What does bubble tea, a very old-school dessert and a breakfast trend that’s sweeping the planet have in common? That would be tapioca.
You might be familiar with it as the little chewy pearls in the bottom of your bubble tea, or as something that can be turned into pudding.
It’s actually a starch or form of flour, sourced from the root of the South American cassava plant. So, what’s so good about carbs from the cassava?
Well, the starchy substance can being transformed into a meal that can be devoured for breakfast, lunch and dinner: we’re talking a striking crispy crepe. The tapioca crepe, or beiju de tapioca, has long been a favourite in Brazil and now it's conquering food hubs like New York.
It’s got fans in Europe too:
The trend began in Brazil, where tapioca originated, and is now making its way to Australian shores and mouths.
A few cafes in Melbourne and Sydney have begun experimenting with tapioca options, and Australia now even has its first dedicated tapioca venue.
The Tapioca Garden is a Brisbane cafe run by Brazilian expat Ana Maria Cilli, and it offers up a lengthy crepe menu.
“I really wanted to bring something Brazilian to Australia,” Cilli tells SBS. “Tapioca is really big in Brazil, and there are tapioca places everywhere - so I thought why not try it here?”
The venue originally began around a year ago as a lunch cafe selling bagels, but when two local design students approached Cilli with a redesign concept, she embraced it.
“At the start, I wasn't sure how the Australian public would receive tapioca - but people keep coming back, and they love it. I wasn't expecting such an immediate response,” she says.
Tapioca is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and yes, it's been touted as a superfood. But, don’t worry - if terms like ‘superfood’ send you running, Cilli confirms that tapioca isn’t just a boring health food. “People think it’s healthy so there’s no taste - but I promise, it tastes fantastic!”
Cilli says that business is booming since she transformed her menu to focus on tapioca, and she believes that the trend is taking off in Australia.
“I think the Australian public is very open to new trends and new foods, especially because people are paying more attention to what they're eating these days.”