Have you ever wondered what those small, chewy balls in your bubble tea drink are? They’re called boba! Learn more about them in this guide.
If you tried boba tea, chances are you already stumbled upon those chewy tapioca pearls (boba) at the top or bottom of the drink.
Also known as boba pearls, boba is a go-to topping for bubble tea, a trendy drink invented in Taiwan in the 1980s.
In the early 1900s, bubble tea (or tapioca tea) took the beverage world by storm, with boba shops popping up in major cities of Japan and the United States.
Today, it’s not unusual to find pearl milk tea shops in every corner of the world.
In fact, the global boba milk tea market size reached above $2 billion in 2019, based on the 2020 market research report from Fortune Business Insights.
So, what is boba?
This article will spill every detail about the popular topping and fun drink addition, including how it tastes, what it is made from, and how you can add it in other recipes aside from boba drinks.
Also dubbed as tapioca pearls, boba is made from tapioca starch. Boba is a well-known topping (even though they sink to the bottom) for most boba tea drinks.
And not every boba drink has tea in it.
Boba are springy, chewy, small, round balls typically mixed with a brown sugar syrup, giving these totally edible bubbles their sweet taste and dark brown or black color.
There are also boba types that have been combined with flavored syrups like mango, strawberry, and coconut.
These boba pearls are commonly added in smoothies, black tea, and green tea. So basically, the boba flavor depends on the ingredient mixed in with the pearls.
As for boba texture, the pearls should have a bouncy and chewy texture after being cooked in boiling water.
If they’re too soft and squishy, the boba pearls will likely stick together.
What does boba taste like?
As mentioned, the flavor profile of boba depends on the ingredient mixed into the pearls.
Black boba has a pleasant mildly sweet taste due to the addition of brown sugar syrup.
White tapioca pearls have no flavor, as they’re just made with water and tapioca starch. They add a bouncy, fun texture without any flavor.
Meanwhile, colored tapioca contains fruit flavorings, making them fruity, fun, and festive.
What is boba made out of?
Boba (specifically black boba) is simply made from tapioca, which is starch from the cassava root.
The tapioca starch is mixed and cooked with dark brown sugar and water.
The mixture is kneaded until it becomes smooth.
Then, the dough is cut into small pieces and rolled into small orbs with a tapioca starch coating.
Once the boba spheres are ready, the fresh tapioca pearls are cooked in boiling water until they turn opaque to translucent with a soft or chewy texture.
How to use boba
People often think that boba is only destined to be included in bubble milk tea drinks.
But little did they know, there are many ways you can use these tiny orbs in your recipes.
Here are some creative (and delicious) recipes you can make using boba pearls:
- Combine boba pearls with milk to make this Indian-inspired pudding.
- Use black tapioca pearls to top this Filipino sweet treat.
- Complete this summer dessert with tiny white tapioca pearls.
- Mix boba pearls with taro to create this creamy sago soup.
- Here’s another unique spin on chewy bubble tea pearls boba ice cream bars!
- Unite luscious panna cotta and brown sugar tapioca pearls in this creamy dessert.
- Take your bubble tea game up a notch with this delicious drink.
What is boba tea?
Boba tea (or bubble tea) is a Taiwanese drink made from milk or fruit juice and then finished with chewy and soft tapioca pearls.
The drink is creamy and rich in plastic cups or tall glasses with ice cubes.
One of the most sought-after boba tea recipes in most Asian markets is the classic bubble tea, which is sweetened and consists of whole milk, sugar, black tea, and bouncy, chewy black tapioca pearls.
Fun fact: There is a National Bubble Tea Day, which is a special holiday celebrated by boba lovers annually on April 30th.