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....the tapioca "bubbles" in drinks fad.....unfortunately has made the jump into anime.
What exactly are they meant to taste like anyways? I watched a cooking ASMR video of someone making them, and I get that they're made of tapioca starch, but are they all brown sugar flavored like the ones in the video I saw?

I tried bubble tea once when I was a child in elementary school as part of a cultural fair, and I thought they were disgusting. This was obviously long before it was a trendy beverage.
It depents. The bubbles have different flavors like the tea itself as well. I don't like the bubbles too, but the tea could be really good. I like the taro-coconut-milk-tea the most. An asia markt here still have them. They were really rare these days.
"Bubble teas" varies a lot depending on the shop you buy it from. Some have a mixture of tapioca pearls, nata de coco, flavored jellies, bits of puddings, taro, etc. And the teas itself have different flavors to choose from too - passion fruit tea, green tea, milk tea, coconut milk tea, melon tea, etc. And you can buy them in combination and some shops even cater that you can make your own blend. So you can order one without the tapioca pearls/bubbles and go with the others. It's a dessert and drink in one and most Asian countries and Asian shops in the US I've been too have them. Chatime and Gong Cha are very popular brands/shops and both are very good.
But my question was what do the OG blackish pearls TASTE like? Just on their own.
Some are kind of sweet as they are a mixture of tapioca and brown sugar. While the others are bland. They're there just for the added chewy texture really to give the drink an extra dimension. They vary in chewiness too.

In most cases though the taste and texture resembles those of the rice cakes in tteokboki.
errrrr - Many restaurants, including the restaurant my wife's parents like, Lulu's Noodles, now ONLY serve cold tea with bubbles and flavorings.... had to argue with the staff to provide unsweetened, iced green tea sans flavorings, sans "bubbles", the staff kept telling us their green jasmine tea was to strong to be served "straight up"; it was very good...
Well, for me, a strong jasmine tea alone is good enough. I remembered when I was in Singapore - I used to buy liters of the stuff, put it in freezers till they're half frozen and take them with me when traveling as a great pick me up refreshment. A bubble tea is good if you are looking for a snack/dessert drink on the go.
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