Bubble Tea and Boba: The Differences Explained

A popular and refreshing drink you can enjoy year-round, bubble tea or boba are often considered different refreshments, but are they? The short answer is no; they are essentially the same beverage.

While they aren't different, there is some specific reason why people use varying terms, and we will explore these below.

Other Names Bubble Tea is Known By

As it becomes a more traditional beverage, you will come to know it by different names, with sometimes westernised and other interesting terms. It can be confusing, and you can feel uncertain about what individuals are consuming; however, if you hear any of these well-known names below, you will know what fans are talking about:

  • Boba
  • Pearl milk 
  • Tapioca 
  • Pearl and milk

These all attribute to the same concept - bubble tea, however as it evolves, different countries and states adopt names preferred in their locations.

Getting Up Close with Bubble Tea

Chances are you are already a lover of this beloved drink that originated in Taiwan and have enjoyed its sweet, refreshing flavours.


It comes in beautifully fruity, or brew flavourings - strawberry, peach, grapematcha, taro, and even lamington inspired deliciousness. While it is easy to assume that the term 'bubble' comes from those that form when it's shaken, it's about the tapioca balls at the bottom of the refreshment.

This deliciousness is usually served in transparent cups so you can enjoy the aesthetics of colours from the liquid and balls. It is most often drunk using a wide straw so that the tapioca can be easily sipped through.

There aren't a lot of rules when it comes to making this drink; however, you cannot refer to it as this popular drink if you don't add the pearls. For a bit of sweetening, it's most common to use brown sugar, syrup or honey for an added kick.

Understanding the Vital Boba Component

Boba is referred to as such because the tapioca pearls or popping pearls are a vital element to the refreshment. The distinctive chewiness of the tapioca balls or sweet, fruitness of popping pearls are an essential part of this popular thirst quencher and is why the names are interchangeable. 

Popping pearls comes in a range of colours and flavours, including beautifully bright reds, greens, vibrant yellow and even clear, whereas tapioca pearls are traditionally dark brown/black and chewy.

One of the most asked questions is what do they taste like. On their own, the pearls are basically tasteless, and the other flavourings and milk products impact the balls'. You can expect that they will taste different based on your choices.

Same But Different in Name Only

Now that you understand that bubble tea and boba are the same refreshments, the choice is yours of what you call it; either way, you get to experience the deliciousness.

Although they have been a popular refreshment worldwide for a while now, there continue to be exciting flavours created to tempt the taste buds that you can buy from your local tea store or prepare yours at home with one of our delicious kits.