Boba, also known as bubble tea, is an Asian drink that has become widely popular everywhere in the world.
With so many boba places around, you may come across numerous boba tea combinations, with new flavors and toppings appearing quite often.
You may be overwhelmed by the number of toppings you can choose from at boba places. Which ones are worth trying?
What are the best toppings for boba? The best topping for boba are pearls, including tapioca and agar-agar pearls, puddings, jelly chunks, popping boba, milk or cheese foam, beans, basil and chia seeds, as well as whipped cream and ice cream.
Continue reading to learn more about each of these toppings for boba and which one to choose next time you drink bubble tea!
What Is Boba?
Boba is the name used for a popular Taiwanese drink called bubble tea. While bubble tea was created in Taiwan in the 80s, it started to gain popularity in the US starting from the early 2000s.
The word boba itself is very confusing. On one hand, it is another name for bubble tea. On the other hand, the word boba may also refer to the tapioca balls used in the drink.
These are the dark pearls found in boba tea. They have a chewy texture and are quite sweet. Though it should be noted that these pearls come in a variety of other colors and flavors too.
A classic boba drink contains the following ingredients: tapioca balls (or pearls made of other ingredients), black tea, milk, and a sweetener.
The drink is chilled with ice and always comes with a fat straw. This is important as the straw should be wide enough for the pearls to pass through it.
While boba is often used to refer to bubble tea, boba thought of as sweet pearls, can be added to other drinks too.
The 9 Best Toppings for Boba
With the increasing popularity of bubble tea, there are numerous boba combinations you can try.
The classic topping for bubble tea is the chewy pearls, of course. But now any bubble tea place serves boba with various more interesting add-ons.
So, what are the best toppings for boba? Here are the nine 9 options you can try!
Pearls, i.e. those chewy bubbles in bubble tea, are the most common topping used for this drink. In fact, there is no bubble tea without any pearls.
Most commonly, these pearls are made of tapioca. Plain tapioca pearls are made of only 2 ingredients: tapioca starch and water.
Because of the chewy consistency of the pearls, you may think there is gelatin in the tapioca balls too. It’s all thanks to the tapioca starch.
Plain two-ingredients tapioca balls don’t have any flavor. Sometimes they may be soaked in honey or other syrups to make the pearls taste sweet.
Another common type of tapioca pearls are dark brown boba pearls. These dark pearls are sweeter thanks to the brown sugar used to make them.
Tapioca pearls come in a range of other flavors and colors. Golden tapioca pearls, green tea, and fruit-flavored boba pearls are only a few of the options you may find at boba cafes.
Aside from tapioca pearls, boba places may use pearl toppings made of other ingredients. Sweet potato boba pearls are one of the options.
Agar-agar pearls are a boba topping made of agar powder. It is the main ingredient used in the making of these pearls that is also responsible for their crystal-like appearance.
This is why boba pearls made of agar powder are also known as crystal boba.
The texture of crystal boba is more delicate and jelly-like compared to the chewy tapioca balls. But it is sweet and mildly floral.
If you have never tried bubble tea, you should certainly have boba pearls added to your drink as it is the best way to experience the true texture of bubble tea. No matter what pearls they put in your drink, they should be soft and bouncy.
Puddings are another great topping for boba.
Egg pudding might seem to be an odd addition to bubble tea.
However, if you are on the hunt for a new interesting addition to your boba, then trying it topped with egg pudding is certainly something you shouldn’t miss. Egg pudding has become one of the most popular bubble tea toppings.
Egg pudding is not made entirely from eggs as you would think. It is made with whole and lactose-free milk, dairy-free creamer, and sugar.
When talking about the texture of pudding that is added to bubble tea or other specialty drinks, it should be noted that it doesn’t have the jello-like texture of puddings we are used to.
These puddings used to top drinks have a very delicate texture as they need to run through the straw.
Boba puddings may have a range of different flavors which include matcha pudding, coffee-flavored pudding, and many more!
The most popular flavor though is still egg pudding. Some boba places call it custard pudding too. So, don’t get confused when making an order.
It should be noted that if you don’t like the eggy flavor of such puddings, we certainly recommend having your bubble tea topped with matcha pudding or any other flavored pudding.
The added flavors take away from the eggy taste of the pudding which can be rather off-putting if it’s too strong.
Jelly is a good topping for boba if you want to add some chewiness to your drink.
There are a number of jelly varieties you can choose from. Some of the most popular jelly toppings are rainbow jelly, aiyu jelly, coconut jelly, and grass jelly.
Grass jelly doesn’t have a very appetizing name. But the truth is, it does have a grassy herbal flavor and people do like it.
Grass jelly is made of the herb Chinese mesona. The consistency of this jelly is closer to pudding consistency which is why it is scooped into large chunks and not cut.
If you are somewhere in Asia, the chances are high that you may see coconut jelly in the list of jelly flavors. Coconut jelly is a popular ingredient in Asian desserts.
Also known by the name nata de coco, this jelly is made by fermenting coconut water. The result is chewy and translucent jelly. Coconut jelly can be made colorful with the help of food coloring too.
Coconut jelly, like other types of jelly, is cut into chunks and used to top milk-based bubble tea.
Lychee jelly is a type of Chinese jelly dessert made of coconut water. It also includes lychee fruits and agar powder for the jiggly texture.
Chunks of lychee jelly add a nice chewy texture to the drink though the fruity flavor clashing with the milk may be overpowering for some people.
Rainbow jelly has a coconut water base too. But the texture of this jelly is bouncier compared to coconut jelly.
Other flavors of jelly toppings for boba are widely available too, including mango, green apple strawberry, pineapple, passion fruit, and even coffee jelly.
4. Popping Boba
As if the texture of regular boba was not enough, people have come up with popping boba. These are even more interesting than regular boba.
The shape of popping boba is the same as the shape of regular boba.
But the difference is that there is a soft jelly-like liquid inside each pearl of popping boba. A slight chew on them makes them burst and fill your mouth with lots of flavor.
Popping boba comes in various flavors. Watermelon, passion fruit, strawberry, mango—popping boba pearls are filled with colorful syrups. Popping boba pearls with coffee and tea-flavored popping pearls are popular too.
You can buy a jar of popping boba and spice up your everyday drinks. You can try making popping boba pearls at home.
But the process of DIY popping boba is rather complicated in terms of finding the ingredients you need and the time it takes to make the pearls.
To achieve the poppable texture of these boba pearls, manufacturers use 2 food additives: sodium alginate and calcium salt.
We recommend choosing popping boba as a topping for your boba if you find regular tapioca pearls to be too heavy and chewy for your liking.
Additionally, popping boba is lower in calories than tapioca pearls. Unlike its starchy counterparts, popping boba contains only 30 calories per serving.
If you are not sure about adding any topping to your boba drink as you don’t want to affect its texture, and still having an additional layer of flavor is what you want, you can go with a foam topping.
The most popular foam topping for boba is milk foam. Milk foam is simply aerated and fluffy foam like the one added over coffee.
Milk foam is so light that unlike other boba topping sis strays on the drink. You can stir it into your drink to add a light flavor of milk to your drink and also creaminess.
A peculiar option is adding cheese foam to your boba drink. You may think that cheese foam and boba tea won’t pair well together. But you will never know how you feel about this combination unless you try.
Flavor-wise, cheese foam is a combination of all flavors. It’s sweet, salty, creamy, and of course, cheesy!
Foam toppings usually go with all kinds of boba drinks, making some of the best pairings with lighter teas.
A great tip to know when ordering boba with foam topping is drinking it without a straw first. This way you get a mouthful of both the drink and the foam.
Yes, you read that right. Beans can be a topping for boba too. While people have different feelings about bean toppings for bubble tea, some people do like it.
You surely wonder what beans taste like on boba. Let’s start with the fact that the beans used to top boba are not the type of beans you eat for dinner.
Red beans or mung beans, which are small green beans, are sweetened to make a deliciously sweet topping for drinks and desserts.
Aside from the sweetness beans add to boba drinks, they also add earthy notes. It is the texture of red and green sweetened beans that makes them a questionable boba topping.
People usually complain about sweetened beans being powdery and grainy.
But one thing that may make you choose beans as a topping for your boba is the fact that they are healthier than some of the toppings in this list.
Beans are a great source of protein and fiber which isn’t something we can say about jellies, pearls, and popping bubbles.
7. Basil or Chia Seeds
Basil seeds and chia seeds are very similar in certain aspects. Both have a great nutritional value and look quite similar. But basil seeds are all black while chia seeds come in a few shades, including black, brown, gray, and white.
When these seeds are soaked in liquid, they produce a slimy translucent topping. The seeds, however, remain hard in the center.
Such a mixture of basil or chia seeds added to your boba drink adds another layer of texture to it, contrasting with the chewiness of starchy tapioca pearls.
Thanks to their unique texture, basil and chia seed toppings are not as popular among boba drinkers. But some people do like the gelatinous and crunchy texture these seeds add to the drink along with the many health benefits they have.
Basil or chia seeds are most frequently used for fruit-flavored boba teas.
8. Whipped Cream
You can never go wrong with whipped cream. It makes a great topping for different types of hot and cold drinks. And boba is not an exception.
Whipped cream is airy and thick. It has the perfect amount of sweetness to not interfere with the flavor of your drink.
Whipped cream makes a great topping for coffee-based drinks that contain boba pearls. But it also goes well with various bubble teas.
Some of the toppings in this list may be harder to find, including Asian jellies and popping boba. Whipped cream, however, is very easy. Try it next time you make bubble tea at home. You can add some sprinkles to make it fun too.
9. Ice Cream
Last but not least, ice cream is another great topping for boba tea. It is one of the safer toppings you can go for. But the good thing is, you know that you will love it as topping any dessert with ice cream is never a bad idea.
There are so many flavors to choose from when it comes to ice cream as a boba topping. If it is a café where they sell both boba drinks and ice cream, have your boba drink topped with a ball of your favorite ice cream.
You can melt the ice cream into the drink or you can eat it for dessert and then have your drink.
In fact, you may like the combination of ice cream and boba pearls so much that you may start topping your ice cream with boba pearls instead!