Boba tea is among my favorite drinks because of its unique taste and chewy consistency of the boba pearls.
From its origins in Taiwan, it is a delicious drink whose global popularity is rising, making it easy to find in boba shops and grocery stores.
However, you may be surprised to find out that the tapioca pearls that are essential to the drink go bad very quickly.
While it is rare to have leftover boba pearls, you must use them as soon as you can to maintain the excellent flavors they add to your tea.
Therefore, this raises an important question: how long does boba last? Additionally, what makes these pearls dry out or go bad?
It is important to know this, which is why we will discuss this information in this article.
It should help you know how long you can use the boba pearls after buying them or making them at home because your estimates will depend on several factors.
What is Boba?
Also known as bubble tea, boba is a tea-based novelty drink originating in the 1980s in Taiwan.
To make it, one needs a tea base such as green, white, or black tea, and “boba” pearls made from tapioca flour, although one can add other toppings such as grass jelly, red bean, and aloe vera.
The pearls are in the shape of small spheres whose dark brown appearance comes from the simmering process they go through in a brown sugar syrup, as they are tasteless on their own.
Boba tea does not offer numerous health benefits, although you can rely on it to give an energy boost due to its sugar content.
Its benefits are mainly due to the tea base, including lowering your blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as reducing the risk of cancer (especially boba teas that use green tea as a base).
How Long Does Boba Last? Does Boba Go Bad?
Boba does go bad, but the time it takes to get there depends on where you store it, if you bought it from the store, or whether you are storing it in its uncooked or cooked form.
If you are keeping it in the pantry, the time it takes for homemade boba to remain fresh is between 1 and 2 days, while buying it from a bubble tea shop or store allows you to store it for 2 or 3 days.
When kept in the fridge, it can last a maximum of 5 days if uncooked, while cooked boba will stay for up to 4 days.
If you keep it in the freezer, uncooked boba can last up to 6 months, while cooked boba only lasts a maximum of a month.
You must be mindful of the boba storage time because they tend to get soggy – even the uncooked pearls, although this happens at slower rates.
If you prefer the chewiness of fresh boba pearls, you should therefore enjoy them as soon as you can, and store them in an airtight container to preserve their shelf life.
Once you cook boba pearls through steaming or boiling, the pearls begin to absorb moisture, leading to their chewy texture.
While this makes them delicious, it also makes them vulnerable to the infestation of certain bacterial and fungal strains – so you must not store cooked boba in the pantry; instead, it must always go in the fridge or freezer.
If you cannot keep cooked boba in a freezer or fridge, it is best to leave it uncooked to ensure it is in a good state before use.
If you decide to make homemade tapioca pearls, sterilization and preservation agents are absent, so their shelf life is shorter and you must use them quickly.
How to Tell If Boba is Bad?
Similar to any food substance, both uncooked and cooked boba pearls can go bad due to their starchy composition; with cooked boba pearls spoiling faster because of their high sugar content.
There are two signs to look out for, and they are:
- Mold and discoloration.
Depending on the concentration of the syrup used when cooking the boba pearls, they are usually light brown to dark brown, while the uncooked pearls have a dough-like color with a white layer if they have some starch dusting on them.
If you see off colors like yellow, grey, or green, it is a clear sign of spoilage – even in uncooked boba.
You should also check the surface of the drink and discard it if the boba is bad.
The color change is likely due to microbial infestation, and you must discard the boba once it shows signs of color changes.
- Bad odor and slimy texture.
While fresh boba pearls are meant to be chewy and slightly slippery, they must never have a slimy texture even when they are in a syrup mixture.
Alongside a slimy texture, check if it has an off-putting smell, which indicates bacterial colonization and fermentation.
The likely cause is incorrect storage, such as keeping the boba in your pantry when you live in a very humid and hot area.
Even if you decide to keep the boba in the fridge or freezer, ensure they are kept separately from other foods and in an airtight container to preserve them for longer.
Uncooked boba is resilient to spoilage and rarely goes bad, although its starchy ingredients and high sugar content after cooking make it vulnerable to quick spoilage due to fungal and bacterial colonization.
It also tends to get soggy and lose its flavor during storage, so it is best to consume it within a few days to ensure you get the best flavor and texture or store it in an airtight container to preserve it.
Overall, boba tea is an excellent beverage you can enjoy at any time of the year, as long as the boba pearls are fresh and safe for consumption.