At this point, boba drinks are no longer a particular novelty. But just in case you're uninitiated to the practice, boba shops concoct tea, coffee or smoothie drinks that are served with chewy tapioca balls at the bottom. As you sip the drink, the chewy bits provide lots of entertainment and interactivity. Originating from Taiwan, the drinks have grown in popularity so much that numerous shops around Houston carry them, with names such as Tapioca Express or Teahouse.
One way to diversify the offering, aside from the drinks themselves (which are, often, concocted from instant powders) is to change the solid inclusions. Some shops offer an array, not just of tapioca ball sizes, but also pudding, agar cubes, nata de coco, or other jellies. Recently, I encountered "popping boba".
|Coconut smoothie with mango "popping boba".
Modernist cooks will recognize this as an application of spherification, where sodium alginate is used to generate "caviar" out of any number of liquids. Although this may be the first industrialized application of spherification I have seen. Online sources of popping boba appear to have constrained supplies at the moment. The pearls themselves come in multiple flavors, and the skin appears fairly resilient. Ideas for other applications of these pearls await exploration.