Bubble Tea? Pearl Tea? Boba? What’s The Difference?

Bubble tea is a tasty drink that stands out as being bright, colourful, and full of flavour. But the names thrown around when we talk about bubble tea can be confusing. Bubble Tea? Boba? Pearl Tea?

What's the difference between Bubble Tea and Boba Tea?

Bubble tea is the name given to the popular Taiwanese drink that has taken over the world in recent years. The basic ingredients are tea, milk, tapioca balls, and any syrup or topping that is desired. Around the world, this basic combination has given rise to an infinite number of crazy creations, and you will usually find that in different areas, these drinks will have different names. Some of the common names are:

  • Bubble Tea
  • Boba Tea
  • Pearl Tea

These names all, in fact, mean the same thing. There is no difference between boba and bubble tea, but it is useful to know where these terms come from and what they mean.


Boba was invented in the 1980s in Taiwan when a traditional Tapioca dessert was added to a tea drink. The texture and taste of the tapioca balls complemented the sweet tea, and a worldwide phenomenon was born. Since growing through South East Asia and later the whole world, various names have come to be associated with it.

Common Names

Pearl tea refers to the tapioca pearls synonymous with the tea that sit at the bottom of the drink and offer a tasty treat when sucked through the straw. So-called because the tapioca balls resemble pearls found in oysters, this is a relatively uncommon name but is useful to know!

Bubble tea is the most popular name in the UK and refers to the bubbles generated when the tea, milk, and pearls are mixed together to mix the flavour and create a recognisable colour pattern.

Boba tea is the third most popular term for the world's favourite Taiwanese drink. The term ‘Boba' is a catchy term that features in many shop names and is actually Mandarin slang referencing the spherical shape of the tapioca pearls.