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What is boba? Bubble Tea for Beginners

What is boba? Bubble Tea for Beginners

Boba, bubble tea, BBT — it goes by many names but do not fret! We are here to teach you all about the world of drinking boba.  

What is bubble tea?

At it's core, bubble tea is a tea-based drink. But it can also be a meal or a dessert (depending on your appetite!) It's also a culture and a way of life not unlike that of coffee. You will most commonly find it in plastic to-go cups, but can be a sit-in drink as well.

Like coffee, it can be served hot or cold and is highly customizable. In each cup of boba, you'll find round chewy pearl sized balls called tapioca. These "bubbles" are a gelatinous substance that is derived from the cassava root. And of course, you'll need a chubby straw so that the tapioca doesn't get stuck when you're drinking it.

A variety of bubble tea


Choose a boba location

Boba shops may have originated from Taiwan, but today, they can be found all over the world. Try doing a Yelp or Google search for "bubble tea near me" in your area and read the reviews. When in doubt, stick to one of the international chains like Chatime, Coco, The Alley, Boba Guys etc. For more ideas, check out our instagram page for photos and locations.

If you're a bit nervous, bring a friend! It can help to bring a friend with you, especially if they've had it before. Experienced boba friends can give great suggestions about where to go, based on your own preferences.


Start with the tea

As mentioned earlier, boba is typically a tea-based drink. That being said, most boba shops will have some pretty big menus with many combinations of teas and fruit juices. Don't let this scare you!

There are plenty of tea options for you to choose from, but here's an easy guide to start

If you like sweet, fruity, tangy teas

Green tea drinks are perfect for you! You can get green tea on its own or have it mixed with a fruit juice. Some popular combinations that are often offered by most shops are: peach green tea, honey green tea, passionfruit green tea, or green apple green tea.

If you like earthy teas

Black tea or oolong teas are great for a more earthy tea flavour. These can also be great with fruit juices or even on its own. Some shops even have roasted teas that add an extra dimension to the tea taste. Some drinks you can try are: lemon black tea, honey oolong tea, mango black tea.

Milk/cream/fresh Milk

Both green and black tea drinks can have some kind of dairy product added to them to make them even more delicious. Some shops will just have a one milk option (often evaporated milk or a milk powder), while others may have a wide selection (like fresh milk, almond or soy, etc). Try honeydew milk tea, taro milk tea, oolong milk tea.

Tip: Many shops often have a separate menu of their most popular drink combinations. That's a good place to start!


Size matters

For your first boba, we recommend getting the smallest size. It's more manageable. Many people don't realize how filling boba can be! Not only is it a drink, but it's a drink you can eat/chew.


Level up with toppings

Wait, toppings on a drink? The name is a bit misleading since the toppings usually end up at the bottom of your boba, but bottoming sounds a bit strange doesn't it? 

Tapioca is your tried and true and every beginner should start with just tapioca. But what if you don't like tapioca or you want to be more adventurous? This is where it can get fun! 

Here are some of the other toppings that boba shops might offer:

  • Grass Jelly/Herbal Jelly
  • Red Bean
  • Aloe Jelly
  • Coconut Jelly
  • Pudding
  • Popping Bubbles

Boba Toppings

If these make you a bit nervous, you could try asking the shop if you could try one. Or just be brave and give it a chance! 


Other ways to customize


The sweetness often comes from a sugar syrup, though some places may use more natural sweeteners like honey. If you like your drinks less sweet, definitely ask for it! Keep in mind that your toppings will usually be sitting in a sweetener as well. Our general rule is: the more toppings you get, the less sweet you should get your drink.


If you're ordering a cold drink, you can often control how much ice you want in your drink. It's a delicate balance based on your preferences. Too much ice and it may mean you're getting less tea (or your tea will be watered down as the ice melts). Too little ice and it may mean your drink is not cold enough. Experiment and find out what you prefer!



Have fun with your boba adventure! 

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