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Is There Any Difference Between Boba Vs Bubble Tea?

Is There Any Difference Between Boba Vs Bubble Tea?

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Boba vs Bubble tea. Is there a difference? This is a question that many people are asking themselves.

QUICK ANSWER:  Boba is the tapioca pearls found inside this popular drink. On the other hand, bubble tea is a milk tea with boba, also called boba tea and milk tea. Therefore, boba pearls are not the same as bubble tea, while boba tea is the same. 

So, the main difference lies in the technicalities. If you’re still confused about the two, I’m sure the rest of the article will help you tell them apart. 

Bubble Tea

Black bubble milk tea advertising photography

Bubble tea is a pearl milk tea that contains boba pearls. When you drink bubble tea, you also drink boba or the chewy tapioca pearls, but not the other way around.

It can be served with a variety of ingredients, such as green tea, black tea flavors, any other fruit tea drink, soy milk, brown sugar, taro, oolong tea, creamer, lychee, matcha, sweeteners, grass jelly, fresh fruit, almond milk, iced tea, aloe, and others.

• The origin story of Bubble tea

“Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan in the early 1980’s at a small tea stand. Elementary school children would look forward to buying a cup of refreshing tea after a long, hard day of work and play. 

Tea stands were set up in front of the schools and would compete for business with the best selling tea. One concession owner became popular with her tea when she started adding different fruit flavoring to her tea. 

Because of the sweet and cool taste, children loved the taste. Soon, other concessions heard about the “unique” and popular tea, so they started to add flavoring to their teas. 

When adding flavor, the tea and flavoring needed to be shaken well for a good all around taste. This formed bubbles in the drink, which came to be known as ‘Bubble Tea.’” (1)


Homemade Milk Bubble Tea with Tapioca Pearls on wooden background

Boba, on the other hand, has been around for centuries. The name boba, which means pearl, was given to this drink because the tapioca balls are made to resemble pearls. In essence, boba is the name for only the little chewy pearls inside the bubble tea.

The name “boba” comes from tapioca pearls that are made from cassava root starch, sugar, water, and natural food coloring or flavorings such as strawberry extract or chocolate powder.

• The origin story of Boba

“In 1983 Liu Han-Chieh introduced Taiwan to tapioca pearls. The new fad was to add tapioca pearls into a favorite drink. Most of the time tapioca pearls were served in cold infused tea. 

After the tea and flavor were shaken well, it topped tapioca pearls that were sitting on the bottom of a clear cup. The tapioca pearls also looked like bubbles, thus also became known as “Bubble Tea.” Bubbles floated on the top of your drink and bottom of your drink.” (1) 

Boba Vs Bubble Tea: Are They The Same?

Light brown creamy bubble tea with milk and black tapioca in a glass jar on gray background

The simplest and quickest answer most people are looking for is the following: 

Yes, boba tea and bubble tea are the same. But, boba itself is the pearls that come inside the bubble tea, also known as pearl tea or milk tea.

They both have a wide variety of flavors to choose from, come in different sizes, and are both served cold or hot. 

Popular names of Bubble tea

Once we know that the drinks are the same, here are a few names for this tasty and filling bubble tea. Remember, you can use all of them, and everyone will know you’re talking about tapioca pearl milk tea:

  • Pearl milk tea
  • Boba tea
  • Milk tea
  • Pearl tea
  • Tapioca tea
  • Boba pearls tea

Is It Better To Say Boba Or Bubble Tea?

Boba or tapioca pearls is taiwan bubble milk tea in plastic cup with chocolate flavor

You can choose to name the drink whichever way you’d like. Of course, it would be better to say bubble tea or boba tea because boba itself is the name for the tapioca balls inside the tea.

This is a debate that has been going on for years. Some people say that “boba” is the correct term, and there are those who say that “bubble tea” is the correct term.

The truth of the matter is that both terms are correct. Boba refers to the tapioca balls, and bubble tea refers to the drink.

Reddit screenshot referring to bubble tea

Enjoy Your Drink!

Generally, boba is the tapioca pearls that are served in bubble tea. However, bubble tea is also known as boba tea. 

Hopefully, this article of mine helped you understand the difference between boba vs bubble tea, what they have in common, and most importantly, how to tell these two apart. 

See also: Does Starbucks Have Boba Tea On The Menu?

1. Bubble Tea Supply, Bubble Tea History, accessed 7 March 2023,

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