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It's not "just a cup of milk tea"!

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Hello, it's wonderful to see you here! I'm guessing you've come to my site because you're already a fan of the drink or want to learn more about it. Regardless of what brought you here, I hope you find the answers to your questions.

I've given an outline of milk tea history, why it became popular, and a look at the Vietnamese milk tea market in this blog. Other more in-depth evaluations will be included in future posts!

The history of milk tea

imsodaan milk tea

Bubble tea first appeared in Taiwan in the 1980s. Taiwanese tea consumers have noticed that while they have tea for breakfast, lunch, they don't have any for their snacks or in different words, for brunch. To fill the void, they created milk tea, a drink that can be regarded as both a snack and a beverage at the same time. Milk tea is an iced tea with tapioca balls or boba at the bottom that is refreshing and flavorful. The tapioca balls are added after the milk has been blended with a tea base. Milk tea became a huge sensation thanks to its wonderful and unique spin on a supposedly traditional drink. The trend then spread across South Asia and, eventually, North America, thanks to immigrant populations. The popularity of the drink surged dramatically among young people in 2007 as a result of the expansion of social media marketing, and it peaked in 2018 in South East Asia.

The taste of milk tea

There are a variety of reasons why the combination of milk and tea was such a hit. According to tea books, the milk proteins conjugate with the tea tannins, making black tea taste mellower and less astringent. Another explanation I discovered during my research is that the calcium present in milk is one of the reasons why people are comfortable drinking tea with milk. Calcium has a unique role in that it increases the strength of the flavor. Milk tea, in my opinion, is a great mix for anyone looking for a light but interesting drink. Just like other caffeinated beverages, it provides your body with sugar that might help you feel more energized and focused. It, however, did not make my heart race as fast as the way coffee or energy drinks make me feel.

Why is milk tea popular?

The original taste is one of the reasons it is well-known and supported around the world, but it is not the only one. Another crucial reason we can't overlook is that bubble tea has remained popular due to its adaptability; rather than losing its novelty appeal, it adapts to new tastes.

imsodaan milk tea

Second, the milk tea shop offers a diverse selection as well as a personalized experience! Take a look at the diversity of teas available, such as black tea, green tea, oolong tea, earl grey tea, etc. Then there are the various milk options, such as nonfat milk, reduced-fat milk, coconut milk, nut milk, and so on. The list may go on forever! Furthermore, rather than keeping to tea and milk, additional fruit tastes, yogurt, honey, caramel as well as new toppings were developed. Finally, milk tea shops frequently provide various levels of sugar and ice, allowing you to tailor your drinks to your desire.

Another element contributing to the milk tea industry's growth is the rise of marketing and social media. Marketing has shifted its target to urban teenagers and young professionals who are considered to be trendy and pay more for unnecessities. Besides that, milk tea brands/store owners frequently solicit feedback from their loyal customers or social media followers in order to develop new seasonal drinks on a regular basis, as well as several one-of-a-kind promotions to entice targeted customers to visit and revisit their physical stores more frequently. Therefore, this milk tea trend has lasted considerably longer than fads generally do, thanks to more targeted.

But what about other communities other than Asian?

It is easy to find that ordinary loose tea never catches on in public awareness. In the United States, putting dried leaves in hot water and drinking it is considered quite unusual. Bubble tea, on the other hand, is a flavored, processed, and well pre-prepared drink, which is loved by Western people as well.

Vietnam milk tea market through my lens

imsodaan milk tea

2000| First cup of milk tea!

I had my first experience at a local store in my hometown, Long An, whose owners, if memory serves me correctly, were a Chinese couple. In the following years, the business was closed down. At the time, this beverage was not common.

2001-2009| Milk tea stall with same old taste!

My family and I used to go to a bookshop in HCMC and often get milk tea from a stall near its parking lot on a regular basis. The flavor was very similar to the first ones I tried. However, the stall disappeared in later years as well!

2008| More people are becoming aware of this beverage.

Many well-designed milk tea businesses opened in my hometown, attracting a large number of youthful clients, which I dubbed the "silver era" of milk tea before reports of chemical overuse in the beverage. Since then, milk tea has been labeled as "toxic" by the majority of its customers' parents!

2016| Milk tea trend

Vietnam milk tea market welcomed many major Taiwanese and Singaporeese milk tea brands, such as Gongcha, Koi, The Alley, Tenren, etc. These brands, which were already well-known in other markets thanks to quality certifications and stringent ingredient source management, shifted public opinion on milk tea. Customers who were to be targeted were also modified from teenagers who bought milk tea after school to university students and young professionals.

2018 - 2019| Golden era

Along with the explosion of food delivery applications, milk tea brands gradually asserted their clear position in the eyes of their potential customers. In Vietnam, as in the Philippines or Thailand, the average number of milk tea cups consumed per person per month is between 2 and 6 cups. That number was much higher for people between the age of 13 - 26. Brands that have survived this long have switched their focus from converting target audiences into customers to boosting the order frequency of their current consumers. I recall how those famous milk tea stores built up a separate lounge for the long line of shippers waiting for their orders. That was a good time!

2020- present| Effect of the pandemic outbreak

With the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in early 2020, the milk tea market experienced significant swings. According to 2019 F&B industry statistics, the Vietnam milk tea market is predicted to slow down in the next years, growing at a rate of only 5.7 percent each year (the growth rate was 200% in 2019).

Stores have been closed for a long time under the guidance of authorities to contain the emergence of the Covid 19 epidemics, leading to the permanent closure of many of them afterward. Although, as of the beginning of September, new legislation was established to restore the economy. Public skepticism and expensive shipping costs, on the other hand, are obstacles to stores reopening.


I've always been a tea drinker. I discovered a new concept of bliss when I had my first cup of milk tea in early 2000. To me, happiness is a cup of milk tea. Green tea with milk and boba at the bottom is my fave. So, how about you?



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