Ube and taro are both popular flavors for bubble tea. However, there’s a lot of confusion between these two root vegetables and how they’re used for boba. Both varieties can be found for sale, sometimes even in the same bubble tea stand.
Ube is a much sweeter flavor than taro, making it a good choice for dessert-flavored bubble teas. For a more subtle sweetness, taro is the better choice in bubble tea since it has an earthy, nutty flavor. Both ube and taro are popularly paired with coconut flavoring in bubble tea.
What’s the Difference Between Taro and Ube?
Ube and taro are both tubers that are members of the sweet potato family, so if you’ve ever had a sweet potato or yam, you’ll have an idea of what either taro or ube tastes like. The main difference between these two plants is in their color. Taro is a whitish-beige color filled with dark specks, while ube is a solid and distinctive purple color.
Bubble teas that use taro and ube usually include purple coloring to distinguish these milk teas from other flavorings. Taro milk bubble tea tends to have a pale lavender coloring, while bubble teas that use ube tend to be a deeper, more saturated purple. Ube and taro are both used for the flavoring of bubble tea. They’re also sometimes used to create the boba pearls themselves.
This post may contain affiliate links. My full disclosure policy is sort of boring, but you can find it here.
What Is Taro?
Taro is a tuber that originates from India and Southeast Asian countries like Taiwan. It’s also been imported to other parts of the world, including some of the following areas:
- The Caribbean islands
Because taro root has a more neutral flavor than ube, it is often used in both sweet and savory dishes around the world. In bubble tea, taro powder is used to flavor taro milk bubble tea and is also one of the ingredients found in some boba pearls. Purple taro boba pearls are used decoratively in bubble tea to make them more visually appealing and add more taro flavoring.
What Does Taro Taste Like in Bubble Tea?
Taro isn’t very sweet on its own, so taro powder used in taro milk bubble teas usually comes pre-sweetened. Bubble teas that use taro also tend to sweeten the boba pearls before including them in the tea by boiling them in a simple syrup made of water and sugar.
In bubble tea, taro has an earthy, nutty, slightly sweet flavor similar to sweet potatoes. It can have a basic vanilla flavor, but the starch in the taro makes the drink extra creamy. This gives it a thick mouthfeel that many people crave.
Since many taro powders come sweetened, you need to look for one that isn’t if you want to make a taro milk bubble tea that has a more nutty flavor.
Is Taro Good for You?
While it’s included in sweet drinks like bubble tea, taro is considered a very healthy root vegetable that is chock full of vitamins and essential nutrients like carbohydrates and fiber. Here are a few of the minerals present in taro that are healthy to include in your daily diet:
- Manganese: A serving of taro contains a third of your daily requirements for manganese. This vitamin helps contribute to metabolic health and the blood’s ability to clot properly.
- Potassium: Potassium is an important mineral that helps prevent excess salt in the blood. This in turn helps prevent serious cardiovascular illnesses such as stroke and heart attack.
- Quercetin: Quercetin is the flavonoid chemical in both taro and ube that give the tubers their characteristic purple coloring. This botanical is associated with reducing free radicals in the body that can cause cancer and other diseases.
Even though drinking taro milk bubble tea can add a lot of unnecessary sugar to your diet if you sweeten it, adding taro rather than some other flavoring to your bubble tea can give you a much-needed dose of vegetable nutrition. Mixing taro powder with other beneficial teas such as green tea can also improve its usefulness as a healthy dietary supplement.
What Is Ube?
Ube is a root vegetable similar to taro, but this purple sweet potato is especially associated with Filipino cuisine rather than the mainland of Southeast Asia. The outer skin of the ube tuber is a creamy white color, but the interior is a pale purple that grows darker and deeper after being boiled or roasted.
Unlike taro root, which is used in both sweet and savory dishes, ube is used primarily in desserts.
What Does Ube Taste Like in Bubble Tea?
In bubble tea, ube has a flavor similar to vanilla, making it a suitable base for many dessert-flavored milk teas. However, ube has a hint of nuttiness that keeps it from making the milk tea too sweet. Compared to taro, ube tastes more like yams with a slight nuttiness, while taro tastes more like a regular white potato with a slight sweetness.
Ube is as popular for its bright color in desserts as it is for its flavor. Because ube milk bubble teas are often served alongside many other bubble tea flavors, the purple coloration helps distinguish it and its flavoring from other teas.
Is Ube Good for You?
Ube has many of the same health benefits of taro such as fiber and potassium. However, its purple coloration means it has even more of the quercetin present in taro associated with cancer prevention. So if you’re looking for a healthy additive to your bubble tea, ube is the way to go.
Can You Substitute Ube for Taro in Bubble Tea?
Since both ube and taro are typically used in sweet culinary applications and paired with the same complementary flavorings such as green tea and coconut, you can use either one to make a delicious bubble tea. Simply replace the same amount of ube powder in your bubble tea recipe for taro and vice versa.
Ube and Taro Are Both Great Bubble Tea Options
If you’ve never had ube or taro before, you might have found the purple color of this bubble tea odd or off-putting. However, if you master your fear of the unknown and give these purple bubble teas a taste, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy them if you do!