What is boba tea?
Written by a few bubble tea addicts, on Jul 11, 2022
TLDR: Boba tea is a sweet and delicious drink that most often comes with tapioca pearls in it. It comes from Taiwan, but it's now popular around the world. There are many different kinds of boba tea and lots of different toppings you can add to the drink.
Bubble tea. Boba tea. Milk tea. Whatever you call it, we can agree it's rapidly become one of the most popular drinks in the country. If you're just hopping on the trend now and wondering 'what on earth is boba tea? ', don't worry, we've got you covered.
What is boba tea?
Boba tea is a sweet Taiwanese drink made of tea, milk or fruit juice, and toppings. It comes in a variety of flavors and can be customized with dozens of different toppings. The most common boba tea drink is Pearl Milk Tea, a combination of milk, black tea, and tapioca pearls (little black, squishy balls).
But why is it so popular? Well because there's truly something for everyone. There are an endless number of flavors and toppings to choose from. People love to go and try new drinks and experiment with adding unique toppings. It doesn't take much time to find drink combinations you love and can't resist coming back for.
Where is boba tea from?
Boba tea was invented in a Taiwanese tea shop in the 1940s. The drink was originally just a mix of tea and cream, but by the 1980s tapioca pearls were also born. While initially a big hit in Taiwan, the drink quickly expanded to China and the United States (especially California) in the early 2000s, then to the rest of the world.
With new flavors and toppings popping up every day, boba tea is one of the most unique and innovative drinks out there. The experimental culture around boba tea has allowed it to rapidly expand around the world and allowed tens of thousands of entrepreneurs to make a living selling the delicious drink.
Want to learn more? Check out this blog diving into where boba tea was invented.
What is boba tea made of?
Boba tea contains three ingredients: tea, milk (or fruit juice), and toppings.
The tea in boba tea is generally black tea, but you may find some shops using green tea, Assam, Oolong, or other types of tea leaves.
From here, one of two popular drink options get added in, milk tea or fruit tea. Milk teas are made with milk (or a dairy alternative), while fruit teas are made with fresh fruit, fruit juice, and/or fruit syrup. Other common types of drinks available are coffee-infused milk tea, slushes, and smoothies.
The last component of boba tea is the toppings. Think of boba tea toppings as you would think of ice cream or pizza toppings. There are lots of different options to choose from, and you can mix and match them to create delicious drinks. The most popular toppings are tapioca pearls (or boba pearls), coconut jelly, and grass jelly. If you don't like those, don't worry. There's an endless amount of other toppings to choose from!
If you're curious about the calories in boba tea, check out this article.
What are the balls in boba tea?
The balls you see floating in your boba tea are called tapioca pearls! There are quite a few names for the balls: Pearls, Boba Pearls, Boba, Boba Balls, Tapioca Pearls, Tapioca Balls. Regardless of the name you choose, your boba barista will probably know what you're ordering 😂.
Traditional tapioca pearls are made of tapioca starch, which is extracted from the cassava root plant. The starch is mixed with water and brown sugar which creates a doughy ingredient. It's then rolled up into little balls, and boiled in water for an hour to make tapioca!
While black tapioca pearls are the most popular, you'll find a lot of boba shops have their own unique version of the topping. One of our favorite boba tea shops is OneZo, because of their wide assortment of tapioca pearl flavors (image below). Check out their insta here.
Tapioca Toppings at OneZo
How much does boba tea cost?
The cost of a boba tea varies by location, cup size and toppings.
If you're buying your boba tea in-store, you can expect to pay anywhere from $4-10 per drink. The price will depend on where you live and what kind of drink you order. In bigger cities, expect to pay around $6 or more for a large drink with one or two toppings. In a smaller city, expect to pay ~4.50 for the same drink. To save money (and be more healthy), you can always downsize your drink to a medium and remove some of the toppings.
If you're worried about the cost of boba tea, or don't have a shop near you, you can always try a DIY boba tea kit. These are ordered online and can be shipped straight to your home, for around $3-4 per drink. They taste identical to what you would get at a boba shop, and are super easy to prepare!
Where can I get boba tea?
The best places to buy boba tea are from boba tea shops or directly from boba tea brands. If you haven't already, check out any local boba tea shops near you that have good reviews on Google maps.
If you can't find any local shops, consider ordering a DIY boba tea kit online from a boba tea brand. These kits include all the ingredients and accessories you need to easily prepare the drink at home. If you scroll to the top of the page, you can find our boba tea kits in the navigation bar (example of our taro kit pictured below).
Pearly DIY Boba Tea Kit
How to make homemade boba tea?
Preparing boba tea at home can take anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour and a half. It all depends on what ingredients you use and what drink you are trying to make. If you want to make something fast that tastes delicious, we suggest trying a DIY boba tea kit.
If you prefer to make it from scratch, there are lots of amazing recipes you can follow to prepare the drink. Here's a complete guide to how to make boba tea at home!