Some try a new hybrid flavor each time, while others stick to their favorite flavor. “Bubble tea is my fuel! My favorite flavor is Taro Milk Tea. Boba tea places will always have a diversity of items to drink and eat for everyone,” said Zack Feitelberg, Terp Wushu Alumni and UCLA Wushu Coach. Drinking bubble tea post-practice is a way of refueling after running through changquan and weapon sections. Jackie Ho, one of the founders for Columbia Wushu added, “Jeff, the third founder of Columbia Wushu, and I are both from the Bay Area where it was super common practice to hang out with friends and get bubble tea,” said Jackie Ho. Nowadays, as a way to integrate and socialize with new member, wushu clubs often invite newcomers to bubble tea after practice. “Growing up in California, my friends and I would get boba and this was a way for everyone hung out. So naturally with wushu, I would get bubble tea,” said Julia Wu, student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Wushu. Many college clubs such as Wellesley College, Stanford Wushu, UCLA Wushu and Terp Wushu purchase bubble tea and socialize. This has grown into a custom among wushu clubs to stay connected through bubble tea.

Just like the tea flavors and circular boba, bubble tea represents the growing wushu circle of friendship and unique personalities. Interacting over bubble tea builds a community among wushu practices. “Socializing over bubble tea is very different because the drink gives a more relaxing, kind of feel. Bubble tea is a strange, silly, but yet an amazing invention. The beverage allows for people to be more at ease while drinking through huge straw. This allows the relationship between me and my wushu brothers and sisters to deepen,” said Lianna Rivera from Jade Moon Performing Arts Academy. The bubble tea café becomes an easy place for people to relax and mingle. After releasing weapons or apparatus bags off their back, some people catch up on life events or events happening in the wushu community. Bubble tea has not only become a tradition, but a symbol of friendship and connection among the wushu community.


** I would like to thank Lianna, Zack, Jackie and Julia for contributing their quotes to this article.” – Justine

Justine Agaloos is a National USA Wushu Taolu Judge and was on the 2017 U.S.A. Traditional Wushu Team. Agaloos works full time as a Systems Analyst. With her extra time, Agaloos currently travels to domestic and international wushu tournaments.