If Instagram ever created a drink it would surely be beautiful Boba Tea. Bright, exciting, and charming to look at, we cannot get enough of this deliciously sweet tea dotted with tapioca balls. And it seems we aren’t alone! Over the last couple of years, you may have noticed more and more Boba cafes popping up across your neighborhood. The drink has continued to gain popularity in the US, not just because of the big colorful straws you get to pop into the drink’s plastic-sealed top, but because it’s supremely yummy — it comes in all different colors, tea flavors, and endless toppings. But what exactly is Boba Tea, and is it good for you?
What is Boba Tea?
Boba tea — also known as bubble tea or pearl milk tea — is a drink that originated in Taiwan and made its way into American culture after gaining popularity around college and high school campuses. It’s a fascinating drink that totally changed the way young people think about tea. It became a heady part of the youth culture scene thanks to that out-of-the-box experience of having a drink that looks cool, tastes sweet, and even has a chewy texture. Wild. But Boba Tea was too good to let the youngsters keep to themselves and the whole market took off. Now, everyone sips on boba tea as an option to expensive fruit smoothies and caffeine-rich coffee.
The traditional style of boba tea that originated from Taiwan is loaded with tapioca pearls which come from the starch of the South American Cassava plant. At first, the tapioca is hard and bland until it is soaked for hours in huge vats of caramel-like syrup. This leads to a delectable sweet and chewy flavor that makes boba so beloved.
So what else is in Boba Tea? The fun and fabulous drink simply consists of a tea base and toppings. While the classic tea bases are black, green, or white tea, you can get creative by using chai spiced tea or a matcha latte for added oomph. You can add syrup flavors such as pineapple, strawberry, or lychee. And also add milk for an amazing boba milk tea. If a basic tea base isn’t your thing, check out these options:
Coffee milk tea: For those who want a shot of coffee in their Boba to start the day, this Hong Kong version of the popular Boba Tea recipe is bound to wake you right up. A little espresso powder is mixed in the traditional black tea and milk. Try making oolong milk tea, matcha milk tea, or jasmine milk tea.
Taro milk: This purple base is made from tropical taro root and has a flavor reminiscent of Cookies-and-Cream ice cream. Taro is a Taiwanese favorite and has all the rich and creamy vibes similar to a sweet potato. It is awesome when you mix it in with jasmine tea for a delicate balance. taro boba tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and acts as a thickener or creamer for an even more dessert-like texture to your tea.
Honeydew milk: Like the other fruity flavors that you can add to the green or black tea base, the honeydew milk flavor is for those with a major sweet tooth. Honeydew is similar to cantaloupe. You can either use it fresh or choose powdered honeydew milk and it will bring a soft and fruity sweetness to every sip. Honeydew milk makes for an awesome base when you are looking for a long cooling summer style boba topped with ice.
Thai tea: This bright orange tea is caffeinated and can also be served as a milk tea. You can usually find it at Thai and Asian restaurants, but you can also try our Thai Tea Drops to make iced tea at home. Thai style boba tea is truly simple and delicious. It's often made with a base of Ceylon tea which comes slightly spiced with herbs and coloring to give it that zesty shading. It is usually served with a heavy creamer, coconut cream, or condensed milk - and plenty of ice. The combination of the orange coloring and dark chewy tapioca balls make this a fun drink for strolling and sipping.
Almond milk tea: Almond milk is a good dairy alternative with a similar consistency to milk. Sweetened almond milk is a bit sweeter than fresh milk and isn’t as thick. Almond milk boba tea can be made hot or cold depending on the temperature outside. This is one of the more versatile tea bases for boba drinks.
Slushy bubble tea: On a hot day, slushy bubble tea can be just the ticket. Blend your choice of tea flavor together with ice to make a refreshing base. Then get busy adding chunks of fruit like watermelon, strawberry, passion fruit, mango, and whatever sweet and sour tastes take your fancy.
Boba: The quintessential choice for your tea! Tapioca balls are what add up to the delicious chewy consistency. For those who are trying out Boba Tea for the first time, this is ultimately the way to go.
Pudding: Slightly firmer than the traditional pudding, boba tea-style pudding is made from yolks, cream, and sugar. It has a slight chew and is an awesome add-on for creamier boba teas. You can purchase pudding in different flavors such as taro, and assorted fruit flavors too!
Jelly: Whether it’s a soothing aloe vera jelly or grass jelly, this is a delicious herbal sweet treat to add to your boba tea. It often has a firmer texture than pudding and is a glorious delicate accompaniment to any kind of boba. It absolutely shines with a coffee shot boba tea.
Tapioca: A common addition to traditional Asian desserts, tapioca pearls come in a whole range of flavors including red bean, matcha, or even coconut.
Taro balls: Springy and chewy, and ready to melt on your tongue, taro balls are a delicate addition to boba tea. Mashed sweet potato flour forms traditional Taiwanese taro balls, and they are super versatile and can be added to the boba either hot or cold.
Fruit: Top your boba tea with a whole beautiful rainbow of fruit to boost the health properties of this delicious drink. You can add in just about any kind of fruit that you like!
Cream: Boba Tea is all about being extravagant, and nothing tops off a tea like a generous dollop of whipped cream, or light and airy foam. If you want to get truly experimental with your boba tea, then whip up some cream cheese or cheese powder to make the cheese tea that is taking the world by storm. While it may sound crazy, the balance of sweet and salty is sublime.
What is Boba?
Sometimes bubble tea is simply referred to as “boba.” But boba is actually a specific kind of topping for bubble tea — though it doesn’t go “on top” of the drink. As we mentioned, Boba is a gluten-free tapioca, refined starch that’s derived from a cassava root. It has a chewy texture and looks like little black pearls that sink to the bottom of your hot or cold bubble tea drink. According to The New York Times, the tapioca starch is mixed “with brown sugar syrup, water, potassium sorbate, and guar gum, to produce a damp, caramel-colored powder." You can suck up the boba through a bubble tea straw — a wider-than-average sized straw.
It was first invented in Taiwan and is said to originate from a teahouse and restaurant called Chun Shui Tang. It takes its name from a tongue-in-cheek reference to the shape of the balls resembling the shape of breasts. With a heavy tea culture, and plenty of desserts from Southeast Asia centered around tapioca pudding and shaved ice, it seems only natural that the beauty of Boba Tea would be born.
Health Benefits of Bubble Tea
The health benefits of bubble tea widely vary depending on the ingredients you choose to add to your drink. Generally speaking, cafe shop sweetened bubble tea is not that great for you as it contains lots of sugar — in fact, just one cup of bubble tea can contain well over 300 calories! But, there are ways to make your drink healthier by including less sugar or syrup, using nonfat or soy milk, and forgoing the tapioca pearls if you are REALLY cutting down. Given the many ways to make bubble tea, it’s totally possible to create a bubble tea drink with good health benefits. Here are just a few of the potential health benefits of bubble tea:
If you nix most of the sugar and the boba in bubble tea, the drink actually has anti-inflammatory elements and antioxidants that can strengthen the blood vessel walls and prevent the arteries from forming plaque, according to research.
Anti-inflammatory and Good for Skin
Using a green tea base is a great way to reap some of the health benefits of bubble tea. According to research, green tea has a possible impact on liver, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. Green tea has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory, helping keep your skin clear and glowing. But steer clear of a green tea latte-type base, which adds sugar.
Source of Calcium and Protein
If you’re using a caffeinated base, such as Thai tea, you’ll get some of the benefits of condensed milk, which is a source of calcium and protein. While calcium helps our bones grow strong, our bodies require protein to function properly.
Of course, take these health benefits with a grain of salt — or a grain of sugar, shall we say? Bubble tea is usually highly caloric and people drink it for the taste, not the health benefits. Even though you’ll be hard-pressed to find healthy boba tea alternatives at a boba tea cafe, you can make healthier options at home by choosing the right ingredients for your lifestyle.
How to Make Boba Tea
There are a number of ways to make bubble tea and loads of simple recipes you can try at home with the right ingredients. You can play around with various bases and toppings depending on what your taste buds enjoy. There are tons of recipes that show you how to make bubble tea with a black tea base, tapioca balls, and a frothy cream topping. You can also try jasmine bubble tea with jasmine green tea, hot water, tapioca pearls, honey, milk, and ice. For a healthier option, try recipes that include ingredients such as lemon, honey, mint leaves, rose petals, cinnamon, ginger, soy milk, brown rice, or fruit juice.
Gather together tapioca pearls, heavy cream, ice, filtered water, dark brown sugar, regular sugar, and some Thai Tea Drops for your base. It’s also handy to have a glass teapot with an infuser, a milk frother, and an electric kettle. But with any recipe, experiment until you find what works for you - and be sure to have some wide boba straws on hand!
Rose Earl Grey Milk Tea Recipe
Here's what you'll need:
- 1 Rose Earl Grey Tea Drop
- 1/2 cup milk
- boba pearls
- 3 oz hot water
- 1 cup ice
- Dissolve Tea Drop in hot water and stir until it melts.
- Prepare boba as per directions.
- Pour your Tea over ice and more water and stir.
- Top off with milk, add boba, and stir.
Boba tea truly is all about making tea fun again. It’s the perfect pick-me-up drink when you just want to let loose with all kinds of creative colors, tantalizing textures, and non-traditional flavors. Also, did we mention that it's one of the most instagrammable teas you can make – with all those layers and fantasy fluff, it’s a tea that’s simply begging to be snapped up!
Bubble tea, boba tea, pearl tea — whatever you want to call it — is a delicious drink that comes in so many varieties. Have fun picking and choosing the combinations you like best, whether that’s a slushy Boba Tea in the summer or a warm boba milk tea in the winter. You’ll have fun sucking up those little boba pearls through a big ole’ colorful straw, if nothing else! If you want a fuss-free boba tea experience, then try our gift sets! They come in a whole range of flavors and are an absolute dream to give, and to treat yourself!
**Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informative purposes only and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Those who have any health-related queries should be sure to reach out to a medical professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.