What is the process and ingredients used to create Bubble Pearls as a topping for ice blended drinks?


Bubble pearls are sometimes known as “Tapioca Balls” or “boba”. These small bubbles or pearls, are typically made from starch or alginate and dispersed in the liquid. They are prevailing chewy titbits in bubble teas.

The Ingredients of Tapioca Pearls

The main ingredients of tapioca pearls consist of Tapioca Starch, Water, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Flavour, Solidifier (Calcium Lactate, Calcium lactate Gluconate, Calcium Chloride), Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate/ Sodium Citrate) and Thickener (Xanthan Gum) (Vita Fruit Enterprise, n.d.).

Commercial tapioca pearls contain approximately 60% gelatinized starch. Tapioca starch is renowned for its bland flavour and clear thick pastes despite its stringy texture. This stringiness can be overcome by chemically cross-linking the starch or by converting the starch to pearls. Starch pearls are partially cooked small spheres (1-6mm diameter) formed from agglomerated starch granules. The spherical agglomeration of tapioca starch appears to follow the mechanisms of coalescing, layering and crushing-layering demonstrated for other materials (Xu & Seib, 1993).

Ingredients Functions
Thickeners: Tapioca Starch
  • Starch and flour are the traditional thickeners.
Solidifiers: Calcium lactate,Calcium lactate Gluconate, Calcium Chloride
  • A white crystalline salt made by the action of lactic acid on calcium carbonate.
  • Use as a solidifier and in reverse spherification which allows foods with high calcium content to be made into spheres or caviar.
  • Calcium Lactate: Enhances the calcium content and tastes less bitter when poured to the main ingredient.
  • Calcium Lactate Gluconate: a flavourless component is ideal in spherification as it can augment calcium-rich products.
  • Preferable use of Calcium lactate or Calcium lactate Gluconate as they have no discernable flavour and can dissolve in liquid without altering its density. The reason Calcium Chloride is not being used is due to the added saltiness.
Preservatives: Sodium Citrate, Potassium Sorbate
  • To increase shelf life of various commercial products without causing any alteration in taste, smell or colour of the food.
  • Sodium Citrate is used to reduce the acidity of the main ingredient when doing Basic Spherification. This process cannot occur if the mixture is too acidic (pH< 3.6). Sodium Citrate has a sour and salty taste as part of our flavour optimized line and as a preservative.
Gelling Agent: Sodium alginate
  • The consistency of the liquid inside the sphere is made a little gummy with the addition of sodium alginate.
  • It is most well-known for its use in spherification as it is a natural gelling agent taken from the cell walls of brown algae.
  • It easily disperses, hydrates and gels in any liquid temperature
Thickener: Xanthan Gum
  • When the main ingredient density is too liquid to form spheres in the alginate bath, a thickener like Xanthan is used.
  • Soluble in hot or cold water, stable over a range of pH and temperatures.
Colouring: Caramel
  • Used as a colouring agent.

Flow Chart 1.0: General Flow of Spherification

(Molecule-R Flavor, n.d.).



Bruce&Clark. (2015). The Nature of Tapioca Pearls.

Molecule-R Flavor. (n.d.). Introduction to Molecular Gastronomy.

Samueul, F. O., Otegbayo, B. O. & Alalade, T. (2012). Nutrient and Anti-nutrient Content of Soy-Enriched Tapioca. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 3, 784-789.

(2012). Safeguards SGS Consumer Testing Services: Bubble Tea under Surveillance In Germany.

Vita Fruit Enterprise. (n.d.). Topiaca Pearl.

Xu, A. & Seib, P.A. (1993). Structure of Tapioca Pearls Compared to Starch Noodles from Mung Beans. Cereal Chemistry, 70(4), 463–470.

Leave a Reply