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Difference Between Bubble Tea vs Boba

Bubble Tea vs Boba

How do you call it, boba tea or tapioca tea?

You might be a person who loves drinking milk tea with tapioca pearls, and just like many other boba lovers, you may have wondered how to call these drinks: bubble tea vs boba tea.

If you are curious to know if there’s a difference between bubble tea vs boba tea, the short answer is no. As bubble tea is becoming more and more popular, people also call them by different names including boba, pearl milk tea, pearl tea, tapioca tea, and milk tea. All these names refer to the drink itself.

But do you know that when it comes to technicalities, there are differences between Bubble tea and Boba?

Bubble Tea vs Boba

What is Bubble Tea

Bubble tea refers to a wide variety of sweet and refreshing flavored drinks that are served with cold or hot chewy tapioca pearls. Typically, the flavor choices include fruits (such as honeydew, mango, peach, plum, strawberry, and lychee), vegetables (such as taro), and teas (such as matcha).

These incredibly delicious drinks originated in Taiwan and the recipe involves blending different components and adding the signature “bubbles” which are the tapioca pearls or balls that sit at the bottom of the drink. This drink is called bubble tea because of the tapioca balls and the bubbles that are created as you vigorously shake the drink to blend all the components.

Bubble tea boba drinks are typically served in transparent cups, and they come with a fat boba straw that allows you to also sip the tapioca or boba pearls.

Bubble Tea Components

The bubble or boba milk teas that you can buy from a bubble tea shop have several components. If you have access to these components, it will be very easy, convenient, and cheaper to prepare your boba tea at home.

Tea base

A bubble tea or pearl milk tea or boba milk tea, whatever you call it, is never without a tea base. The most common teas used for this type of drink are green tea, black tea (or red tea as it is known by the Chinese people), and oolong tea. So far, black and green teas, particularly matcha and jasmine tea, are the most popular options among bubble tea shops and cafes.


The flavor is also a vital component of boba tea. Whether you want to use fruit flavors or tea flavors, it’s up to your personal preference. For fruit flavors, you can use fresh fruits, purees, favored syrup, and flavored powder. The last two forms are considered cost-effective, so most bubble tea shops use them in preparing milk tea beverages. On the other hand, if you want a healthier version of the drink, you could use fresh fruits or fruit purees.

Milk or Cream

You can’t have a boba tea without milk or cream as they give the drink that creamy texture. For this component, you could use full milk, half-n-half, or a powder creamer. For people who are lactose intolerant, almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk can be a good substitute for full cream milk.


The most common type of sweeteners in commercial boba milk teas are brown sugar and sugar syrup. Sugar-free alternatives such as stevia and aspartame are also used by some shops. But if you want to drink bubble tea without worrying about the sugar content, you may substitute sugar for honey.

Cold or warm water

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to the liquid that you’ll use in your bubble tea, but generally, if you will use a powdered flavoring, you need to dissolve the powder first using warm or hot water. If you are using fresh fruit or purees, then cold water will do.

Tapioca Balls

You can’t call your drink bubble tea without the tapioca pearls. These tapioca balls are chewy and they’ll give your drink the yummy texture. If you are buying raw tapioca balls, it’s important to note that it’s a bit challenging to cook them, not to mention it may take hours for them to be ready. On the other hand, there are readily available tapioca balls in sugar syrup, and all you have to do is to heat them in the oven before use.


This is an optional component, but adding ice cubes before serving your boba tea makes the drink even more refreshing.

Whipping cream

This is also another optional component that you could add to your bubble tea to enhance the taste of the beverage.

What is Boba?

While bubble tea refers to this Taiwan-made drink itself, boba refers to the tapioca balls that are added to the beverage. Boba is a vital element in bubble or pearl milk tea drink.

The bubble tea boba balls add a different texture to the bubble tea, thanks to their distinctive chewiness. Traditionally, the original boba and bubble tea drinks in Taiwan come with black boba but as this drink has become more popular in many countries, there have also been different variations to the black boba which includes colored boba.

If you are buying raw tapioca for your homemade pearl milk tea, you could decide whether or not to have harder pearls or softer pearls, depending on your preference. But an important consideration is that you need to achieve that perfect chewiness that is not too hard and not too mushy. The best way to achieve optimal results is to follow the directions on the label.

Alternatively, you may also buy cooked tapioca pearls which only require a few seconds in the oven before you can use them in your drink. Many people who are used to preparing boba and bubble tea at home prefer using cooked boba. However, some people say that cooked boba is not as chewy as the boba from raw tapioca. Honestly, we can’t tell the difference.

What Do Boba and Bubble Tea Taste Like?

On their own, clear boba pearls are relatively tasteless. However, they absorb the flavors of the tea so if you add the boba pearls to a taro milk tea, they will also taste like taro.

On the other hand, the bubble tea drink can have different tastes depending on the flavoring you add. As bubble tea also contains tea, milk, or cream, and sugar, you can expect your drink to be creamy or milky and sweet. Of course, if you are making your drink at home, you can customize how much milk or sugar you’ll add to the drink.

Where Can You Buy Bubble Tea?

In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other countries in Southeast Asia, there are a lot of shops and restaurants where you can order bubble tea. In the US, particularly in major cities from the west coast to the east coast such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, you can find many tea shops and even diners club restaurants that offer different flavors of bubble tea.

Apart from buying from tea shops, you can also easily prepare this Taiwan-made boba drink at home as the ingredients are widely available online and in the supermarkets.


Bubble teas are really popular nowadays and they are also trending on social media. If you want to try these delicious and refreshing drinks, you can get yours from your nearest tea shop, or prepare one at home using the components we have listed above.

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