When you hear the word "boba," what do you think of? Boba tea, bubble tea, pearl milk tea, or just "boba" are some of the common names to describe a wide variety of drinks loaded with toppings. Originating from Taiwan, boba tea has exploded in popularity within the last decade, with new and exciting variations created every year. Although the traditional topping in a cup of bubble tea is tapioca balls, there are several other options that you can choose from to create a unique drink combination. If you have never tried boba before or are looking to switch up your next order, this article will give you a run-down on some popular toppings and the drinks they pair well with!

#SpoonTip: If you live in California, here are some of the best boba tea places that you should try.

Tapioca Balls

Tapioca balls, commonly referred to as "boba" or "pearls," is usually the most popular topping added to boba tea. Since tapioca balls in its purest form has a mild taste, sweeteners such as brown sugar or honey are often added. Each store prepares tapioca balls differently, and boba drinkers often rank their favorite boba places based on the way the store makes its tapioca balls. Of course, since everyone has their own preferences, the rankings can be quite different from person to person.

Grass Jelly

For those unfamiliar with grass jelly, the name itself might sound a little strange. It's made by boiling the dried Chinese mesona plant and combining it with some starch, like cornstarch or rice flour; the long steeping process yields the signature black color of the grass jelly. This topping complements most milk teas, and the slight bitterness of the grass jelly juxtaposes the creaminess of the milk tea to form a refreshing drink that's perfect for summer.


Taro is a starchy, light purple root vegetable that can be eaten both sweet and savory. Boba shops prepare taro by cooking it down with sugar, transforming this root vegetable into a sweet and nutty paste. Often times, boba shop menus feature a taro latte—or a similar drink— that consists of taro mixed into milk or milk tea. As a result, the drink has a light gradient from white to purple, making it perfect for pictures. 

Egg Pudding

Not to be confused with American pudding, egg pudding more closely resembles flan, but with a softer and more velvety texture. Egg pudding pairs well with milk teas and results in a satisfying blend of sweet and creamy. Personally, I enjoy adding both egg pudding and tapioca balls in my milk tea because the different textures add complexity to the drink.

Fruit Jelly

As a topping, fruit jelly refers to small cubes of fruit-flavored jellies, with flavors such as lychee, strawberry, coconut, and mango. The fruit jelly in boba teas are firmer and more chewy than American-style jelly. This topping is generally very sweet, so it pairs well with teas that are on the milder side, such as green tea or fruit teas.

Cheese Foam

Cheese foam is the only topping on the list that actually goes on top of boba drinks. Made with a combination of cream cheese, whipping cream, and sugar, this light and airy foam balances perfectly with unsweetened tea. Since the cheese foam sits at the top of boba drinks, you can also add other toppings to make for more creative concoctions!


I know what you're thinking: mochi? In boba? Mochi as a topping for boba tea is very different from the mochi that you can find in Asian markets or Japanese confectionery shops. This "drinkable" mochi has a mildly sweet taste and a smooth texture that I would describe as a cross between the texture of tapioca pearls and egg pudding. This topping is harder to find in regular boba spots, but if you come across it, you should definitely check it out!

#SpoonTip: If you're located in Berkeley, you can try the drinkable mochi at Ti-Bear!

Have you tried all the toppings on this list? If the answer is yes, you might be a little obsessed with boba tea—it's okay, we won't judge. If not, which one do you want to try next?