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Beyond Tapioca: Factors Behind The Addictiveness Of Tapioca Pearls

Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, has become an immensely popular drink worldwide. Originating in Taiwan in the 1980s, this unique drink combines tea, milk and various flavourings. What makes bubble tea so unique and different from other drinks are the tapioca pearls that are placed at the bottom of each drink.

Bubble tea has become a cultural phenomenon with numerous variations and combinations available to suit individual preferences. The global bubble tea market size is projected to grow from USD 2.46 billion in 2023, to USD 4.08 billion by 2030, highlighting a cumulative annual growth rate of 7.51% [1].

While the popularity of bubble tea continues to rise, it is essential to explore the key element of bubble tea, which are the tapioca pearls! In this article, we will be exploring the factors contributing to the addictiveness of tapioca pearls beyond their mere presence in the beverage.

What are tapioca pearls?

Tapioca pearls are edible translucent spheres made from tapioca starch that comes from cassava root. These pearls are soaked in sugar syrup to make them sweet and chewy, gaining immense popularity in recent years as a key ingredient in bubble tea. Tapioca pearls can come in various sizes, ranging from small to large and can be flavoured or left unflavoured.

4 Key factors behind the irresistible allure of tapioca pearls

  1. Texture - Tapioca pearls possess a unique chewy texture that creates a delightful and enjoyable mouthfeel. This satisfying sensation of biting into the soft yet slightly firm pearls adds an enjoyable tactile experience to the drink, making it more enticing and memorable.

  2. Sweetness - Tapioca pearls are typically cooked in sugar syrup, resulting in a sweet flavour. This sweetness complements the overall taste profile of bubble tea, enhancing the overall enjoyment of the beverage. The combination of the chewy texture and slight sweetness creates a balance that keeps consumers craving for more.

  3. Contrast - The contrast between the softness of the drink and the chewiness of the pearls is one of the reasons why tapioca pearls can be addictive. The combination of these contrasting textures creates a unique sensory experience that can be highly enjoyable and appealing to many people. The interplay between the smoothness of the drink and the slight resistance of the pearls adds another layer of interest to the overall taste and mouthfeel of the beverage. This contrast can make tapioca pearls more enticing and contribute to their addictive nature.

  4. Novelty - The novelty factor plays a role in attracting people who are looking for new taste experiences or are influenced by social media trends and recommendations. Seeing others try and enjoying the tapioca pearls from the drinks can create a sense of curiosity and fear of missing out (FOMO), leading to the desire to try it out themselves.

Fun fact!

Did you know that bubble tea pearls can improve the quality of your saliva?

Studies have shown that drinking bubble tea with tapioca pearls can improve the quality of the saliva, by decreasing the salivary C-reactive protein (CRP) and increasing the calcium (Ca) levels [2]. The act of chewing tapioca pearls can stimulate saliva production and enhance saliva flow in the mouth, such as lubricating the mouth, making it easier to chew and swallow food and helps in maintaining oral hygiene by washing away food particles and debris, reducing the formation of plaque and bacterial growth.

Tapioca pearls and its relation to wellbeing pillars

The bubble tea phenomenon can be linked to several dimensions of wellbeing pillars such as:

  1. Physical Wellbeing - Tapioca pearls, being the main ingredient in bubble tea, are rich in carbohydrates and calories. Excessive consumption of bubble tea with tapioca pearls can contribute to weight gain and potential health issues such as obesity or diabetes. Therefore, practicing moderation and being mindful of portion sizes when consuming tapioca pearls is essential for maintaining physical wellbeing.

  2. Emotional Wellbeing - For some individuals, the chewy texture and sweetness of tapioca pearls can provide a pleasurable sensory experience and evoke positive emotions. Bubble tea with tapioca pearls may be seen as a comfort or indulgent treat, which can contribute to emotional wellbeing by providing moments of enjoyment or relaxation. However, it's important to be aware of the addictive nature of tapioca pearls and not rely solely on them for emotional satisfaction or use them as a coping mechanism for negative emotions.

  3. Social Wellbeing - The popularity of bubble tea, including the inclusion of tapioca pearls, has created a social culture around it. Bubble tea shops often serve as gathering places for friends, families, or communities, promoting social interactions and fostering a sense of belonging. Sharing the experience of enjoying bubble tea, including the tapioca pearls, can strengthen social connections and contribute to overall social wellbeing.


In recent years, the bubble tea industry has experienced significant popularity resulting in the opening of numerous bubble tea shops worldwide, alongside its social media influence and accessibility. It is worth noting that while bubble tea and tapioca pearls can be enjoyed as an occasional treat, moderation is key due to their high sugar content and caloric value. The addictive nature of tapioca pearls is subjective and can vary from person to person. While many people find them addictive, others may not share the same sentiment.

As with any food or snack, the consumption of bubble tea and tapioca should be done in moderation as part of a balanced diet!

About the writer

Charmaine is the Wellbeing Intern at Actxa Wellness and she is a second year student from NTU Sports Science & Management. As a highly driven individual, she believes that the greatest wealth one can have is health, and hopes to be able to promote sport and wellness as a way of life!



Handajani J, Kusumajati D, Fathiyah H, Susilowati H, Tandelilin RTC. Quality improvement of saliva by chewing tapioca pearls in bubble tea drinks: a randomized experimental trial: (Study on salivary C-reactive protein (CRP) and calcium (Ca) levels). F1000Res. 2021 Feb 1;10:56. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.28028.2. PMID: 35387272; PMCID: PMC8938629.


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