You can’t have failed to notice the recent hype around bubble tea, with bars opening all across the country! This delicious milky tea is now a firm favorite for many people, right down to the odd boba balls lurking at the bottom.
But what is boba — is it fish eggs? Boba is the name used to describe the tapioca pearls that are used to flavor bubble tea. They are made from tapioca starch (which is made from cassava root) and have nothing to do with fish eggs at all. Boba is a vegetable product and is suitable for vegans.
If you’re as fascinated by bubble tea as we are, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this mysterious ingredient and how it’s made!
What Is Boba?
Boba is one of those mysterious ingredients that really could have come from anywhere! Is it a plant, a dairy product, or some kind of weird fish eggs?
If you’ve ever had a bubble tea (and if you haven’t, you really should try it!) you will have seen that this popular, milky, tea-based drink contains strange translucent spheres that lurk at the bottom of your glass.
These strange little balls are what we call boba!
Made with black tea, milk, and boba, this delicious beverage is often referred to as a thirst quencher and a snack rolled into one.
But ask most boba tea fans what these strange but delicious balls actually are, and they’d struggle to tell you! We all love the flavor, but where they come from is a mystery to many.
You may have heard rumors that boba is actually fish eggs, which might put you off trying this delicious drink. But is boba fish eggs, or is it something else? Let’s find out!
So, Is Boba Fish Eggs?
The good news is that boba is most definitely not fish eggs! These little translucent balls have nothing to do with fish at all, so you can rest assured that your favorite milky tea does not contain fish eggs.
So, why might people think that boba is fish eggs? It all comes down to the appearance and texture of these little balls, which leads many people to think that they are fish eggs.
Boba balls are translucent, slimy, and look very much like caviar, the name for the type of fish eggs intended for human consumption.
But luckily, boba are not fish eggs! We can’t think of a more disgusting-sounding tea than one made with caviar, so it is good news that our favorite bubble tea beverage does not contain fish eggs!
What Is Boba Made From?
So, if boba is not fish eggs, what exactly is boba and how is it made?
Boba is made from tapioca starch, which comes from the root of the cassava plant. You may also know this root as yuca (not yucca), and it originates from South America.
Tapioca, the starchy flour from cassava roots, is formed into tiny balls that have a soft, chewy texture when cooked. You may also hear boba referred to as tapioca pearls.
If you want to make boba at home, all you have to do is add boiling water to tapioca flour, forming it into a dough. This dough is then cut and rolled into tiny balls, which are then boiled in a mix of water and brown sugar.
The result is a subtly sweet ball of translucent, chewy, dough-like goodness that pairs perfectly with milk tea.
Here is a quick video from Pearl Lok on YouTube showing how to make fresh strawberry boba:
What Does Boba Taste Like?
Boba tapioca pearls don’t have a huge flavor of their own — they are normally added to drinks more for their texture than their flavor.
Depending on how they were cooked, they can have a slight burst of flavor which pops in the mouth as you eat them.
Boba pearls that are simmered in sugar or honey will have a sweet flavor, whilst those that are cooked in a fruit-based syrup will take on the fruity flavor.
The texture of boba is slightly chewy and gelatinous — kind of like a slightly undercooked rice pudding. When added to milky tea, they turn this refreshing drink into a delicious snack that will satisfy your hunger as well as your thirst!
Is Boba Vegan?
Many people believe that boba balls may contain gelatin, meaning they are not suitable for vegans.
But although boba balls do have a gelatinous texture, they do not contain any gelatin — this texture is created through a process called gelatinization.
The balls are heated to a moderate temperature, so that the surface layer of the balls begins to gelatinize, forming a soft, gel-like texture.
Boba tapioca pearls are made with 100% plant-based ingredients and are suitable for anyone following a vegan diet.
However, most bubble teas are made with dairy milk, making them unsuitable for vegans or anyone who is lactose intolerant.
A reputable bubble bar will have non-dairy milk options on offer so that everyone gets to enjoy this delicious milky drink.
Can You Make Bubble Tea At Home?
Going out for a freshly made bubble tea is a treat that many of us enjoy, but did you know that you can easily recreate your favorite beverage at home?
Boba tapioca balls can be purchased from specialist food stores, either in their raw form or partially cooked.
These are simmered in water for around 30 minutes, then drained and left to stand for another 30 minutes — this cooling down period is vital to ensure the boba balls develop the gelatinous outer shell that they are famous for!
It is also possible to make boba balls from scratch using tapioca starch and brown sugar. This is a fiddly and time-consuming task, but very rewarding when you can make bubble tea with your handmade boba balls!
Boba Tea 101
There are many variations on the perfect boba tea recipe, but there are some key steps and ingredients that are vital to making this delicious drink.
Firstly, you need to decide what type of tea to use. Most bubble teas are made using black tea, such as Assam, Darjeeling, and Earl Grey. If you prefer green tea, then matcha or jasmine can make acceptable alternatives.
You will need to steep the tea leaves in hot water for at least five minutes to create a tea of the desired strength.
Try and use the creamiest milk you can find — skim milk does not make good bubble tea!
And the final ingredient is your boba tapioca balls! These should not be added to hot tea as this can significantly alter the texture. If necessary, add some ice to the brew to chill it before adding the boba.
The ideal ratio of these ingredients will depend on how strong and sweet you like your bubble tea. The following blend will give you a balanced tea that is subtly sweet and milky:
- 1 ¾ cups of tea
- ¼ cup of milk
- ¼ cup of simple syrup
- ¼ cup of ice
- ½ cup of boba pearls
So now we’ve got your boba questions all figured out, let’s take a look at some other common tea-related queries!
Can you make brown rice green tea at home?
Brown rice green tea is made from a careful blend of roasted brown rice and green tea. It has a nuttier, more intense flavor than standard green tea and is packed full of nutritional benefits.
If you have a packet of green tea lurking at the back of the pantry shelves, it is relatively easy to transform this into brown rice green tea!
Here’s how to make brown rice green tea at home:
- Spread a thin layer of brown rice in a non-stick pan and toast it over low heat for around 5 minutes. Shake the pan frequently to prevent the rice from burning.
- Place 1 teaspoon of the toasted rice in a teapot, along with 1 teaspoon of green tea. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the pot and allow the tea to infuse for 3 minutes.
- Strain the tea into a cup and enjoy!
Does rooibos tea contain caffeine?
Roobios tea, also known as red bush tea, is one of the most popular caffeine-free alternatives to true tea — and with good reason! This delicious and healthy beverage is incredibly refreshing and is packed full of beneficial nutrients.
Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of a shrub called Aspalathus linearis. These leaves are collected and then fermented, turning them a red-brown color. You can also buy green rooibos, where the leaves have not been fermented.
The flavor of rooibos tea is one of the caffeine-free options with the closest taste to true tea. The taste is smooth and gentle, with a slightly nutty and naturally sweet taste. The aroma has warm, woody notes that tantalize the tastebuds.