Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Boba
Boba shops have now bloomed all over America and are no longer limited to the Taiwanese enclaves they once resided in 15 years ago. For those who haven't had the chance to experience the magic that is boba, and find themselves staring -- perplexed -- at the overwhelming menu full of customizable options, we are here to guide you.
What is boba?
The short answer: they're cassava starch balls.
The longer answer: the term boba can, holistically, be in reference to the entire drink-plus-toppings, the most popular topping being tapioca pearls (which also happen to be called boba -- I know, it's confusing, but stay with me!). The drink as a whole is also known as bubble tea, pearl tea, and tapioca tea -- depending on what part of the country you're from. As stated earlier, the tapioca pearls that are also called "boba" are generally made from cassava starch, a root vegetable from South America that is also referred to as yuca.
Boba -- the drink in its entirety -- originates from Taiwan, though its disputed which city and specific shop it actually started from. Originally, boba pearls were used in shaved ice desserts and paired with syrups, beans, and delectably chewy rice balls. Milk tea was also consumed regularly and thankfully, someone decided to merge the two, thus creating the genius, beloved drink we now have today.
Boba culture made its way to America through Taiwanese neighborhoods and blossomed near college campuses and high schools, where students would gather for study groups. Most boba shops, even now, are open late and offer affordable snacks and drinks -- which made them the perfect stop for late-night hang outs and crunchtime studying.
The tea base for boba drinks is usually black or green tea and can be customized with an array of syrups like peach, strawberry, and lychee. Milk can also be added to teas, transforming them to milk teas, and making for a much creamier, indulgent drink. The classic "boba milk tea" order is a black tea with milk and boba.
Half the fun of going out for a boba, which is both a beverage and a snack rolled in one, is customizing it perfectly to your tastes. Almost all boba shops give you the option to adjust the sweetness of your drink, change how much ice you want, and even have hot and cold options (for when you need your boba fix but it's freezing outside).