Tapioca pearls (aka boba pearls) are those deliciously squishy and chewy, translucent round bits that can come in black and white colours – and make your favourite bubble tea so uniquely appealing and enjoyable! Where do the tapioca pearls come from, what are they made of, what should their ideal consistency be, and are they good for you? Read on to find out!
The origins of tapioca pearls
Traditional tapioca pearls were produced from starch called “tapioca” extracted from the root of cassava, a plant native to South America. However, today there are many variations of tapioca pearls available in addition to the traditional ones.
How tapioca pearls are made
These perfectly round pearls are the result of making dough out of tapioca starch and boiling water – and then cutting, tossing, and rotating the pearls in a certain way to achieve the desired shape and size.
Varieties of tapioca pearls
Traditionally, the boba pearls made of tapioca are just soaked in a sugary syrup which gives them a slightly sweet taste while also preserving their freshness. (To give tapioca pearls black colour, brown sugar syrup is used.)
Today tapioca pearls are not made exclusively of tapioca starch but may include such ingredients as potato powder, sweet potato powder, or jelly. They vary a lot in terms of the water and sugar content. Spices can also be added to tapioca balls. The addition of different ingredients affects the texture, colour, and sweetness of the resulting pearls.
Depending on the ingredients used and on the manufacturing process, boba pearls can be clear or black (the traditional varieties), as well as flavoured, popping (with jelly inside), and mini.
Taste and texture of tapioca pearls
Boba pearls are usually added to bubble tea because of their unique texture rather than for taste. As tapioca pearls are nearly tasteless, it’s the drink that they are added to that provides most of the sweetness and flavour.
The tapioca pearls should not be so squishy that they’ll just stick together in one big lump at the bottom of your drink – nor should they be so hard that they are difficult to chew. The perfectly prepared boba pearls feel nice and squishy to bite – but not too hard and not too soft.
Are tapioca pearls good for you?
While these pearls are made up mostly of carbohydrates, they also contain some fibre – and are quite high in iron. Also, they are gluten-free and nut-free, which makes them a perfect dessert option for someone with allergies to these products. And the unique texture of these squishy bouncy pearls is so hard to resist that, once you try them in your bubble tea, you’ll just want to repeat the experience, over and over again.
Check out our full range of tapioca pearl products here at Bubble Tea Club.