What does bubble tea taste like?

Written by a few bubble tea addicts

What does bubble tea taste like?

TLDR: Bubble tea taste varies by flavor. The most popular bubble tea drinks have a sweet flavor that is either milky or fruity, and have customizable toppings with unique textures (chewy, slurpy etc.).

Bubble tea comes in a variety of different flavors and textures. From taro, to mango flavors, to popping pearls and coconut jellies - the options are limitless (seriously - there’s probably like a trillion combinations of bubble tea drinks you can have).

Quite simply, bubble tea consists of two components: the tea base, and toppings

  • The tea base in bubble tea is often a sweet tea-based drink poured over ice. Black tea and green tea are the most common.
  • The toppings in bubble tea are usually tapioca pearls, which are slightly chewy, but soft. These are also often called boba.
Bubble Tea Drinks

What does the tea base taste like?

The tea base of bubble tea is normally served over ice, and combines steeped tea with milk and sweetener. It tastes just like it sounds - a milk tea! Most bubble tea shops allow you to choose your sugar levels, which change the taste of the tea base dramatically.

The texture of the bubble tea base is usually rather creamy due to the dairy, although some bubble tea lovers exclude the milk and go for fruity or lactose-free dairy alternatives.

What do the toppings taste like?

Bubble tea can have many different toppings, but the most popular topping is tapioca pearls (or boba). These pearls come from the South American cassava root, which is processed to create tapioca starch, and then boiled for up to an hour.

Tapioca pearls are usually quite tasteless, and mild in flavor! To enhance the flavor, they are often soaked in brown sugar syrup before being added to the bubble tea.

You might ask: WHY would anyone want to drink bubble tea, if the tapioca pearls are so mild in flavor? The answer is the texture!

Tapioca pearls are slightly chewy, yet soft. They are just so satisfying to bite into - and millions of bubble tea lovers around the world would agree! In case you're wondering what Tapioca looks like, the photo below shows an image of a milk tea with tapioca!

Bubble Tea in a Cup

So... what does bubble tea taste like?

Depending on the base and toppings you choose, bubble tea taste can vary widely (one of the reasons people love it). The most popular bubble tea drink is a classic milk tea (black tea, milk, sweetener, and pearls) which tastes sweet, creamy, and silky because of the milk, and has a nice chewy texture because of the tapioca pearls. 

A common alternative to milk teas is fruit tea. One of the most popular fruit teas, passionfruit green tea, features passion fruit juice (fresh or from syrup) coupled with tea to provide a refreshing and fruity taste. Fruit teas come in a wide selection of flavors, and can even be requested in slushy form. In case you're not a big tapioca fan, a great topping pairing for a fruit tea would be coconut or lychee jelly, which introduces a chewy but fruity texture that complements fruit teas really well.

Bubble tea is the perfect dessert that combines a thirst-quenching drink, with a chewy add-on!

Where was bubble tea invented?

Bubble tea became quite popular in Taiwan in the 1940s. Up to this point, milk teas (without any toppings) were already a popular beverage. Tapioca was also already popular as a standalone dessert (see Tapioca Pudding).

Someone had the brilliant idea of combining the two, to create bubble tea!

We actually wrote a whole post about this: Where was bubble tea invented?

How do I make it at home?

Bubble tea can take be challenging to make at home, depending on which flavor you’d like to have. Here’s a more in-depth guide on how to make it.

To make it completely from scratch, you’ll have to buy all of the individual ingredients (tea, milk, tapioca, etc.) and can expect cook time take take an hour to an hour and half. The long cook time is mainly a result of tapioca pearls requiring an hour of boiling.

If you're looking for a less intimidating way to try bubble tea, try a bubble tea kit. The Pearly bubble tea kit is delicious, and ready in under 3 minutes.