Young woman is holding, drinking brown sugar flavored tapioca pearl bubble milk tea with glass straw in night market of Taiwan.

At first glance, boba pearl and tapioca appear to be very different. Tapioca has a long history in old-fashioned desserts, but boba pearl is the new trend for specialty beverages. In fact, they both come from the same source: cassava root.


Tapioca is made of finely ground or pearled cassava root. The tapioca is dried and used in desserts such as pudding, or as a thickener for soups and stews.

Boba Pearl

Boba pearl is added to sweet milk tea or fruit-flavored beverages for an added texture similar to gummy bears. Boba pearl tea originated in Taiwan and is also called bubble tea or pearl tea.


Boba pearls are the size of marbles and are tan in color, while tapioca is the size of pearls and white before cooked. Both are high in calories and carbohydrates.


Tan in color, boba pearls do not develop their characteristic black color until after cooking. Many cultures use tapioca in fritters or savory dishes, not just sweet desserts.

Fun Fact

Raw cassava root contains a form of cyanide toxin. However, processing the cassava root into tapioca and boba pearl removes this toxin.