Sealing the Deal on the Drink You Can Chew [Thoughts After Dark]

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Sealing the Deal on the Drink You Can Chew [Thoughts After Dark]

Thoughts After Dark answers the questions you have in the final moments before drifting off to sleep when a simple Google search turns into an hour-long exploration into how things are made and how they work. Your random late-night questions are answered here — even the ones you didn’t know you had.

The first time I tried boba tea I was confused by the little, black balls floating around in the bottom of my cup. But before I could even take a sip to discover their texture and taste, I had to stab a straw through a flat, plastic lid. I remember turning to my friend and asking how the application of the lid worked — how was this dingy piece of plastic now perfectly sealed and why didn’t it leak when I shook the drink to mix the boba and the milky tea? 

Now, as a self-proclaimed boba-enthusiast (I even have a tattoo), I watch closely as the lid seals to my cup of taro milk tea at every tea joint I stroll into. The plastic cup sealing machine, used to contain the drink in the cup, is mesmerizing in its efficiency. 

The boba tea fad began in the 1980s and hasn’t seemed to lose traction, most likely because of the satisfying feeling of popping the tapioca pearls in your mouth. Boba tea originated in Taiwan, and the plastic cup sealing machine has been used as a more efficient and cost-effective way to package the drink. 

The machine — often made of stainless steel and accommodating 95mm lids — heats a ring to melt all sides of the plastic cellophane to create a seal. This makes the cup spill-free until you’re ready to dive in. A single roll of sealer film costs around $40 and seals about 3,900 cups, costing about $0.01 per drink. These machines, if used properly, can seal more than 500 cups an hour and save plastic in the process. 

The most important part about picking a machine is knowing the top diameter of your cup. If it doesn’t fit into the upper mold of the sealing machine, it will not seal properly and allow for that joyful moment of jabbing the straw through the thin lid with ease. 

With many companies pushing to establish green initiatives in the wake of more climate change research and activism, it’s a wonder why more food and beverage establishments don’t invest in a cup-sealing machine instead of using generic plastic lids. Using less plastic saves companies money over time, and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions (a win-win, if you ask me). 

It’s commonly referred to as bubble tea.

It was invented by accident. A woman was trying to entertain herself during a meeting and put her fen yuan (tapioca dessert) in her iced Assam tea. It was too good not to recreate. 

Tapioca pearls are made from the starch of cassava root. 

The name “bubble tea” doesn’t come from the tapioca pearls looking like bubbles, but from the foam found on the top of the drink when shaken up. 

In 2012, all of the McDonald’s in Germany sold boba tea, but they no longer do.

Image Credit: bebe14 /

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Sealing the Deal on the Drink You Can Chew [Thoughts After Dark]

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