Fresh tapioca is key to any great bubble drink. Tapioca is made from the cassava root, which does not contain gluten, therefore tapioca is a gluten free product. Tapioca is a common ingredient in many gluten-free manufactured foods because it helps improve texture and moisture in the absence of gluten.
The tapioca is often referred to “pearls” and must be soaked well before cooking. While cooking they rehydrate by, absorbing water up to twice their volume. After rehydration, tapioca products become leathery and swollen. Processed tapioca is usually white, but sticks and pearls may be colored.
Tapioca is traditional uses for pudding, bubble or boba tea, and other candies and desserts. Both tapioca pudding and boba tea are made with pearled tapioca, or small balls of tapioca starch that turn into a chewy, gummy ball when cooked. Tapioca's thick, chewy texture is fun to eat, making it prime for desserts.
You can tell that tapioca is fresh by the soft black chewy texture. The pearls are infused with brown sugar giving it that black appearance when cooked. A perfectly cooked tapioca ball will give you a chewy consistency with a nice bouncy resilience. Not soft and mushy or hard. Most shops cook their pearls twice a day to keep them fresh. Best to cook in smaller batches all day long, which is the freshest way.