Can you eat the balls in bubble tea?

Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, has become wildly popular in recent years. A key component of bubble tea is the “bubbles” or “pearls” – the chewy tapioca balls that sit at the bottom of the cup.

Quick Answer: Yes, you can eat the balls in bubble tea

The quick answer is yes, you are meant to eat the tapioca balls or “pearls” in bubble tea. The chewy, gummy balls are an essential part of the bubble tea drinking experience.

What are the bubbles made of?

The “bubbles” or “pearls” in bubble tea are small, chewy tapioca balls made from tapioca starch. Tapioca starch comes from the root of the cassava plant. To make tapioca pearls, the starch is rolled into small balls and cooked until they become opaque and chewy.

The cooked tapioca balls are then soaked in a sugary syrup, which gives them their signature sweet flavor. The pearls are either filled with juices or flavorings before serving, or they are soaked in flavored syrups like honey, brown sugar, fruit, or milk.

Tapioca Pearls

In summary, the bubbles or pearls are made of:

  • Tapioca starch from the cassava root
  • Water
  • Sugary syrup for sweetness and flavor

The cassava plant is a staple crop in many parts of Africa, Asia, and South America. The root is very starchy and contains calcium, vitamin C, and important nutrients. Tapioca pearls made from cassava are naturally gluten-free.

Are the bubbles edible?

Yes, the tapioca pearls or balls in bubble tea are completely edible. In fact, the chewy, gummy texture of the bubbles is an essential part of the bubble tea drinking experience.

The pearls provide a fun contrast to the creamy, icy tea or smoothie base of the bubble tea. Sipping bubble tea usually involves sucking up the tapioca balls through a large bubble tea straw, then chewing the soft pearls between sips of drink.

Bubble tea shops even offer different bubble sizes and textures to accommodate different preferences. The tapioca pearls are made to be safely consumed.

Popular Bubble Tea Ball Textures

  • Small pearls – soft and chewy
  • Large pearls – very chewy
  • Popping boba – juice-filled bubbles that “pop” when chewed

The pearls are meant to be eaten along with the tea or smoothie base of the bubble tea. Leaving the bubbles at the bottom would mean missing out on the signature bubble tea experience!

Are there any health concerns with eating the bubbles?

For most people, eating the tapioca balls in bubble tea is completely safe. However, there are a few health considerations to keep in mind:

  • Allergies – Those with tapioca or cassava allergies should avoid bubble tea.
  • Choking hazards – Large pearls or toppings may present a choking risk, especially for small children.
  • Sugar content – The syrups make pearls sweet, so excess bubble tea could mean excess sugar.
  • Food sensitivities – The pearls contain gluten-free tapioca starch, but flavors could contain traces of dairy, nuts, etc.

As long as people chew the pearls thoroughly before swallowing, the tapioca balls pose no greater choking risk than any other food. Caution is warranted for young children or those with swallowing disorders.

Additionally, those with diabetes, weight concerns, or other dietary restrictions should note the high sugar content in the pearls and flavored syrups.

Healthier Bubble Tea Options

For a lower sugar option, request bubble tea with:

  • Less sugar syrup
  • Unsweetened fruit juice in pearls instead of syrup
  • Fresh fruit purees instead of syrups
  • Low-sugar milk tea base made with nonfat milk and artificial sweetener

The tapioca pearls themselves are nutritious, providing carbohydrates, calcium, iron, and magnesium. But the sugary syrup makes standard bubble tea a high calorie treat. Customizing orders can help reduce sugar and calories.

Do the pearls add nutritional value?

The tapioca pearls do provide some nutritional value, but not very much compared to other foods:

Nutrition in 100g of Tapioca Pearls Percent Daily Value
Calories: 350 18%
Carbs: 88g 29%
Protein: 1g 2%
Fiber: 4g 16%
Sugar: 17g 19%
Iron: 11% 61%
Calcium: 16% 2%

The tapioca balls are mainly composed of carbohydrates from the cassava starch. They also provide small amounts of fiber, sugar, iron, and calcium.

However, a typical bubble tea only contains a few ounces of tapioca balls. So while the pearls do add some nutritional value, it is relatively minimal compared to other food sources.

The high sugar syrup is where most of the calories in bubble tea come from. For example, a 12 ounce bubble tea can contain up to 300 calories from added sugars alone.

Healthier Toppings

For more nutritional value, ask to swap the pearls for toppings like:

  • Coconut jelly
  • Grass jelly
  • Aloe vera cubes
  • Pannacotta
  • Fresh fruit

The tapioca pearls are delicious, but provide little nutritional value beyond carbohydrates and some minerals. For a healthier bubble tea, minimize sweet syrups and add more fruit or dairy-based toppings.

Do they have any effect on digestion?

For most people, the tapioca balls do not have any significant effect on digestion. However, there are a few considerations regarding bubble tea and digestion:

  • Fiber – The pearls provide a small amount of fiber, which can aid digestion.
  • Hydration – The liquid base can help hydrate the digestive tract.
  • Caffeine – Caffeinated bases like black tea or matcha may stimulate bowel movements.
  • Sweeteners – Excess sugar from syrups could cause gas or bloating.
  • Dairy – Lactose in milk tea could cause issues for the lactose intolerant.
  • Allergies – Those with cassava or tapioca allergies may experience digestive upset.

The most significant digestive effect would be due to ingredient sensitivities. Pay attention to how specific ingredients impact your own digestive system.

Tips for Sensitive Digestion

Those prone to digestive issues may want to:

  • Avoid excess sweet syrups
  • Substitute dairy-free bases like fruit smoothies or juices
  • Choose herbal tea bases like chamomile or ginger instead of black tea
  • Add probiotics like grass jelly
  • Request smaller tapioca pearls, as large pearls expand more in the gut

Bubble tea can be enjoyed even with sensitive digestion by customizing based on your own needs and tolerances.

Do bubble tea pearls expire?

Freshly made tapioca pearls last 1-2 days in the refrigerator. However, properly stored, uncooked tapioca pearls can last up to 6 months past their expiration date.

Here are some bubble tea pearl expiration guidelines:

  • Fresh bubble tea – 1-2 days
  • Factory sealed pearls – 6-12 months past expiration
  • Cook stored pearls – 1-2 weeks in an airtight container
  • Freeze for long term – 6+ months in the freezer

The shelf life depends on storage conditions. Freshly cooked pearls have the shortest lifespan of just a couple days.

Sealed, dried pearls can last approximately one year at room temperature. Refrigeration extends their shelf life a bit longer.

For maximum freshness, bubble tea shops cook the pearls in small batches and keep them refrigerated. Leftover cooked pearls are discarded after a couple days.

How to Tell if Pearls are Expired

Signs that tapioca pearls may be past their prime:

  • Hard or crunchy texture
  • Visible mold
  • Fermented smell
  • Sour taste
  • Dry, shriveled appearance

Expired pearls lose their soft, chewy texture and may begin to smell and taste off. Always inspect pearls for signs of spoilage before adding to bubble tea.

Can you make them at home?

Yes, it is absolutely possible to make tasty tapioca pearls at home with some simple ingredients and equipment.


  • Tapioca starch/flour
  • Water
  • Sugar or simple syrup
  • Fruit juice, brown sugar, or other flavors (optional)


  • Measuring cups
  • Whisk or fork
  • Large pot
  • Slotted spoon
  • Bowl of ice water


  1. Combine tapioca starch and water in a pot. Let sit 5-10 minutes.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  3. Once boiling, continue cooking and stirring for 15 minutes. Mixture will become translucent.
  4. Remove from heat and transfer pearls to ice bath with slotted spoon.
  5. Drain pearls and toss with sugar or sweet syrup. Add flavors if desired.
  6. Seal and refrigerate up to 5 days.

The key is gradually cooking the starch and water until the mixture forms opaque pearls. Cook time can vary based on amount of starch.

Then shock the hot pearls in an ice bath before sweetening to stop the cooking process for perfect chewy texture.

Are bubble tea pearls vegan?

Tapioca pearls are generally vegan, as they are made from cassava root starch and water. However, some flavored syrups or toppings may contain milk, honey, or other animal products.

Here are some vegan bubble tea ordering tips:

  • Opt for fruit juice or vegan sweeteners like brown rice syrup in the pearls
  • Choose plant-based milks like oat, soy, coconut, or almond milk for the tea base
  • Avoid honey-flavored pearls or toppings
  • Ask if the recipe uses animal-derived thickeners like gelatin
  • Request vegan boba shops add tapioca pearls before non-vegan options during prep

Pure tapioca pearls are vegan-friendly. Just customize the other ingredients to avoid dairy, eggs, honey, etc. Many shops offer dairy-free or vegan milk options now.

Popular Vegan Bubble Tea Flavors

  • Mango black tea with mango jelly
  • Matcha latte with aloe cubes
  • Brown sugar oolong with herbal jelly
  • Taro smoothie with popping boba

With some creative combinations, you can definitely enjoy delicious vegan-friendly bubble tea full of chewy pearls.


The tapioca pearls or “bubbles” in bubble tea provide a fun, chewy contrast to the drink. The starchy balls are completely edible and made to be consumed along with the tea or smoothie base.

For most people, eating the tapioca pearls is completely safe. Just be aware of any allergies or choking hazards, especially for small children. While the pearls don’t offer much nutritional value beyond carbs and minerals, they are naturally gluten-free.

To extend shelf life, bubble tea shops make fresh pearls in small batches and discard leftovers after a couple days. But homemade pearls are simple to prepare with basic ingredients and cooking methods.

Customizing orders, like choosing fruit-infused pearls over sugary syrups, allows you to enjoy bubble tea in line with dietary needs or preferences. So feel free to sip, slurp, and chew those tasty tapioca pearls to your heart’s content.

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