Boba vs. Tapioca – What’s The Difference?

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Boba, or bubble tea, is a recent trend that has taken the world by storm. You can find Boba at almost every tea shop; even popular brands like Starbucks have incorporated them in their menu. But it isn’t quite clear to many what exactly Boba is.

When you search the internet, you’ll often come across the term Tapioca, which can be pretty confusing. But this is where we step in and make things easier for you. The main confusion in understanding Boba and Tapioca is the terminology. 

People often use the term Boba to refer to Bubble tea, but you can also use Boba to refer to Boba balls made using Tapioca. We know that sounds confusing, but bear with us, and at the end of this article, you’ll have a good understanding of Boba and Tapioca, their uses, how they are made, and their nutritional value.

So, please sit back and enjoy as we clear the confusion and differentiate between Boba and Tapioca. 


To understand Tapioca, you first need to understand what Cassava root is. Cassava root is derived from the Cassava plant initially domesticated by Brazilians thousands of years ago. Late, this plant spread to different parts of the world, including South America and Asia

Tapioca is the starch that is extracted from Cassava roots. This starch can then be used for various purposes, one of which is to make Boba balls or Tapioca pearls. But first, let’s talk about how is Tapioca made. The first step in making Tapioca is to gather the Cassava root and ground it up.

While grounding, the Tapioca root releases a liquid that dries and produces Tapioca. Yes, it’s as simple as that! This powder is almost purely starch with barely any proteins and fiber. This means that you get almost no nutrients from Tapioca and no gluten present in it. 

The only thing that you get from consuming Tapioca is empty calories. This may sound unhealthy, but Tapioca is not consumed in large amounts to cause any problems. Unlike fast food, which can have an addictive effect and lead to binge eating and obesity. 

Because of its lack of gluten, Tapioca is frequently used as an alternate for gluten-rich starches. You can use Tapioca in soups, baking, or desserts (as a thickening agent). But the most recent and more popular use of Tapioca is making Boba. Boba also referred to as Bubble Tea, is made using brewed tea, condensed milk, different kinds of syrups, milk, and of course, tapioca pearls. 

Tapioca Pearls

Tapioca is mixed with water to produce transparent balls called Tapioca pearls. They are small and transparent and are often sweetened to add flavor. They’d be tasteless if you were to eat them without added sugar or flavor. 

Tapioca pearls can be either small or large. The small-sized Tapioca pearls are usually the size of small beads, and they are used to make desserts such as Tapioca Pudding. The Large Tapioca Pearls are roughly the size of marbles, and they are usually sweetened and colored and used in making Bubble Tea. 

Making Tapioca pearls is very simple; all you need is water and Tapioca starch. The first step is boiling the water as much as you want. Then add Tapioca Starch until the water reaches the consistency of dough. After that, start kneading the dough to incorporate all the water molecules in the starch. 

Once this is done, start making small balls (or large ones, depending on your personal preference), and you’ll end up with Tapioca crystals. These Crystals are then Boiled for five to eight minutes to make Tapioca pearls. As we have already mentioned, Tapioca starch has no flavor, so it is probably good to add some flavor. 

The best way to flavor Tapioca Pearls is to keep them in a mixture of water and sugar and use them whenever you need to within eight to ten days. In this way, not only will your Tapioca Pearls get flavored, but they will not become dry and get spoiled. Now all you have to do is make your tea, add the Tapioca Pearls, and enjoy!


Boba can be a confusing term because it refers to both Bubble tea and a certain type of Tapioca Crystals. Let’s talk about the crystals first. To make Boba pearls (or crystals), you need Tapioca Starch, water, and brown sugar. 

 These ingredients are mixed in a similar way that we used to make Tapioca Crystals, but this time we are using brown sugar to add flavor. Boba is also used to refer to Bubble tea, a trendy drink that has become quite popular recently. Making Bubble Tea is simple. 

You’d need brewed tea, ices, mil, different ingredients to add flavor and richness, and of course, Boba Pearls. This is all of it, and there is no secret ingredient involved. You just make tea, add milk, ice cubes, and Boba Pearls. But if you don’t have the time, you can always get one from your local tea shop.

As you know, Boba is made using Tapioca Starch which has no gelatin, so the people who are worried about their Bubble tea having gelatin can relax! It is natural to assume that Boba might have gelatin because of its chewy texture. But this chewy texture comes from the Tapioca starch, not gelatin. 

Boba pearls usually have a brown color that is acquired while making them. The brown sugar added to the Tapioca starch leaves a brown color that is more prominent while boiling them for around twenty minutes. You can also use artificial coloring to make your Boba pearls darker or blacker if you like them that way. 

So What’s the Difference Between Boba and Tapioca?

  • Tapioca is a starch derived from Cassava root, while Boba can refer to either Bubble tea or Boba balls. 
  • Tapioca is used to make Tapioca crystals and Boba balls; these balls are then used in making Boba or bubble tea. 
  • Boba Crystals are made using Tapioca starch, brown sugar and water, while Tapioca Crystals are made only with Tapioca starch and water.