What exactly are those squishy little balls in the bottom of cups of Thai iced tea? Are they actually okay to eat?
Get the scoop on those little boba pearls here.
Thai iced tea, bubble tea, pearl milk tea, boba tea — whatever you call it, it’s delicious and refreshing. But baffling many people are those chewy little balls at the bottom of the cup.
They don’t usually have much of a flavor of their own — apart from a bit of sweetness — yet for some reason you can’t help but slurp them up through the oversized straw and chew ‘em up. But what are they?
And the mystery ingredient is…
Tapioca is simply a starch extracted from the root of the cassava plant. When cooked correctly, you end up with a little sphere about a quarter inch in diameter with the texture of a gummy bear.
They’re not added only to teas, but also may show up in coffee-based drinks and even fruity smoothies.
According to one story, the pearls in tea first originated in Taiwan, where a vendor outside of a school added the little boba balls to his shaken teas to make his drinks stand out to the students. I guess it worked.
The boba pearls don’t really serve much of a purpose in the tea, other than to add a texture, slight flavor and a little fun to be enjoyed along with the drink.