What is boba made of?

Written by a few bubble tea addicts, on Oct 04, 2022

What is boba made of?

Quick Answer: Boba refers to both the bubble tea drink and the chewy pearls in the drink. The pearls are made from tapioca, a starch that comes from the cassava root. The drink is made of a combination of tea, liquid (juice or milk) and toppings.

Feeling confused? You're not alone. The term boba gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it refers to a drink, sometimes it refers to a topping. It also doesn’t help that there’s a Disney character that shares the name too. The confusion ends here though. We’ll help you understand what each type of boba is made of.

What are boba balls made of?

casava Root

The first type of boba we’ll cover is the topping, boba balls. These are also known as tapioca, tapioca pearls, boba pearls, or simply, pearls.

No matter what you call them, you should know that boba pearls are made from tapioca. Tapioca is a starch that comes from the cassava root. It’s a root native to South America, where it’s been used as a cooking ingredient for centuries. It looks a little like sweet potatoes, and even shows up in a lot of the sugar-free candy you see popping up in stores today.

When making boba balls, you take tapioca starch, add boiling water, and knead them until they reach a dough-like consistency. Once the tapioca is shaped into little balls, it is added into boiling water (with brown sugar added to it), and cooked for ~30 minutes until it’s ready. It’s a surprisingly simple cooking process, but requires some patience and planning for the balls to finish cooking.

What about different flavors of boba balls?

Strawberry boba. Mango boba. Lychee boba. These are all delicious takes on traditional brown sugar boba. The process for preparing these is almost identical to the original boba balls. The only additional ingredient required is pureed fruit (of your choice) or fruit syrup. The fruit puree/syrup is added to the tapioca starch before it’s kneaded to give it a fruity flavor. It’s then boiled as usual and yields fruit boba.

Do boba shops make boba balls from scratch?

It depends. The majority of large chains use uncooked tapioca balls - this saves them time having to knead individual boba balls into their spherical shape. Shops that promote making boba ‘from scratch’ generally prepare their boba balls with organic tapioca starch and use a machine to help speed up the boba kneading process. This takes longer but results in a tastier boba ball outcome.

Don’t be afraid to ask your boba shop how they make their tapioca. While the ‘from scratch’ option tastes better, there’s nothing wrong with the way large chains prepare their pearls… it’s still delicious!

Is there a faster way to make boba balls?

Dried Tapioca vs. Instant

In recent years, technology for preserving cooked tapioca balls has gotten a lot better. You can now find instant tapioca pearls at grocery stores or from online stores like Pearly. These new products allow you to prepare tapioca at home in under 5 minutes. Some products (like the tapioca Pearly offers) can be prepared in the microwave in under 30 seconds. This is a big improvement compared to the traditional method of making boba balls which could take over 30 minutes.

How Many Calories Are in a Cup of Boba Balls?

A single cup of tapioca pearls contains 544 calories! Luckily when you order boba tea, you only get ~1/4 of a cup of boba balls. If you’re worried about calories, you can request fewer boba balls at your local cafe or opt for no toppings.

Remember, boba balls are made from a starch called tapioca. Starch is a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates are sugar molecules. As with all carbs, they should be enjoyed in moderation 😓

Where Can I Get Boba Balls?

Like any much-loved treat, boba balls are not difficult to come by. You can order these chewy pearls online from sites like Amazon, go straight to chain stores like Walmart, or even just request them as a topping at your local bubble tea cafe.

If you find yourself searching ‘what is boba made of?’ you might be interested in making your own. In the spirit of DIY, we have created a guide for people who want to make tapioca balls from scratch. Head over to our article titled How to Make Bubble Tea at Home and scroll down to the tapioca section.

Of course, boba pearls are just one piece of the puzzle. If your ultimate goal is to sip a sweet-tasting bubble tea, then you need to try a Pearly kit. It comes with all the ingredients you need to prepare bubble tea.

What is boba tea made of?

Boba Tea Drinker

Boba tea refers to the entire bubble tea drink (which includes boba balls). There are three main ingredients in any boba tea: Tea, a liquid base and toppings. Let’s break it down:

The tea

The core ingredient of boba tea is… tea. The two most common types of tea used are traditional green or black tea. That being said, you can use any type of tea, just make sure it pairs well with your liquid base.

The liquid base

The liquid base in boba tea is added to the tea to give it a specific taste and consistency. The most popular liquid bases are milk or fruit juice. Some shops also make boba tea using slush, coffee, oat milk, or other liquids to mix things up.

The toppings

This is where things get crazy. While toppings aren’t necessarily a requirement, they are highly encouraged. If you’ve never had boba tea before, prepare to be introduced to a ton of new ingredients that give ice cream toppings a run for their money. We already covered boba balls, but there are so many more. Our favorites are grass jelly, pudding, coconut jelly, and sago. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices, ask your barista for a suggestion!

How many calories are in boba tea?

You can expect your drink to contain anywhere from 250 to 750 calories. As you’ve seen, the makeup of your drink can vary quite a bit based on your preferences. We wrote a whole article that covers this topic and goes in-depth into specific drinks, toppings, and more. Check it out here.

Bonus: A boba tea industry secret

For reading this far into our article we have a little secret for you 🤫 Most boba tea shops charge a pretty high markup on your order. If you order on a delivery app, the price can get out of hand. It’s actually a lot easier and cheaper to prepare at home than you’d think. If you have the right ingredients and accessories, you can prepare it at home in under 3 minutes. Come check out our DIY boba tea kits and never look back. Click here to learn more about Pearly!