What is the difference between boba tea and bubble tea?

Written by a few bubble tea addicts

What is the difference between boba tea and bubble tea?

TLDR: Boba tea and bubble tea both refer to the same thing - a milk tea or fruit tea drink. Boba can also refer to tapioca pearls a.k.a boba balls (the squishy topping often found in a bubble tea).

People often ask us What is the difference between boba tea and bubble tea? We give them two answers: a short one and a long one.

The Short Answer:

Boba Tea and Bubble Tea are... the same thing! Depending on where you live, people will use one or the other. If you ask someone if they like 'bubble tea' and they look at you funny, try saying 'boba tea'. That should do the trick.

But why? Here's the Long Answer:

As boba became popular over time, people have adopted different names for the drink. Depending on where you live, you'll find people call it 'Bubble Tea', 'Boba Tea', 'Boba' or 'Milk Tea'. It all means the same thing.

What does boba mean?

The term boba is a slang Chinese term for breasts or nipple (sorry if that ruins the drink for you!!). The term came from a unique marketing campaign by a bubble tea shop in the 80s. To get more customers to try tapioca, they called them 'boba'. The campaign was successful and led to the term expanding far beyond China.

Which naming gets used more?

According to Google Trends, 'Bubble Tea' is the preferred term around the world. If you go to Canada, the UK, Australia, or most other countries they will say 'Bubble Tea'. In the US, it's a little trickier.

In most of the East Coast, and in Washington and Oregon, 'Bubble Tea' is the most popular term. In the West Coast and many Southern States (e.g. Texas and Florida) 'Boba Tea' is the more popular term. We've included a chart below if you're curious to see the breakdown by state!

Bubble Tea vs. Boba Tea in USA

Did you know you can make your own?

Tired of paying crazy UberEats or Doordash fees and waiting an hour for your bubble tea arrive? There's a simple solution - Pearly. We've created an instant bubble tea kit that takes under 3 minutes to prepare. Enjoy delicious bubble tea at home, without the hassle! Oh, and it's cheaper than the store-bought boba 😉 Click here to browse our kits!