14 Absolute Best Boba Toppings You Need To Try

Bubble tea or boba has become a catch-all for a cavalcade of refreshing, comforting, and downright intriguing liquids. These range from the classic milk tea (typically black, green, or oolong) and lattes (more milk, less tea) to fruit tea (lighter-feel florals paired with real or powdered fruit juice). Then there's the realm of unexpectedly wonderful combinations like cheese tea. 

The primordial pearl and the ultimate topping, tapioca pearls sparked the beginning of boba. The poster child and the namesake, tapioca boba is bubble tea incarnate, forever immortalized as the black pinpricks on the bubble tea emoji. Their distinct mouthfeel, combined expertly (or not) with whatever other toppings your heart desires, makes bubble tea a glowing example of QQ, the textural golden standard in Taiwanese culinary culture. Boba is about being truly present in the moment — with every element a snapshot of how you felt as you ordered. And we revel in stepping into a buzzing bubble tea shop and choosing the level of ice, sweetness, and temperature we feel drawn to. 

As for toppings, the possible combinations are seemingly limitless, and that's a beautiful thing. Although some days, we'd gladly trade that decision-making for a guide — which, fortunately, is exactly what follows. Below, we dive into all the best boba toppings you need to try, highlighting their taste and texture, and providing some tea pairing recommendations to help make those toppings sing. (And if you're after a boba-laced tipple, we've got the absolute best spirits to spike your boba tea covered, too.) 

1. Brown sugar pearls

If you've got a bit of a sweet tooth attuned to caramel-like flavors, you might find yourself drawn to brown sugar pearls. As the name suggests, these pearls have a more saccharine taste than regular tapioca ones because they're soaked in brown rather than white sugar syrup. Similar variations include honey and black sugar boba.

If you're craving brown sugar pearls, you probably like your boba on the sweet side. But there's a difference between a kiss of candy and a sugar crash. So, to have your brown sugar boba — and appreciate it, too — a great match is black tea with a cream mousse. The creaminess carries the sweetness with ease, creating an indulgent texture that the pearls can mingle in beautifully. Alternatively, you can use brown sugar pearls to enhance the natural sweetness of a boba base like taro milk tea. Taro is a starchy root vegetable high in natural sugars, so the addition of brown sugar pearls fine-tunes what's already there, bringing the natural sweetness to the forefront for a satisfying slurp. 

2. Other pearls

Tapioca and brown sugar pearls are just the tip of the boba-berg. Other types of pearls include crystal, popping, and sago. Plop your favorite into your next cup of bubble tea or combine different types together — pick black and white pearls, and you've got yourself a cup of panda milk tea. 

Shiny and translucent, crystal boba are made from konjac or agar. Compared to regular tapioca pearls, their mouthfeel is softer rather than bouncy, and they do well in oolong milk tea or Korean strawberry milk. By contrast, popping boba is a party in your mouth, literally. These bursting boba ... burst onto the takeaway drink scene recently thanks to Starbucks' 2024 summer menu. Unlike tapioca-based pearls, popping boba are made with fruit juice that's shaped via a spherification process involving sodium alginate and calcium lactate. Flavors include mango, green tea, honey melon, strawberry, blueberry, and more. Here for a good time, not a long time, popping boba explode in your mouth — no chewing required. 

Then there's sago, an anomaly in terms of size, texture, and origins. Harvested from sago palm trees, these pearls are more lowkey when it comes to the bounce factor we associate with their tapioca-based counterparts. Where boba is the star of bubble tea, sago pearls are more like the supporting actor. But pair them with the right tea — and by that we mean passionfruit green tea — and they'll prove more than just sip-worthy.

3. Jelly

Speaking yet again to a central tenet of boba — texture — when you're choosing which toppings to add to your bubble tea, it's worth considering jelly. Flavored gelatin appears in a multitude of forms, from long, thick worms to cubes or jellied noodles — and it will certainly add drama to your boba. There's no limit when it comes to what can be jellied: Lychee, coconut, aloe vera, coffee, konjac, and even tea or almond can be summoned into your bubble tea in jelly form. 

Then there's grass jelly, an herbal Asian dessert in its own right, which makes a great bubble tea topping, too. But don't be fooled by the name: It's made from a relative of the mint plant called Chinese mesona rather than grass, and it has something of a light aniseed flavor that's well-matched to milk-based teas. Almond jelly, on the other hand, is the smooth nutty yin to the tart yang of fruity teas, and lychee jelly goes well with black tea or jasmine green tea (but skip the milk for this one).

4. Aiyu

While aiyu is also a jelly, it isn't made with gelatin or agar like grass or almond jellies. Aiyu jelly is made by wringing naturally occurring pectin out of aiyu seeds, similar to the way you'd mix chia seeds with water or any type of milk to create a gelatinous chia pudding. Commonly doused in lemon honey water and served as a refreshing snack or dessert in Taiwan, aiyu is best appreciated in a winter melon bubble tea base, ideally with lemon. The result is a three-dimensional boba sip journey with warming notes from the winter melon, a citrus burst from the lemon, and a playful chewiness from the aiyu.

Coconut jelly and aloe vera are two other naturally occurring jellies. Aloe makes for a thick, translucent jelly and is practically straight from the aloe vera plant. It's peeled, soaked several times to remove inedible aloe latex goo, diced, and boiled in syrup to taste. Coconut jelly, on the other hand, which is also known as nata de coco, is made by fermenting coconut water. It will enhance any tropical fruit tea base. Think: pineapple, mango, or melon.

5. Pudding

Pudding as a bubble tea topping is a milk-based gel with flavoring like egg yolk (a classic), custard, matcha, chocolate, taro, or mango. With the consistency of flan, pudding is thick, velvety, sweet, and relatively one-note — albeit in a comforting way. If you've committed to the egg yolk pudding variant, texture-god math suggests you need to cut that creaminess with bitterness or something lighter and more subtle, floral even. If you're a matcha fiend, you'll be delighted to learn this emerald beauty is the perfect match-a. Alternatively, you could focus on the richness of the pudding instead, and balance it out with the delicate, botanical notes of jasmine milk tea.

Conversely, approaching this from a completely different angle can be just as rewarding. Struggling to stay awake? Harness the power of the pudding by doubling down on caffeination with a generous serving of coffee pudding in a coffee-infused milk tea. Feeling decadent? Add chocolate pudding to a chocolate-based bubble tea for a chocolate extravaganza. 

6. Cheese foam

We'll admit, waiting for our first-ever cheese foam boba to be made was a rollercoaster of emotions, the key players being skepticism and horror. And you bet we gave it the side eye as it was handed to us over the counter. Cheese just isn't an obvious addition to tea. One sip, however, and you'll be converted ... probably. With something as theoretically polarizing as cheese foam, it's imperative your first experience of it is a good one, and that's going to come down to how you match it.

Cheese foam is made with powdered or real cream cheese, salt, heavy whipping cream (put those nightmarish thoughts of finding globs of mozzarella floating in your boba to rest), and sometimes milk powder or condensed milk. Texturally, it's frothy but with a distinctly creamy taste. While you might be tempted to be guided by classic cheesecake flavors like strawberry, the best combinations are with black, green, or passionfruit teas. Or, top your coffee with cheese foam for a hit of creamy caffeination.

7. Oreos

Crushed Oreos might seem like an odd (albeit tasty) bubble tea topping. Unlike other popular boba toppings, they aren't soft or chewy, plus they're heavily processed. And yet, Oreos have a lot more in common with bubble tea than you might think. As the epitome of creaminess versus crunch, Oreos are a celebration of contrasting textures, just like boba. Bring these two worlds together, and the results are absolutely delicious. 

Lean into Oreos' intrinsic chocolate and cream notes, and you'll be blessed with what's essentially a giant Oreo in bubble tea form. If that sounds like a bit of you, go for sweetened fresh milk with boba and creme brûlée foam a la Sunright Tea Studio. Alternatively, you could pair crushed Oreos with taro milk tea and pearls. Or, try ube milk tea for a purple choc vibe, strawberry milk for more of a classic situation reimagined, or matcha. 

8. Mochi

The chewy Japanese snack mochi is itself as prolific and diverse as boba. (Here's our guide to over a dozen different types of mochi.) The delectable outcome of pummeling glutinous rice flour, mochi is a sensational sweet treat in its own right ... but does it belong in bubble tea? We say yes, but only if you're a diehard fan of a super soft, gooey texture. Regular mochi has a pillowy, cloud-like texture, but the mochi in bubble tea — known as drinkable mochi — is even softer, so it can be slurped up through the straw. However, it isn't filled. Think: marshmallow but stretchier and silkier, and even more so when served hot. 

Want (an additional) something to snack on while you sip? Enter: boba milk tea mochi. These classic mochi spheres are filled with a flavored bubble tea paste — ranging from brown sugar boba to matcha and Thai tea — and often with a single boba pearl center. Perfection.

9. Red bean paste

Bubble tea, with its whimsical, brightly colored floating shapes, can feel like something mystical or fairytale-like. But it can equally be grounding and earthy, which is part of its allure. If you're in the mood for a flavor profile that's just a little bit sweet, or are after a boost of protein and fiber, top your boba with red bean paste. 

Made by blending red adzuki beans with sugar into a mash that looks similar to the refried beans you'd pile into a taco, the paste can work well with taro, matcha, or any sweet milk tea. If it's your first time consciously trying red bean paste in boba, don't expect a punchy flavor. It's not uncommon for red bean bubble tea to receive low rankings in internet boba roundups due to its subtlety. But if you go in with an idea of what red bean paste is, you're more likely to enjoy and appreciate the beauty in its slight sweetness. 

10. Fresh fruit

It's a bizarre world we live in, where any given berry ice cream won't necessarily, in fact, contain a single berry — and it's the same with bubble tea. Boba can be made with flavored syrups, powdered milk, and the like, but some bubble tea shops like Tea and Milk and I'Milky pride will itself on using the freshest ingredients possible. There's a time and a place for rainbow jelly and crushed Oreos, but real fruit toppings are not to be underestimated.  

Think: lychees in green tea, passionfruit pulp in rose peach tea, Japanese strawberry milk made with actual strawberries, slurpable chunks of pineapple in creamy milk for a taste reminiscent of piña colada, and freshly pureed strawberries muddled through matcha. Matcha powder and strawberries are a perfect match, after all. The sweetness of the strawberries cuts through the bitterness of the matcha. Combine with the chewiness of tapioca pearls, and you've got one heck of a drool-worthy (and highly Instagrammable) trifecta.

11. Oats

While some may scoff at the idea of topping bubble tea with a quintessential breakfast grain, when combined with the right tea base, chewy oats can absolutely add value to your boba in terms of fiber and texture. When it comes to a base, double down on the breakfast aesthetic by pairing oats with creamy or fruit-forward flavors like strawberry milk tea, horchata, or brown sugar.

Of course, adding oats to your bubble tea doesn't automatically make it healthy ... not yet anyway. Dr. Sabori Mitra, a research scientist at the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre, is developing bubbles made with oat-derived thickeners called beta-glucan fractions, per Australia's ABC News. This boba 2.0 has less sugar than its tapioca counterpart and could be the start of a new age of health-boosted boba — not that we're particularly concerned about the current health status of bubble tea. It's a dessert, after all, and an outstanding one at that. 

12. Taro

Potatoes appear on our plates in many different forms, from shoestring fries and cheesy scalloped potatoes to shepherd's pie and classic mashed. But it's not the only root vegetable that's constantly reinventing itself — taro root is more versatile than you might expect. In fact, when it comes to boba, taro can do it all. Blend it with tea for a sippable base in a striking lavender hue; serve it thick as a refreshing smoothie; pour a serving of mini purple, white, and orange taro balls into a bubble tea to boost the QQ factor; or top with whipped taro pulp for dramatic height. 

Taro is so well matched with bubble tea, as a general rule, that taro milk tea topped our ranking of boba flavors. But while you could top a taro tea base with taro balls and whipped taro pulp for a glorious taro overload (and we'd salute you), the best pairing for taro is jasmine green tea. 

13. Rice

Hot curry over rice, classic Thai mango sticky rice, and rice-yogurt drinks — rice and creamy liquids make quite the holy union. Numerous types of rice exist, but when moonlighting as a bubble tea topping, you'll mostly find rice in its purple or black sticky iterations. Opt for a pretty purple rice topper to firmly shift your bubble tea closer to unicorn status, or add black sticky rice for more of a goth moment. Whatever you choose, rice's unique level of chewiness adds yet another layer of textural wonder to bubble tea.

Chameleonic in its ability to marry with any flavor it appears beside, under, within, or on top of, and with a flavor that — at its strongest — is reminiscent of a subtle nuttiness, the only element you really need to consider when pairing a rice topping to boba is the liquid's thickness. The thicker, the better. Think: coconut slushy, taro, coconut milk-based brown sugar, or mango.

14. 24k gold leaf

From The Ainsworth's expensive plate of golden chicken wings to TWG's hand-painted Yellow Gold Tea Buds (which are sure to decimate your grocery budget), golden food is a trend we never knew we needed. Frivolous? Perhaps. Needlessly indulgent? Certainly. But bubble tea hasn't managed to dodge its own gilding, and we're not mad about it. 

Next time you're feeling fancy, you'll be able to slurp back your very own golden boba, and you won't even need to travel to Taiwan to drink it. The folks at Xing Fu Tang have topped the bubble tea shop's signature brown sugar boba milk with the most show-stopping topping yet — a layer of 24k gold leaf. Don't expect it to taste any different from its standard signature though, as the deal with edible gold is that it's more about the hype — gold leaf is renowned for not tasting like anything. Gold is just the beginning at Xing Fu Tang, too. In a true ode to the flexibility and customization of bubble tea, it offers all sorts of other creative toppings, including dalgona coffee, a gorgeously cartoon-like whip of fresh cream soft serve, and even a bunny-shaped panna cotta. Cute.