Boba is mostly associated with Asian tea and beverage concepts that have proliferated in the U.S. in recent years. But there's no reason why these pearls that pop and gush with flavor can't be equally popular on any drink or dessert menu.

Boba, also known as fruit caviar and fruit pearls, is cost- and labor-effective while providing a bit of fun, flavor and color. Whether it's boba or chewy tapioca pearls traditionally found in milk tea, they don't require prep (unless you want to make a flavor that's not available for purchase) or knowledge, other than choosing a complementary flavor.

Boba-inspired food and drinks around the U.S.

At Palette Tea House, a restaurant in San Francisco, mango pudding is topped with coconut sauce, strawberries, diced mango and mango boba. The “jiggler,” aka a gelatin shot, at Miladay's in New York City, is served in a scallop shell with boba that complements the flavor of the shot – whether it's orange, strawberry or kiwi.

The light purple-hued “Taro Shinju” cocktail (sake, taro tea, cognac and apple boba) at Indo in St. Louis is inspired by Japanese-American beverage director Kira Webster's nostalgic obsession with taro boba milk tea. At $15, it's the priciest cocktail on the menu – but a fun and unique option to pair with or instead of dessert, coaxing guests into having one more drink at the end of the meal.

While boba is typically filled with a fruity flavor, brown sugar boba finds its way into brunch, coffee drinks and desserts, such as the Earl Gray ice cream with caramel popcorn at Soft bite in New York City. It's also featured in the Deja Brew cocktail. Served at Sit Boba Lounge in Los Angeles, the drink is made with milk, tea, coffee liqueur, Irish cream liqueur and simple syrup. At Grace Street in Manhattan, brown sugar boba accompanies milk tea french toast, topped with ice cream and caramel popcorn.

Beverage manager Colin Stevens uses mango popping boba from QBubble in Queens to add a sweet, fruity accent to his Bubble Trouble cocktail at Wau in Manhattan. The drink is served with a thick boba straw in a tall highball glass with ice. “Mango and lychee are a phenomenal classic combo, but I didn't want the fruity flavors to overwhelm the koji notes of the sake or the ginger spice,” Stevens says.

“By keeping the mango locked away inside the boba, the guest can decide when to go for a sweet burst of mango flavor as they sip away at this otherwise dry and slightly spicy cocktail.”

Blue Bunny

Cristhian Salazar, senior culinary director at Xperience Restaurant Group, also uses fruity boba in a couple different cocktails at Las Brisas Laguna Beach. Both bartenders find that a tablespoon is the right amount of boba per glass and the visually appealing color and texture help sell the drink. Bar manager Stefan Lohka takes boba's visual appeal a step further at Minami in Vancouver by serving ginger-popping boba in a clarified rum cocktail with mango hojicha tea, ginger liqueur and mango juice.

“The bright zest of the ginger boba is a textural contrast to the lush creaminess that results from the milk clarification,” he says.

“We see our boba cocktails ordered more frequently at brunch,” Salazar says. “They are more playful, and these drinks are social media-friendly, which helps us spread the word.”