The Difference Between Popping Boba And Tapioca Pearls

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This article will cover the differences between popping boba and tapioca pearls. They have many differences in texture, taste, appearance and versatility. Both of these boba types are extremely popular, but it depends on the regions on which places they are the most popular.

Popping boba is also called popping pearls and bursting boba. It has many different flavors, with each being favored individually for certain flavors of drinks. It is known as the boba that pops. Tapioca pearls are black chewy spheres that derive from the root of the cassava plant, a root vegetable.

Tapioca Pearls vs Popping Boba: Is tapioca the same as popping boba?

Let’s look at some key elements that make tapioca pearls vs popping boba different. They are definitely not the same thing, and can easily be told apart by their characteristics. Their shape is really the only thing they have in common.


The taste of tapioca pearls is bland without sugar. This is the initial taste that you get whenever tapioca pearls are finished cooking, which is usually done in a pot with boiling water. They are not sweet at all, but rather tasteless. The tapioca pearls are made sweet in taste after they are mixed in with any kind of sugar (powder sugar, cane sugar, but usually brown sugar).

It takes a lot to sweeten them, so often times large amounts of sugar is used to let them soak in after cooking. The bland tapioca pearls end up tasting like the sugar it is mixed with predominantly, and slightly like the bubble tea flavor type that they are placed in.

Popping pearls however, are usually made with expensive machinery, but it can also be made at home through a process called spherification. It can be a rather tedious procedure. Many different flavors (usually real fruit juice flavors) are made through spherification, and the juice flavors are encased in a seaweed sphere shell that holds in the juices. This is why there are many different tastes (flavors) in popping boba.

The flavor of the popping pearls is dependent on the fruit juice flavor used. It is not dependent on soaking in sugars for taste like the tapioca pearls are. The taste and flavor is more natural than that of the flavor of boba pearls (tapioca).


The texture of the tapioca pearls vs popping boba is very very different. It is like night vs day in texture. The tapioca pearls are made with tapioca flour, so they are much firmer than popping boba’s thin shell before they are cooked. It can crumble if handled roughly. After it is finished cooking fully, the tapioca pearls become smooth, gummy and soft. After it is mixed with sugars, it is slightly slimey to the touch.

Popping pearls on the other hand, have liquids that are encased in a see-through shell. The tranparent shell is extremely thin, and easily breakable. It can pop easily from the slightest pressure, but it is strong enough to stay intact when held gently in the hand. The shell really only pops when somone deliberately tries to break it.

95% of the popping boba’s texture is nothing more than the juice without the shell holding it in.


In appearance, the tapioca pearls look like dry brown flour balls that look slightly damp. When they are cooked, they become completely black (sometimes they are still brown, just darker) in color. They have a shine to them on their surface, which reflects the light, but they are not transparent.

Popping boba is transparent, and resembles bubbles in water in appearance. Depending on the juice flavor, they can take on the color of that flavor, even food coloring if used. The most common colors for popping pearls is green, red, orange, and yellow. They can even be blue. They are only limited on color by what color the liquid encased in the shell of it is.

Tapioca pearls can also appear with different colors too if it is mixed with fruit/vegetable flavors or food coloring, but usually they are not.


Gliding past the fact that a few people make their own tapioca pearls and popping pearls from scratch, let’s look at the ease of use and preparation.

When tapioca pearls are bought from the store or a supplier, they always have to be cooked if they are to be enjoyed at their best.

The time to cook can take anywhere from 10 minutes total (for instant tapioca pearls), to 1 whole hour. It is definitely a new experience for most that takes a little practice to master cooking the tapioca into its soft and chewy texture. However, the experience is very rewarding and fun.

The tapioca pearls that require an hour for cooking are definitely worth the wait over the instant ones.

Genuine tapioca pearls of good quality cannot be cooked beforehand and purchased cooked. They have to be prepared, cook, and used within a short time for the real experience.

Popping pearls on the other hand, can be fully prepared beforehand, saved for later, and do not require cooking. Even though some prefer the soft and chewy texture of cooked tapioca pearls, popping pearls have the upper hand on this one thing.

The popping boba can be bought and used immediately for what ever bubble tea, fruit tea, or dessert that the individual wants to use it for.

Is boba or popping boba better?

The answer to this is really about what type of bubble tea drinks that you prefer. There are milk tea drinks that focus more on a mild sugary taste, even though they can be made into fruit flavors and vegetable flavors. These are usually made with boba pearls (tapioca). The fruit tea bubble tea drinks are usually preferred by most with the versatile popping boba.

Even if the bubble tea doesn’t include fruit tea, but instead has regular tea, many still use the tapioca and the popping pearls for toppings for just about everything.

The popping boba can be a healthier choice for most, while the tapioca pearls have other health benefits that the popping boba cannot offer.

However, if an individual is looking for versatility with desserts and bubble tea drinks, then the popping boba is better than the tapioca pearls. If an individual is looking for something that can just be used with just about everything, without going out of style, then the tapioca pearls are better than the popping pearls.

The ease of use and consumption of the popping pearls are desired by some as a safer alternative to tapioca pearls.

Some individuals however, enjoy the chewy texture of boba pearls, and just chewing on them out of habit. These individuals often don’t like the new texture that popping pearls presents in their desserts and drinks when they first try them. They will most of the time tell you that tapioca pearls are better.

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