Boba is a popular sweet tea beverage served in a sealed plastic cup with a thick straw. If you’ve never tried it, boba or bubble tea has a sweet and creamy taste. It’s a fun and refreshing drink that will definitely keep you coming back for more. Let’s explore how these ingredients alter the final flavor and what does boba taste like.

brown sugar bubble tea

What does Boba Tea Taste Like?

Boba tea consists of four key ingredients – tea, dairy, sweetener, and boba pearls or other add-ons. 

Overall, the taste of classic bubble tea is sweet because both the liquid and sinkers contain sweeteners. It’s also milky because the dairy component typically forms a third of the boba tea recipe. 

However, bubble tea’s taste may vary depending on the recipe and type of ingredients used to make it. Bubble tea shops have different recipes and ingredients to make the popular beverage. 

What Does Boba Taste Like

Tea Flavors

Black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea, or Jasmine tea are the most common teas for bubble tea. Boba tea’s flavor will depend on the type of tea-base you are choosing.

  • The most popular is black tea. It has a full-bodied flavor like black coffee with an aromatic, and malty (like germinated cereal malt) aftertaste.
  • Green tea’s taste is often described as clean and grassy. This will make your boba tea taste earthy and vegetarian.
  • There are also tea infusions such as Jasmine. Jasmine lends a mildly floral, somewhat sweet note to bubble tea.
  • Some boba milk teas are also made with roasted tea. Japanese Hojicha bubble tea has a nutty, “toasted” flavor.
  • Then there are fruit boba teas. Depending on the fruit of choice whether pineapple or kiwi, that will be the base flavor of your beverage.

Dairy tastes

Milk or non-dairy milk alternatives such as almond milk or soy milk provides a velvety flavor. It blends well with liquid as well as softens the bitterness of the tea.

  • Adding whole cow’s milk provides a sweet creamy mouthfeel to bubble tea. If you want the dairy to stand out in the drink while providing the same sweetness, opt for heavy cream or half and half.
  • Asian boba tea shops widely use condensed milk in their milk tea. Condensed milk provides a rich, creamy, milky taste with more sweetness and hints of caramel.

How Sweet Can You Go

Sweetness is provided by the addition of sugar or other sweeteners and the already sweet sinkers like boba pearls. There are several ways the sweetener can alter the change of your drink.

Type of Sweetener

The type of sweetener may alter the flavor characteristic of the beverage. It can add caramel notes, floral notes, or smokey notes depending on the type of sweetener. Here are the common sweeteners in bubble tea:

  • White Sugar is the base of simple syrup. This thick syrupy form is the most common sweetener in boba tea. White sugar syrup will produce a very sweet cup of boba.
  • Brown sugar comes from the molasses in sugarcanes. Brown sugar syrup will lend less sweetness than white sugar and give hints of smoky caramel to boba tea.
  • Honey adds floral, smokey, fruity, nutty, earthy sweet notes to your bubble tea cup.
  • Fructose or corn syrup is a popular sweetener used by boba tea makers. Fructose is sweet but not as sweet as simple syrup.

Amount of sugar

Boba shops already have a standard sweetness to match each of their tea drinks.

  • To start, a cup that has a 25% sugar level, will have a stronger aromatic tea taste accentuated by slight sweetness from the sugar syrup. 
  • If you don’t want it not too sweet but not entirely bland either, opt for 50%-75% sugar sweetness. 
  • Having it too sweet may overpower the tea beverage while making it unsweet may provide an unhappy experience for the drinker.

Flavor Profile of Different Boba

Now we know boba tea’s flavor varies based on the type of tea, milk and sweetener. It’s also important to take a look at another major component of boba tea that affects its taste – sinkers, and toppings.

Taste of Boba Pearls

Boba Pearl is a sweeter iteration of the neutral-tasting tapioca balls. Known for their fun and chewy texture, they impart a sweet flavor to boba tea. 

The flavor of tapioca pearls may also vary depending on the sweetener or flavoring used. Here are some popular boba pearl flavors:

  • Honey Boba – has the floral notes of honey
  • Brown Sugar Boba – has caramel notes of brown sugar
  • Taro Boba – has the nutty sweet taste of taro
  • Mango Boba – has a strong flavor and aroma of mango
brown sugar bubble tea
boba pearls in brown sugar syrup

Related: types of boba pearls

Taste of Crystal Boba

Crystal boba is a soft jelly ball made from Konjac jelly. It follows the neutral taste of the plant so it’s typically tasteless. Even so, unflavored crystal boba still has a slight sweetness to it coupled with a satisfying tang. 

  • Store-bought crystal boba comes pre-soaked in sugar syrup. The syrup provides a light sweetness that’s not too sweet in boba tea.
  • Crystal boba varieties come from added flavoring and coloring. Passionfruit crystal boba, for example, takes the color and flavor of the fruit. Passion fruit crystal boba may taste tart, sweet, and tropical.

Taste of Popping Boba

The latest boba sinker to wow boba tea lovers is popping boba. It’s a sinker that offers a bursting sensation when chewed. Once it pops, the inner juice pleasantly fills the mouth. Popping boba is primarily liquid. It can be fruit purée, canned juice, powdered juice, flavored syrup, coffee, tea, or soda.

  • Commercial-grade popping boba comes in a variety of flavors. Strawberry, lychee, and mango popping boba are the most common flavors paired best with fruit teas.
  • Likewise, homemade recipes may also yield flavored popping boba. Following the taste of the liquid base, it will add a sweet and fruity taste to your bubble tea.

Jellies, Pudding and other Addons

Puddings, jellies, beans, and foams round up the variety of sinkers that lend flavor to boba.These springy somewhat chewy jellies are a low-calorie and less sugary alternative to boba pearls.


Jelly is the best partner for fruit tea. Let’s take a look at the tasting notes below for each jelly base ingredient:

  • Coconut – distinct tropical sweetness with a slight tang
  • Grass Jelly – neutral taste, non-sweet with herbaceous aftertaste
  • Aloe Vera – grassy herby, with a hint of sweetness
  • Lychee – sweet, floral and acidic notes of lychee
  • Strawberry – sweet and tart
  • Mango – ripe mangoes are very sweet


Meanwhile, puddings come in a variety of flavors. Flavors range from custardy egg, sweet and nutty taro, or chocolaty cocoa powder. 

Sweetened beans

sweet beans like mung beans or Azuki red beans add sweet creaminess to boba tea. While seeds like hemp, chia, basil, or black sesame seeds lend their nutty sweetness.


Then there are a few other boba tea mix-ins that don’t exactly fall under jelly, boba, or pudding.

  • Roots and flowers like ginger, rose petals, and lavender.
  • Cheese isn’t really a basic ingredient in boba milk tea but it certainly imparts a beautiful flavor to it. Cheese offers a delightful salty contrast to the usual sweetness of boba tea.

Bubble Tea Flavors Table

Overall, boba tea is a sweet and creamy tea beverage that can be personalized with a range of flavors and toppings to fit individual preferences.

Here’s a quick table of bubble tea options for your next boba run:

Classic Boba Milk Teablack or green tea, condensed milk or whole cow’s milk and simple syrup, boba pearlsEarthy, malty, and overall sweet and creamy taste.
Matcha Milk Teamatcha powder, creamer, simple syrup, boba pearls earthy, bright, vegetal, grassy, creamy, the bitterness of match powder is typically offset with more sugar
Taro Milk Teataro root powder, whole cow’s milk, simple syrup, boba pearlscreamy, nutty, mildly sweet due to the taste of taro, and has hints of vanilla, chocolate or coconut
Thai Milk TeaAssam or Ceylon Tea, condensed milk, evaporated milk, boba pearls, spices sweet and very milky. It’s a refreshing beverage, hints of spices (anise, cardamom, vanilla, tamarind)
Jasmine Milk TeaJasmine tea or Jasmine green tea, milk, simple syrup, boba pearls smooth, milky, sweet with mild floral aroma, and slight citrus hints.
Cheese Milk Teablack tea, cheese foam (milk, cream cheese and whipped cream, salt), simple syrup, milk or creamer, boba pearls sweet and somewhat bitter but with salty notes. Rich, full-bodied tea flavor, is brought out by velvety creamy, sweet-salt foam that balances out the flavors.
Fruit Teadried or powdered fruit, ice, honey, jellies or sometimes boba pearls
optional flavors can be added: tea like black or green tea, milk, flavored syrups
floral sweetness, tartness, and some acidity depending on the fruit. May also be slight bitter notes from the tannin.
Chocolate or Cocoa Bobacocoa powder, chocolate powder, dry cocoa mix, hot cocoa mix, chocolate syrup, simply syrup, milk, heavy cream, or half and half, boba pearls It’s chocolatey, creamy, milky, sweet with somewhat bitter cacao notes.
Coffee Boba Teacold brew coffee, heavy creamy or half and half, simple syrup, boba pearls an overall sweet, creamy taste but with bitter notes; sweeter than your average cup of iced coffee.
Black Sesame Bobablack sesame paste, It’s nutty, sweet, creamy with a touch of earthiness and savory warmth.
Brown Sugar Bobablack tea, milk, brown sugar syrup, boba pearlsstrong and rich tea taste heightened by the burnt caramel notes of the molasses. It’s still sweet but there’s great complexity in the drink.
Barley Milk TeaIt’s nutty, sweet, and creamy with a touch of earthiness and savory warmth.nutty with toasted overtones; an earthy and somewhat bitter undertone; together with a rich sweetness and creaminess 

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