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One may have asked what bubble tea is; well, I can tell you this much, it is a frozen beverage mix consisting of tea leaves, sugar and sometimes milk or yoghurt. The origin of bubble tea dates back to the early 19th century in England when it was first called English bubble tea. This was also called Scottish bubble tea. Since then it has gone through various name changes like tea chest tea, white tea, Earl Grey and more.

There are many facts one must know about the early days of bubble tea and where it came from. It is also interesting how it came to be called the tea of the gods because it was packed in beautiful porcelain pots and this porcelain pot carried the name of the country of China on the side. It was invented by a Chinese called Liang Bua who happened to come to the United States and worked as a translator for the Army. At that time there were no Starbucks on every corner and this was very sad to him. He developed and perfected the tea mix that we are familiar with today and this is what we know as bubble tea.

Bubble Tea History in Eden Center with Owner Norman Ebenstein
Bubble Tea History in Eden Center with Owner Norman Ebenstein

When he brought this tea to America, it was originally called English Breakfast. Later on, when it became popular in the south, it was called light tea and eventually became known as just tea. Because the leaves are steamed or boiled, tea leaves tend to lose most of their flavor when served cold. But this is not a big problem since tea leaves are very easy to find nowadays.

Norman Ebenstein first used the word “bubble tea” in his book called The Original Tea, but it took a while for it to gain popularity all over the world. This tea was first served at the Miss Liberty in Columbia, Missouri during the period of Reconstruction. There, African-Americans would sit and listen to the story of the Civil War from the disc jockey’s booth. They would also swap bubble tea with each other.

One day, a white-collar man by the name of Alex Cross came to town and asked the innkeeper if he could have a cup of tea. Norman told him no and asked him to go to the store for some tea leaves. Alex Cross was very impressed by tea leaves and decided to buy the first cup that was available to him. Within a few days, he decided to open his own tea house in Eden Prairie. This would also be his first business success and he would be known for bringing the finest tea leaves to this town.

The history of bubble tea would continue on for a couple more years until the Second World War arrived. Many people had been killed in that war and most of America’s businesses were either closed or downsized. When it was over, however, many people had become interested again in tea drinking. They had watched the Miss Liberty episode and remembered how good the tea tasted. They started looking for places to buy tea in the new country and one of them was Norman Ebenstein.

Norman Ebenstein had moved to Eden Prairie with his family in the early 1950s. He was a salesman for Holiday Tire Company and ran his own tea house there. One day he was talking to a young lady who lived in the area about coming to a mixer tea party. She asked where she could find such a thing and he told her to look in his refrigerator.

She came back the next day with a basket full of various teas that she had never heard of and asked him how he liked his teas. He told her they were really good and explained his bubble tea history and invited her to taste some. When she tried them she was hooked and started coming to this special tea house on a regular basis. She never left.