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All-natural boba, sustainably produced in Portland, Oregon USA!

What’s in Your Boba? Sourcing a Better Flour for Better Boba

whats in boba? cassava plant

Sourcing a Better Flour for Better Boba

Ever wonder what’s in your boba? Our team recently returned from a 3-week journey across SE Asia to survey Cassava fields and study regenerative farming techniques for tapioca flour – boba’s main ingredient. We viewed the different mills along the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos, examining the environmental impacts on the fishing communities. 

What Is Cassava?

Cassava is grown in various regions across the world, particularly in tropical and subtropical climates. Some of the major cassava-producing regions include Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Angola), SE Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam) and South America (Brazil, Peru, Colombia). It’s a staple food for millions of people due to its versatility, adaptability to different soil types, and resilience to harsh growing conditions.

There are several varieties of Cassava, but the most common are Bitter and Sweet. Bitter Cassava is the most widely grown variety and is primarily used for its starchy tuberous roots. It contains toxic compounds that must be removed through processing before consumption. Sweet Cassava has lower levels of cyanogenic compounds compared to bitter cassava and is often used for culinary purposes without extensive processing. Ultimately, Cassava is Tapioca Flour.

Tapioca flour is made from cassava roots through a process of washing, grating, and drying. Here’s a general overview:

  • Harvesting: Cassava plants are harvested, and the roots are dug up from the ground.
  • Peeling and Washing: The outer peel of the cassava roots is removed, and the roots are thoroughly washed to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Grating: The cleaned cassava roots are then grated into a fine pulp. Traditionally, this was done manually using a grater, but in commercial settings, machines are often used for efficiency.
  • Pressing: The grated cassava pulp is then pressed to extract the liquid. This can be done using a hydraulic press or by wrapping the pulp in a cloth and squeezing out the liquid by hand.
  • Straining: The extracted liquid is strained to remove any remaining solid particles.
  • Drying: The strained liquid is then dried to evaporate the moisture, leaving behind tapioca starch or flour. This can be achieved by spreading the liquid thinly on flat surfaces or by using specialized drying equipment.
  • Milling: Once dried, the solidified tapioca is milled into a fine powder, resulting in tapioca flour.

Sustainable Farming Practices

As an all-natural brand, it’s important for us to thoughtfully research the ingredients in our products, starting with sustainable farming practices. Understanding how and why food is sourced is vital to supporting the communities who support us. 

Sustainability doesn’t only apply to farming practices but also economics. In Laos, for example, there is a surplus of cassava every year, even after exporting to their largest markets – China and Vietnam. How can we minimize the environmental impact while maintaining economic viability?

At Better Boba, we are focused on the following initiatives to create fair export practices that don’t exploit the local cassava farmers:

  • Supportive Policies and Incentives: Working with local governments to create policies and incentives that promote sustainable farming practices, such as subsidies for organic farming, conservation programs, and tax incentives for renewable energy adoption. This will help offset initial investment costs and make sustainable agriculture more economically feasible.
  • Education and Training: Providing farmers with access to training programs and technical assistance in sustainable farming practices can enhance their capacity to adopt economically viable and environmentally friendly methods.

Your support of Better Boba allows us to continue our mission of offering not just a better product, but a better manufacturing and distribution process. Learn more & let’s be better together!