Cassava is a root that is native to South America, from northeastern Brazil, to southwestern Mexico. Sometimes it is called manioc or yucca. Most commonly, it is used to make tapioca.
Today, most cassava comes from Africa. It is a tuber from a shrub. The plant has large palmate leaves. It is 6-12 inches long, and 2-3 inches long. It has tough brown skin, and crisp white flesh. It is conical and cylindrical. It somewhat resembles a sweet potato. There are two main types: bitter and sweet. The roots are commonly waxed before shipment in order to keep it from dehydrating.
Bitter cassava is poisonous unless cooked, and cooked fully. It has a high hydrocyanic acid level. It is usually grated, and sun dried, then used for cassava meal. It is also used for tapioca and cassarap (cassava chips).
Tapioca is the starch substance that is extracted from the root of the cassava root. It comes in granules, flakes, pellets, flour, pearls, or starch. It can also be ground up to make flour, which is used like cornstarch. Tapioca pearls are formed by the pearl type is used to make puddings.
Tapioca pearls are white. However they can be green, pink, or black. They get their color from being processed. The green get their color from being cooked with Pandanus Leaves. Black is from Brown Sugar. When cooked all the way, large tapioca pearls are chewy- a texture similar to a gummy bear.
Tapioca is eaten all over the world. In Asia, the large tapioca pearls are cooked and added to a drink called Boba. Boba Tea or Bubble tea originated from Taiwan, but is now found all over the world. It is a sweet tea made with fruit juices and sweetened condensed milk and sometimes fruit juices. Large black tapioca pearls are then cooked fully and floated in the beverage. They are then sucked up with an oversized straw.