What is the Difference Between Bubble Tea vs Boba?

Updated on: January 29, 2022
Author: Nick
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difference between boba and bubble tea

Are you a boba fan or a bubble tea fan? Or perhaps a boba tea fan? Now, that was a trick question. You may ask why? Well, to your surprise, there is no difference between bubble tea vs boba. 

The difference between bubble tea vs boba has been a matter of discussion for a long time. But, they aren’t different!

Both bubble tea and boba refer to the same thing, a tea-based drink with chewy tapioca balls at the bottom. There has been a lot of confusion between the two considering the names. 

Stick around to learn more about the technical meanings of the names. Over the past years, bubble tea and boba have been given many different names.  

Before getting into these technicalities, grab some bubble tea and let’s get bobbing!

So, What is the Difference Between Bubble Tea vs Boba? 

The most significant difference between bubble tea vs boba is the name. Many people are confused between the two because of their names. People in the US West Coast prefer calling the drink boba, whereas, in the East Coast it is called bubble tea. 

What is Boba? 

The word Boba refers to a type of chunky drink usually made with a tea base and tapioca pearls. But confusingly, boba can also refer to the tapioca balls that are used in bubble tea. 

The boba pearls are a very significant element in a bubble or pearl milk tea drink (see what we did there, more names for this drink!) 

The boba balls, or pearls, add a texture to the bubble tea. There are now different variations of boba pearls that have become available with time. These include for example crystal boba or popping boba.

What is Bubble Tea? 

Bubble tea refers to different types of tea drinks (well, they usually have tea) that are usually served with tapioca pearls and some boba toppings. Sometimes people also say boba tea. 

This delicious drink originated in Taiwan. The tea is named bubble tea because of the signature “bubbles,” which are the chewy tapioca pearls sitting at the bottom of the drink. 

In addition, blending and shaking are essential in the process of bubble tea. As a result, you get the name “bubble tea.”

When invented in Taiwan the base of the drink was originally made of black iced tea and milk, hence the pearl milk tea name. But the drink now can have a base of green tea, oolong tea, or no tea at all! 

Plus you can ask for a milk substitute such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, etc...

One example is the popular honeydew milk tea.

Bubble Tea Culture - Honeydew Milk Tea

Bubble tea has gained increasing popularity in western culture, Europe, and Asia. With the affection of people, the drink has also managed to acquire many different names. Here are some of the most popular names for bubble tea that you might hear if you drink bubble tea: 

  • Boba
  • Boba Tea 
  • Pearl Tea
  • Pearl Milk Tea
  • Tapioca Tea
  • Tapioca Milk Tea 
  • Milk Tea
  • Bubble Tea
  • Bubble Milk Tea

Note that although milk tea refers to boba tea, it usually means a specific type, which is made of black tea, milk, brown tapioca pearls and some sugar.

Now that you know the difference between bubble tea vs boba and the different names for them, I hope there will be no more confusion. Also, the next time you hear your friends saying these variations, just know what they are referring to! 

With time and popularity, bubble tea is becoming more and more mainstream. It can get a little confusing, due to so many different variations (I get that!). I hope that you got some clarity and know the difference between bubble tea vs boba. 

Now you should learn how to order boba tea like a true Taiwanese native!

Frequently Asked Questions

How is Bubble Tea Served?

Bubble tea (or boba) is served in boba cups with a fat straw and the taste of divinity inside. There are also so many bubble tea flavors to fit anyone’s preference.

What is the difference between boba and tapioca pearls?

In general terms, tapioca pearls are a type of boba. For these, tapioca starch is used to make the boba balls, which can be infused with brown sugar or other flavors. But there are different types of boba pearls that do not contain tapioca such as crystal and popping boba.

Is boba supposed to be chewy?

Yes, boba is supposed to be soft and smooth on the outside and chewy on the inside. However, crystal boba and popping boba have different textures that are not as chewy. Try them out!

Where can I buy bubble tea from?

The best place to drink bubble tea is from bubble tea shops, such as Gong Cha, because they will have all the different flavors and toppings for you to try. But if you don’t have one close by, then you can either make it yourself by buying a bubble tea kit or create your own at your local Starbucks store!

Boba and bubble tea shop

Bottom Line 

This is all that you need to know about the difference between bubble tea vs boba. I hope that you enjoyed reading the article and found some clarity. Next time someone asks you to choose between the two, remember us and smile!

At the end of the day, there is not much of a difference between the two. Right?

Let us know what you think about these drinks and share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!
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