In the United States, you might hear “bubble tea,” “boba tea,” “Boba,” “milk tea,” “pearl milk tea,” and “boba milk tea.” Confusing, right?
Well fear not! These are all just different names for the same delightfully chewy, sweet drink. But there's more to this boba saga. "Boba" isn't just the drink. It's also the name for those tapioca balls that make the drink fun to chew on. And to add another layer of complexity, "milk tea" doesn't always contain tea. It's a delightful ball of confusion (pun intended)!
So, What's the Scoop on Boba?
These pearl-sized, chewy wonders are crafted from tapioca starch, a fine white flour derived from the cassava plant's root. It's gluten-free and grain-free, making it an inclusive choice. The term "Boba" comes from slang in Mandarin (boba) or Cantonese (bo1 baa3), literally translating to "large breasts" due to their round shape.
Traditionally, boba are black. But this is not their natural color. Boba without coloring are translucent or white. The black coloring comes from the addition of black food coloring or brown sugar which is used to sweeten them.
One thing that boba should alway be is chewy—or QQ. QQ is a term originating in Taiwan which describes a distinctive springy or bouncy texture—kind of like al dente for pasta.
The Boba origin story
So, the word “boba” is the name for these chewy tapioca balls, BUT it’s also the name for the drink with the boba in it. (Sir, would you like boba in your boba?)
In this blog post, we’ll call the drink "Boba tea" for clarity.
Boba tea origins can be traced back to Taiwan. In the 1980s, an inventive shopkeeper in Taiwan added tapioca balls to green tea. The new drink became so popular that the shop grew into a chain of tea shops across Taiwan. It was brought to the United States by Taiwanese immigrants, and now you can spot it on menus across the country–even at mainstream American chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds. Today, boba tea is a global phenomenon with over 6M boba teas consumed daily!Boba tea now comes in a plethora of tea (and non-tea) and topping combinations. Popular flavors include those without tea, such as taro milk and brown sugar boba teas, as well as those with tea, like strawberry matcha latte.
The Boba Bottom Line: Ingredients Rule
Now that we’ve demystified boba tea, boba tea, Boba, milk tea, pearl milk tea, and boba milk tea, here's the scoop – there's no difference! It all boils down to the ingredients.
And guess what? You can create your very own chewy boba tea in under a minute with Twrl's preservative-free Crystal Boba or Brown Sugar Boba. Pair them with our premium milk tea flavors, featuring plant-based, dairy-free, and mild-tasting pea milk. Our tea is brewed from premium, single-origin, and organic tea leaves, and it's nitro-infused for that signature smooth, velvety texture, all without added fats or creamers.