What Is Boba Tea And Why Is It All the Rage?

boba tea post header

Many have never even heard of Boba Tea. If you too are hearing about this tea type for the first time, you’ve come to the right place! Boba tea is an exotic beverage for someone living in the Western World. When having this drink for the first time, you will undergo a very unique experience! Who knew a cup of tea could give you goosebumps and curl your toes? 

What Is Boba Tea?

Boba Tea (bubble tea) is a starchy, sweet tea drink originating in Taiwan in the 1980s. It quickly took off, spreading all around the world, becoming a very popular beverage. Today, it’s served in select Boba Tea shops around the world, including the U.S. 

There’s a debate between two tea shops in Taiwan over who created Boba Tea. It’s yet to be determined which of the two was the OG creator, but we do know that this beverage was a result of combining tapioca pearls with milk tea. For Taiwanese, both are a staple in their culture, so why not marry the two? Once this beverage was introduced to the public, it became a standard drink in thousands of shops throughout Taiwan. 

Pearls of traditional, bland tapioca have been elevated to a specific size, color, and flavor just for this tea drink. The Cassava plant produces bitter roots, which is the base for tapioca. The plant was introduced to Asia in the 19th century by explorers from Portugal and Spain. Today Cassava root, sweet potatoes, a bit of brown sugar, and coloring go into the tapioca pearls explicitly used for bubble tea.

The global bubble tea market pulled in over $2 million in 2019, and it’s predicted to double in size and hit $4.3 billion by 2027. 

What Is Boba Tea Made Out Of?

Boba tea is a concoction of a dairy, sweet flavored syrup, tea, ice, and extra-large tapioca pearls (Boba.) It is carefully layered in a clear cup. A unique topping is placed on the surface. You get your drink with a special wide straw so that you could suck up all the delicious tapioca pearls from the bottom of your cup.

Special bubble tea shops have their own secret formulas of ratios of milk to tea, mixtures of loose leaf teas, and toppings. Also, the Boba Baristas come up with some really off-the-wall creations that are unique and tasty. 

Fruity flavors are trendy among the young, while espresso and green/herbal teas are more preferred by adult boba tea fans. Every shop has its own flagship flavor. So there are literally thousands of variations of this drink. 

We’ve scoured the menus of a few leading Boba Tea-preneurs to see what their bestsellers are to give you a very condensed “taste” of what they serve.

Ingredients Of Boba Teas

To make a bubble tea (boba), a base drink of dairy and tea is combined with tapioca pearls. Some Boba baristas may use one type of tea, whereas others combine various kinds of tea. Flavored syrups, toppings, and colored/flavored tapioca pearls account for the unique offerings of bubble teas found on the menus of these tea shops.

Dairy Options

Tea

Flavored Syrups

Topping Options

Tapioca Pearls

  • Whole milk
  • Half and half
  • Yogurt
  • Taro milk
  • Oat milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Oat milk
  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Black
  • Green
  • Oolong

One type of tea or a combination of several teas.

  • Banana
  • Strawberry
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Peach
  • Punch
  • Espresso
  • Caramel
  • Brown sugar
  • Red beans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Chocolate chips
  • Black herbal grass jelly
  • Milk cap
  • Oreo cookies
  • Mochi 
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Black (most used)
  • Clear
  • Colored
  • Flavored

Trendy and Interesting Boba Tea Creations

There are far too many bubble tea drinks to list. Fruity versions of this drink are very popular with the younger crowd because of the sweetness. Others tend to order this beverage with healthy options such as green tea, less (or none) flavored syrup, or a specific dairy. 

Classic Boba Milk Tea (most popular)

Brown Sugar (very popular)

This is also the base most bubble teas are built upon.

Ingredients:

Milk
Black tea
Tapioca pearls



Ingredients:

Milk
Black tea
Brown sugar syrup
Tapioca pearls

Taro

Loaded 


Ingredients:

Milk
Tea 
Taro root (pureed)
Tapioca pearls

Ingredients:

Milk
Tea
Flavored syrup
Tapioca pearls
Topping

Strawberry Matcha

Espresso


Ingredients:

Milk
Matcha tea
Strawberry puree
Strawberry flavored syrup
Tapioca pearls

Ingredients:

Milk
Black tea
2 shots espresso or espresso flavored syrup
Tapioca pearls

Thai 

Cheese

Ingredients:

Milk
Green tea
Spices
Tapioca pearls
Ingredients:

Black or green tea
Powdered cheese
Salt
Whipped cream
Tapioca pearls

How Bad Is Boba For You?

A 32 oz. “loaded” menu tea accounts for 250% of the 384% recommended daily sugar intake for adults. As much as the smooth sweetness of this drink appeals to many, boba tea is packed with carbs. Unfortunately, it does nothing but put on pounds. Research uncovered the amount of sugar and calories hiding in this drink have negative implications for obesity.

12 oz. Cup

18 oz. Cup

Milk Tea with tapioca pearls

Milk Tea with tapioca pearls

Carbs: 38g
Calories: 229
Carbs: 57g
Calories: 448

Milk Tea PLUS tapioca pearls and a topping

Milk Tea PLUS tapioca pearls and a topping
Carbs: 48-57g
Calories: 269-323
Carbs: 72-96g
Calories: 431-515

What Is The Healthiest Boba Drink?

Take control of what’s going into your drink by requesting specific things lower in calories and sugar. Pass on the flavored syrups and toppings because they are high in sugar.

If you want a “healthy” boba tea drink, try the following: 

  • Size: Select a 12 oz or smaller. 
  • Dairy: Have them prepare your drink with skim milk or unsweetened almond milk
  • Flavored Syrup: Skip altogether.
  • Tea: Green tea is the healthiest option.
  • Tapioca Pearls: Ask for half the usual amount they add and pass on the flavored pearls.
  • Topping: Go for something healthy like nuts or red beans.

How To Make Boba Tea

We have a pair of Boba Tea recipes for you to make at home. One is a healthier version of the drink, while the other is a traditional bubble tea with “no holds barred!”

boba tea main ingredients

Strawberry-Jasmine Boba Tea (Healthy Option)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Black tapioca pearls
  • 4-6 Strawberries (jumbo)
  • Water for tea preparation and boiling tapioca pearls
  • 2 tsp. Honey
  • 6 tsp. Loose Jasmine tea (or 6 teabags)
  • 1 cup of dairy (your choice)
  • Ice

Servings: 2

Directions:

  1. Brew the Jasmine tea and sit aside to cool
  2. Puree the strawberries, honey, and water set aside.
  3. Cook the tapioca pearls (as directed,) rinse with cold water, drain and set aside.
  4. Combine the tea and dairy in a pitcher. Mix well.
  5. Distribute the tapioca pearls in two glasses.
  6. Pour the strawberry puree mixture evenly in both glasses over the tapioca pearls.
  7. Add ¼ cup of ice to each glass.
  8. Pour the milk/tea over the ice.
  9. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top.
  10. Insert an extra-wide straw and enjoy!

Traditional Brown Sugar Boba Tea

Note: This is the most popular bubble tea; however, it’s higher in carbs.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Black (brown-sugared flavored) tapioca pearls
  • 8 tsp. Loose black tea (or teabags)
  • 1 cup of dairy (your choice)
  • Ice

Servings: 2

Directions:

  1. Brew the black tea and sit aside to cool.
  2. Cook the tapioca pearls (as directed) BUT before rinsing, pour a bit of the syrup from the remaining liquid into a cup.
  3. NOW rinse the tapioca pearls with cold water, drain and set them aside.
  4. Combine the tea and dairy in a pitcher. Mix well.
  5. Distribute the tapioca pearls in two glasses.
  6. Take the tapioca pearl syrup you saved and pour it along the insides of each glass.
  7. Add ¼ cup of ice to each glass.
  8. Pour the milk/tea over the ice.
  9. Insert an extra-wide straw and enjoy!

The Last “Bit” On Boba Tea

This unique beverage packs a punch full of carbs and calories. Although its uniqueness and tastiness are what attracts drinkers, it’s typically not a healthy drink. By tweaking the ingredients, you can enjoy it in a healthier manner and still get to have the squeaky, poppy-chewy goodness of a Boba Tea.

The dying question, “Is Boba Tea a true tea drink?” In part, yes, because of the tea element; however, tea in its purest form (water plus tea) is healthier and, by standard, the only true tea drink.

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