What Are the Balls in Boba Tea?

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There are multiple bubble tea toppings, but the most common are black-colored tapioca pearls. This Taiwanese boba tea addition is often soaked in brown sugar syrup before it is added to the milk tea beverage. 

Are Boba Pearls Edible?

Absolutely. Every ingredient a boba barista puts in your bubble tea should be edible.

However, if you make homemade tapioca starch, you can not consume it raw. There are traces of cyanide in raw tapioca, which could block your cells from receiving oxygen. You would need to eat a large number of raw tapioca pearls made from unprocessed starch to feel the effects, but it’s best not to test it.

Once they are boiled, they are chewy, delicious, and a trademark garnish of the famous Taiwanese bubble tea drink.

What Are Boba Pearls Made From?

Boba pearls are made from tapioca starch. Tapioca starch comes from cassava root. Cassava is a root vegetable with a slightly nutty flavor. You can find tapioca starch in most supermarkets. Aside from being used to make boba pearls, it is also a great thickening agent for sauces.

In general, only two ingredients are needed to make tapioca pearls; water and tapioca starch. Tapioca starch can easily be purchased online. One of my favorites can be ordered on Amazon:

After the tapioca balls are cooked, it is best to store them in a sweetened syrup such as brown sugar syrup or honey so they can absorb the sugar and flavors. They should only be stored in the sugar syrup for up to 4 hours at room temperature and for best results, they should be consumed within 2 hours.

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Cassava root and starch

Do Tapioca Pearls Dissolve?

In the time it takes you to drink a boba milk tea, the pearls will not dissolve. However, if you leave them in bubble tea or syrup for weeks on end (not recommended), they will eventually start to dissolve.

SEE ALSO:  Matcha Bubble Tea Calories and Nutrition

Do Tapioca Balls Change the Flavor of the Tea?

Tapioca Balls are typically tasteless before any flavor is added, but they will take on the flavor of what you mix them with. If they are stored in brown sugar syrup, they will taste sweet. Because of their ability to absorb flavors, they are a great addition to smoothies, milk teas, and fruit teas, such as passion fruit and lychee tea, tiger milk black tea, and green tea-based drinks.

While they don’t add a lot of flavor to bubble teas, they do add texture. These chewy tapioca pearls are a snack in themselves. They are high in calories and carbohydrates and may leave you feeling satiated. Here are a few of my favorite quick-cooking tapioca pearls available online:

How Many Boba Balls Are in a Tea?

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Most bubble tea shops add half a cup of tapioca pearls to their teas. Depending on the size of the boba balls, half of a cup could be anywhere between 25 and 70 pearls. When ordering boba tea, you always have the option to ask for more or fewer tapioca balls.

If it’s your first time ordering a boba drink, you will likely be overwhelmed by the choices. Tapioca balls are the most common topping, but you can also opt for jellies, aloe, sago, custard, taro balls, red beans, chia seeds, and more.

Are Boba Supposed to Pop?

Some boba pearls pop and others do not. Traditional tapioca boba, as mentioned above, is chewy.

Popping boba is made from vegetable-based gelatin, fruit juice, and other ingredients. These pearls pop almost instantly after reaching your mouth. They are a fun, fruity, less filling alternative to the big, clunky, chewy tapioca balls.

No matter which pearl milk tea you try, customizing it with toppings will elevate your experience.


Sami loves to travel and taste-tests Bubble Tea in every city she can. Her favorite flavor is Taro and she prefers 50% sweetness. She loves experimenting with recipes and is currently perfecting her homemade tapioca pearls.

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