Updated: Jul 14
Boba tea, or bubble tea is a tea-based drink with milk and delicious chewy tapioca pearls. It originated in Taiwan in the 80’s and since then has become a wildly popular beverage in many countries around the world. If you have ever tried boba tea, chances are you love it!
Today, you can find boba tea shops pretty much on every corner, but partly owing to its novelty, you might not have ever considered making your own boba tea at home, using your favorite tea and sweetener of choice. With the right ingredients, homemade boba tea is more economical, more personalised, and best of all, you can make a bunch of it!
Boba tea consists of nothing more than black tea, tapioca pearls, sweetener, milk and ice. We will discuss these one by one and at the end you will be an expert at homemade boba tea!
For making boba, choose teas that have a bold taste. That will ensure a complex and flavorful base capable of shining through the milk and sweetener. If you opt for black tea, try Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong or Ceylon. You can also make your boba using green tea. Usually, this would be matcha or jasmine green tea. Do you have a favorite blend? Try using it! Personally, I like chai based boba tea with Assam and spices.
Prepare the tea according to the instructions. Keep in mind thought that for boba you want to make it on a stronger side, since you are adding milk and other ingredients.
Boba tea would not be boba tea without tapioca pearls. Quite certainly the least likely ingredient to have lying around the house! So which ones are best and where does one buy them? The best ones are dried tapioca pearls which can be cooked by gently boiling them for 5 minutes. You can easily find them online or in Asian food stores. Avoid brands which fail to list instructions, or you could be stuck doing trial-and-error experiments in the kitchen for hours! Also, avoid ready tapioca pearls from a jar; those are not good for boba tea.
So how much tapioca pearls should you make? That depends on how many you want in your drink. It is advised to make just enough for the beverage(s) you plan to have today. Cooked pearls don’t keep well overnight. However, you can leave them for a brief time in their cooking water if you want to have a drink now and another one a little bit later.
There are many options when it comes to sweeteners. Personally, I like using monk fruit sweetener, since It has zero calories. However, honey or agave syrup are both great too. If you have time you can also make what bartenders call a “simple syrup”, explained in step 2 below. When I made boba tea for the first time at home, I used quite a bit of honey and still I was surprised how much less sweet my drink was in comparison to those I buy in boba shops. Be prepared!
Last, but not least, is milk. Simply use any milk or milk substitute you like. I prefer whole milk for its rich flavor, but I also enjoy oat milk or coconut milk.
EASY HOMEMADE BOBA TEA RECIPE
Now that we have the basics, let us get to the actual making of boba tea!
1.5 cups of brewed tea
1/4 cup sweetener
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup tapioca pearls
1/4 cup ice
How to make
Prepare the tea. Steep the tea according to the instructions. It is best to use loose leaf tea for a better quality brew.
Add sweetener to your tea, preferably while it is still hot, to ensure it dissolves. If you are making simple syrup, add 50/50 water and sugar to the saucepan and stir until combined. Cook until water boils and sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let it cool.
Cook tapioca pearls according to the instructions on the package. Bring 5 cups of water to boil, then slowly stir in 1/2 cup of tapioca pearls. Once the pearls start to float, reduce heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let them sit for another 2-3 minutes to reach the desired level of softness. Scoop out the ready pearls and let them sit in icy water for about 20 seconds. After that toss them in your sweetener, enough just to cover.
Assemble your drink! Put tapioca pearls into your glass, add ice cubes, pour tea over and add milk. Stir and enjoy! Add more milk and sweetener/simple syrup to your taste.
Usually, this drink is served with large straws, but if you do not have those, simply use a spoon to scoop out the tapioca pearls.