Bubble tea and boba are staples across Asia and have also become very popular in tea shops worldwide in recent years. This drink is delicious, refreshing, and suitable for year-round consumption. Like most people, if you love to drink tea, you have probably wondered what the difference is between bubble tea and boba. When it comes to this question, there are two schools of thought. Some people think both drinks are the same, while others believe otherwise. This guide explores this and many other aspects of bubble tea vs. boba.
Bubble tea vs. boba – is there a difference?
Bubble tea vs Boba? Many people need clarification on bubble tea and boba. Some argue there is a difference, while others think there isn’t. The most significant difference between the two is the name. Still, both terms are acceptable to be used for the same drink. Technically, however, there is a difference.
Boba refers to the pearls that are added to the drink. Bubble tea, on the other hand, is the drink itself. The same tea-based drink can also be called boba because all these beverages contain boba. Generally, bubble tea and boba are similar in several ways. They both have a wide range of tea flavors; they are served hot or cold (with ice cubes) and come in different sizes.
All bubble tea can be called boba, but not all is bubble tea. The tapioca pearls in the bubble tea are known as boba and give the beverage one of its various names. Also, contrary to popular belief, the word “bubble” in this drink doesn’t refer to the boba. Instead, it comes from the bubbles formed after the glass is shaken to mix it.
East vs. west
Both bubble tea and boba may be distinguished differently depending on where you live. For instance, East Coast and West Coast have different names for the same drink. The drinks in both regions also have slightly different characteristics. West Coast bubble tea generally features green tea, while East Coast bubble tea is usually made with black tea. West Coast bubble tea is also less sweet than East Coast bubble tea.
Boba was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s when someone added a regular tapioca dessert to tea. The taste and texture of the tapioca balls complemented the drink, and a global phenomenon was born. After becoming immensely popular in Southeast Asia, it spread to other countries in Asia, e.g., Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and China, before reaching North America/the United States and Europe in the early 2000s.
Now that you are familiar with the history of bubble tea and know the primary difference between bubble tea and boba let’s take a closer look at each one separately to learn what else sets them apart.
What is bubble tea?
Bubble tea is a refreshing, delicious drink that originated in the 1980s in Taiwan. Its name came from bubble tea shops for marketing purposes. The drink combines chewy tapioca balls, soy milk, and crushed ice with tea (black or green tea). It refers to many teas with various ingredients. Also, bubble tea can be any flavor, e.g., an iced tea with fresh fruit flavor, oolong tea, black tea, green tea, etc.
What is boba?
Term Boba is a chunky beverage typically made with chewy tapioca pearls and a tea base. Confusingly, boba can also mean the tapioca balls that the bubble tea features. The black tapioca pearls are a crucial element in this drink. These boba balls made of tapioca starch add a unique chewy texture to the glass.
What do bubble tea and boba taste like?
Bubble tea and boba can have different flavors depending on what has been added to the popular drink. It may contain sugar or brown sugar syrup, cream or milk, and tea to taste sweet or creamy. If you are preparing taro bubble tea/boba milk tea at home, you can customize the level of sugar or milk that goes into the drink according to your preference. One of the critical characteristics of boba is that it takes on the drink's flavor. This means if you add a pack of boba pearls to almond milk tea, for instance, they will taste like almonds.
Which term is more accurate?
This debate has been going on for years. Some say “bubble tea” is accurate, while others think “boba” is correct. Which name is more accurate is tricky because both are widely used today. That said, calling the drink boba tea is technically more accurate than bubble tea. The reason is that boba comes from the Chinese word bōbà(波霸); technically, “boba” refers to the tapioca pearls used in bubble tea. The everyday use of “boba,” referring to the bubble tea drink, is relatively new but completely acceptable.
In short, both terms are correct. Bubble tea is the drink, while boba is the tapioca balls. Depending on where you live, one time may be more suitable, but generally, both are acceptable.
Bubble tea has become very popular in Asia, Europe, and western culture. While calling it bubble tea or boba is relatively common, the drink has acquired many other names and variations. Some of the famous names for this drink that you might hear include:
- Pearl tea
- Tapioca tea
- Milk tea
- Pearl milk tea
- Bubble milk tea
- Tapioca milk tea
Bubble tea and Boba are commonly used to refer to the same drink. The sweet tea is flavorful and refreshing, which bubble tea fans of all ages can enjoy. It is made with tapioca balls, milk, and tea and can be served hot or cold. You can customize the flavor of the drink according to your personal preference. Try making it in different ways. Let me know what you prefer. 🙂