Bubble tea is Taiwanese drink sensation enjoyed at tea shops, asian restaurants, and even the mall. Usually served cold with ice or as a smoothie type drink, it can be made from fruit juice, milk, or milk alternatives and may or may not include tea despite its name. It is always served with an extra wide straw for sucking up the soft chewy bobas (bubbles) on the bottom of the cup.

Bubble tea is making a strong comeback in North America after an initial peak in popularity back in the early 2000s. Part of bubble tea’s resurgence in popularity is partially due to its numerous reinventions. From a texture analysis view, one of the most interesting of these reinventions is “popping boba” (also known as “bursting popping boba”).  It is precisely the kind of texture analysis challenge we love to tackle!

Traditional boba is usually made of tapioca but popping boba is something entirely new and different. So what exactly is popping boba? Technically they are small fruit juice spheres with a burstable shell.

Popping boba are made using a spherification process that includes a reaction of sodium alginate and calcium chloride or calcium lactate. This process results in fruit juice filled “bubbles” that burst when pressure is applied to them. Let’s look at the physical properties of these “bubbles” to understand how texture plays such an important role:

The pressure/force needed to “burst” a popping boba is possibly the most important contribution to how enjoyable (or not) they are. A popping boba that pops under low pressure will feel “softer” requiring you to chew a bit to pop the bubble. However, a popping boba that requires high force from your teeth and low strain at the breaking point will offer a more dramatic and enjoyable “bubble popping” sensation.

Just the right amount of bubble wall thickness is also very important.The breaking force of the bubble walls needs to be high enough that the boba survive the journey from factory to your drink cup. Thicker bubble walls will increase the force needed to pop the boba with your teeth but can also leave consumers with an unpleasant thick agar shell in their mouths. So the bubble walls need just the right thickness to survive their journey to your mouth, delightfully pop, and leave little or no shell remnants behind.

Popping boba are a fun food fad but they are also just one of many examples of the multiple textural demands a product must satisfy all at once. The TA.XTPlus Texture Analyzer is the perfect tool for developing new products such as popping boba where precise texture measurement is crucial.

If you are wondering about all the textural demands your product may need to address, let’s talk. We’re always happy to share our testing know-how to help you maximize your testing!