What Is Bubble Tea? How Healthy Is It?

What Is Bubble Tea



Boba or Bubble Tea is a delicious drink that originated from Taiwan in the 1980s, which slowly exploded into a beloved staple in the United States. Specifically, California’s Taiwanese-American population created a space for entrepreneurs in a new market. The changemakers of the sweet drinks were usually students in study groups, looking to lighten stress with boba tea.

Now, California, especially Los Angeles, has boba or bubble tea shops on almost every block. Koreatown in L.A. is known to have some of the most inventive and artisanal shops. Oftentimes, these shops will have ostentatious decorations and interior design to attract Instagrammers or Youtube Vloggers.

Keep reading to find out just why Boba Tea has become a sensation in the U.S.!

In this Guide:

Table of Contents

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What Is Boba Tea or Bubble Tea

What Is Boba Tea Boba tea is yummy, but what’s boba made of? The main bubble tea ingredients, the ones that started it all, are the little black balls at the bottom of the drink. 

These bubble tea pearls are also called boba and are made of tapioca starch, then are placed in an industrial mixer with an assortment of brown sugar syrup, water, potassium sorbate, and guar gum. From that, you get chewy, flavorless tapioca balls that are topped with tea, milk tea, slush, cream, etc. 

Boba Versus Bubble

What is bubble tea compared to boba tea? They’re both the same drink, some shops will call it differently. Although most boba tea will have boba balls, bubble tea refers to the various chilled drinks with alternative ingredients beside boba. 

Although boba is gluten-free and tasteless, there are other toppings and order options for bubble tea, making it the best drink for people who love to experiment with taste. 

Boba Toppings

  1. Popping Bubbles – These bubbles are colorful, tiny, and burst when popped in your mouth, spraying sweet and juicy flavors. Its outer shell is made of seaweed extract, while the liquid inside is water, fruit juice, calcium lactate, malic acid, potassium sorbate, and food coloring. They’re not chewy like boba balls, but definitely just as fun. 
  2. Pudding – This topping is custard-like in texture and made from egg yolks, cream, and sugar, plus gelatin, to make it firm at the top of your boba tea. Some shops make the pudding with different fruit or flavoring too! If you’re into creamy and milky textures, then this pudding’s it.
  3. Grass Jelly – Made from Chinese Mesona, these herby jelly cubes are steeped in brown sugar to sweeten. Grass jelly is best paired with black teas or coffee-based teas. 
  4. Aloe Vera – A healing plant, rich in antioxidants, capable of soothing damaged skin or other ailments, and now a perfect ingredient for your bubble tea experience. Aloe vera is cubed like grass jelly and soaked in syrup. However, it’s best paired with fruity bubble tea with exotic flavors, like passion or dragon fruit teas. 
  5. Sago – Best with coconut, red bean, or matcha flavors, sago is a traditional Asian treat, much like the boba pearls. However, sago is less chewy, even with its tapioca taste, and serves as a great substitute to boba. 
  6. Taro Balls – A Taiwanese dessert and treat, taro balls can be added to a taro bubble tea to get maximum taro flavor. Softer than boba pearls, taro balls are made from taro, sweet potato flour, and water. 
  7. Red Bean – Used in many traditional Asian desserts, red bean puts fiber and extra flavor in your boba drink. Made by boiling the legume in sugar, resulting in a fragrant, soft mixture, red bean is perfect for a matcha milk tea. Red bean and matcha are also great ice cream pairs. 
  8. Cheese Tea – Much like the pudding topping, cheese teas have a creamy, milky texture at the top of the bubble tea, except this time, it’s foamy. Made with whipped cheese powder and cream cheese, it provides a salty balance to the sweeter boba milk teas offered. There are also other whip cream substances like tiramisu crema, sea salt cream, and glossy foams. 

Boba Drink Nutritional Value

Boba Drink Nutritional Value

The original boba pearls are gluten-free, but tapioca has little nutritional value, mostly just a chewy balance to the liquid. Moreover, calories and sugar will range between what kinds of teas or juices you want as a base. Milk teas tend to have more calories because of the dairy while adding syrups and certain fruits will add sugar intake. Choosing aloe vera with a green tea base could be the healthiest option. 

Boba Bases

There is usually a wide variety of teas to choose from, making it hard to narrow down one. Adding milk gives it a creamy and rich taste, best paired with black teas. The original boba tea flavors are black or green tea along with fruity syrups that add flavors like lychee or strawberry. 

Excitingly, the science of boba has progressed over the years, and now bases can be fruit slushes, juices, coffee, or smoothies. As boba drinks garner more interest around the country, there will be more variation, and pressure to innovate in this new economy. 

Boba Chains

In case you’re wondering, “where is the boba tea near me?” They’re easier to find in big cities like L.A. and NYC. In California, boba drinks are king, and some of the most famous chains or independent shops are readily available to locals. Here are some favorites. 

Boba Guys

Located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, they specialize in milk tea and supply amazing dairy alternatives. Their syrups and fruit purées are made in house, and their tea is made from sister company “Tea People.” The menu options also have specialty and seasonal drinks that hardly any other shops have. 

It’s Boba Time

Centered in several Los Angeles spots, this is the place to build your own drink. With options for milk tea, frappes, slushies, and more, it’s perfect for a gluttonous and sweet escape. 

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