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Home / Boba

Chun Shui Tang: Home of the humble boba drink

By Eloin Barahona-Garcia

In the heart of Taichung, Taiwan is where the roots of a teahouse chain called Chun Shui Tang lie. Located in the western part of the city, the original Chun Shui Tang teahouse sits on a modest street, surrounded by modern offices and businesses. On first glance, it looks like a novelty, like something that belongs in a different time period. But in reality, Chun Shui Tang is the purported birthplace of one of the most popular drinks in the world: boba drinks. 

As an alternative to the many Starbucks and coffee shops in the States, boba drinks have been a welcome choice. The boba pearls are chewy and slightly sweet, adding texture to the act of drinking iced drinks. When coupled with tea, which isn’t as sweet, the taste is subtle and pleasant. There’s a variety of colors and styles of boba these days, but the classic dark brown pearls are the go-to for many. 

The creation of boba drinks for Chun Shui Tang dates back to the 1980s, when founder Han-chieh Liu got the idea after returning home from a trip to Japan. After being served cold coffee, Liu thought of attempting the same at home with tea instead. Once iced tea became a staple of the teahouse, there was a desire to continue innovating further. The revelation of iced tea created the building blocks of what would come next.  

The standard boba milk tea you can order at the store. | Photo by By Eloin Barahona-Garcia

Xiuhui Lin, a manager at Chun Shui Tang in 1985, continued to experiment with what could be done with iced tea by mixing in tapioca pearls. One day of experimentation led to the creation of the now famous drink that is known worldwide. These days, you can go to any corner of Southern California and find a shop that sells boba drinks. They’ve expanded from simple iced teas to juices and blended drinks; you’ll almost always be able to add as much boba as you want to them.

But Chun Shui Tang continues to be the original, authentic way to enjoy boba drinks. A sit down experience at the aging teahouse is unlike anything. It trumps what many tea shops in the States offer, simply because its approach is a bit more refined. The exterior of the shop looks rustic with the giant wooden sign outside and aging architecture. But that rustic charm is only there to bolster your dining experience. 

The kitchen, where workers prepare drinks and food for customers. | Photo by By Eloin Barahona-Garcia

Entering the doors of the shop leads you to a world where the past and present combine into a pleasant, homey environment. You can sit outside and enjoy the peaceful streets of Taichung while sipping on some milk tea, but the interior is worth walking into. The architecture is equal parts wood and concrete and they combine nicely to create a relaxing atmosphere for the customer. 

The workers are constantly attending to customers and working briskly to bring orders out in a timely manner. Know that if you order here, you’re likely to get your food and drink promptly. The front and back of the store are segmented, with a tasteful fountain that adorns the furthest corner of the store. The back of the store has an invitation written on the wall for visitors to try and create their own drinks in a class that the tea shop offers. You’ll want to learn after experiencing Chun Shui Tang’s famous iced teas with boba mixed in. 

The furthest end of the store, where the walls encourage customers to try and make their own drinks with Chun Shui Tang’s classes. | Photo by By Eloin Barahona-Garcia

While most places serve you your drink in a plastic sealed cup with a thick straw, Chun Shui Tang opts for a fountain glass. While it might seem like a slight difference, the change from plastic to glass enhances the experience just a bit more. The size of the fountain glass makes you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth and the way milk tea froths slightly just adds some aesthetic appeal to your drink. The milk tea is made in a shaker as opposed to being poured out from a container, which creates the aforementioned froth that the tea has. 

When you couple the excellent boba drinks with the food offerings the shop has, the visit to Chun Shui Tang feels absolutely complete. It’s easy to not think too hard about the value of some good french fries or fried chicken pieces, but you will after trying them here. For anyone who wants actual food, don’t worry because the store is ready to accommodate you. The noodle dishes on offer are fantastic and include dry (noodles without broth) and soup noodles. Biting into some hot noodles while enjoying boba milk tea is simply fantastic.

One of many noodle dishes on offer at Chun Shui Tang. This one is comprised of a light broth, cucumber, carrots, and unseen sesame paste that sits at the bottom of the bowl. | Photo by By Eloin Barahona-Garcia

The curious traveler should definitely make a stop in Taichung to experience what Chun Shui Tang has to offer. The popularity of boba drinks cannot be understated and as such, a visit to Chun Shui Tang is a must when visiting Taiwan. Exploring the origins of such an iconic style of drink is almost necessary for any foodies that pride themselves on their taste for boba drinks. The tea shop may have many locations in Taiwan and abroad, but its roots are all the more interesting to visit in such a humble area as Taichung.  

For more locations, history and classes, visit http://chunshuitang.com.tw/.

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