Learn how to make bubble tea at home with this easy boba recipe! Chewy tapioca pearls make sweet and creamy milk tea feel special, or you can use them to make any flavor of bubble tea you like.
The first time I had boba was in college. I had a Taiwanese friend who lived with her mom near campus, and one day she invited me over for bubble tea.
Her mom had made tapioca pearls from scratch, and when I got to their house mom was excited to make us the drinks. Smiling with the anticipation of a first-timer, my friend handed me a glass of boba milk tea and a fat bubble tea straw to go with it.
I had no idea what to expect as the pretty tapioca pearls peaked out at me. I plunged in. The ice-cold milky tea with sweet, chewy boba was love at first sip for me!
Because of this experience, I will always have a place in my heart for milk tea boba. I also love a variety of other flavors!
Frozen slushy-like, sweet/tart pineapple bubble tea for starters. Matcha latte bubble tea too. And another personal favorite of mine is taro milk bubble tea.
Taro is a starchy root vegetable that has a subtly sweet flavor with notes of creamy vanilla and toasted nuts. This type of bubble tea usually has a purple hue because purple sweet potato or ube is commonly added along with taro to intensify the color. I am definitely going to recreate it at home!
The classic iced milk tea bubble tea that I’m sharing today is a good place to start if you’re new to boba. And even if you’re not new to boba, milk tea bubble tea is a classic for a reason – it’s absolutely delicious!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s easy to make boba pearls at home. It’s just a matter of boiling water, adding the pearls and letting them cook, and then draining the boba and letting it soak in a little brown sugar water. This is the type of boba I have used for years, and it’s available on Amazon.
- If you buy boba at cafés frequently, you’ll save money making your own. And it tastes exactly the same!
- It’s versatile. You can make the pearls into a classic bubble milk tea, or make any flavor you like – mango, green apple, jasmine, honeydew, chocolate – whatever strikes your fancy!
How to Make Bubble Tea
Ingredients for Boba
- Filtered water
- Black tapioca pearls
- Dark brown sugar
Ingredients for Bubble Milk Tea
- Boiling water
- Black tea bags
- Simple syrup
- Half and half or your favorite type of milk
- Prepared tapioca pearls
Step-by-Step Instructions for How to Prepare Boba
- Add the water to a 5-quart pot, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the tapioca pearls and boil for 20 minutes.
- They will float to the top fairly early in the cooking process; when this happens give them a stir.
- After boiling for 20 minutes, reserve 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid.
- Rinse and drain the boba.
- Put the boba back into the pot. Add the reserved 1 ½ cups of cooking liquid and the brown sugar.
- Give it a stir.
- Cover the pot and let the boba steep for 20 minutes. This is how the pearls will look when they're ready - taste one!
- Drain the boba except for 2 tablespoons of the liquid (this small amount of liquid will help prevent the pearls from sticking together). Use it to make your favorite boba drink!
How to Store Boba
For the best flavor and texture, I recommend using boba immediately after making it.
However, if you prepare extra tapioca pearls, you can store them in simple syrup in the fridge for up to 2 days.
After that, they start to become more gummy than chewy.
- Use the right type of boba pearls. For years I have been using this type of boba available on Amazon with great results.
- Make sure the water is at a rolling boil when you add the tapioca pearls.
- You'll get about 4 drinks worth of boba pearls (with ½ cup of prepared boba per drink) from this recipe.
- Use a liquid sweetener, such as simple syrup, so it dissolves easily.
- Whatever tea you use, brew it on the strong side.
Bubble Tea (Boba) FAQs
What Are Boba Pearls Made Of?
Boba pearls are made from tapioca, a starch derived from the cassava root, as well as sweetener (commonly brown sugar) and water.
What do Black Tapioca Pearls Taste Like?
Boba has a subtly sweet brown sugar flavor with notes of black licorice. It has a chewy, almost bouncy texture that’s quite memorable. It's almost like a softer version of gummy bears.
What’s the Difference Between Milk Tea and Bubble Milk Tea?
Different areas of the world have different forms of milk tea. In its most basic form, milk tea is just tea with milk. It’s frequently black tea, but it can be any type of tea with any kind of milk. And it can be served hot or iced.
Bubble milk tea is iced tea (frequently black tea) served sweetened with milk or cream and boba pearls.
What’s the Difference Between Bubble Tea and Boba?
Boba can refer to tapioca pearls, or it can refer to the drink known as bubble tea.
Traditionally, bubble tea is made of tea served sweetened with milk and boba (tapioca pearls). Bubble tea is also called boba tea, tapioca tea, pearl milk tea, and “QQ” in Taiwan.
What Flavors of Bubble Tea Are There?
There is almost an endless variety of different bubble tea flavors!
For starters, you can go with one of the following types of tea:
- Black tea
- Green tea
- Oolong tea
- White tea
- Pu-erh tea
- Herbal teas, such as hibiscus, rose, chamomile, etc. (which of course are technically “tisanes” and not tea at all)
Or you can use a non-traditional base other than tea, such as:
- Steeped waters, such as barley-steeped water or taro-steeped water
Then you can add milk, cream, or non-dairy milk, such as:
- Milk, cream, or half and half
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Coconut milk
Now you can choose a sweetener, which is usually simple syrup (made of equal parts sugar and water). However, for even more variations, you can use a flavored simple syrup. It’s quite common to find a variety of fruity flavored simple syrups at a boba café, including flavors like mango, pineapple, peach, coconut, and green apple.
I’ve seen versions of bubble tea that are served frozen like slushies (like pineapple bubble tea) and blended like smoothies (such as banana bubble tea or mango bubble tea). Alternatively, you can serve bubble tea hot.
The sky is the limit when it comes to different flavors of bubble tea!
How do You Make Boba Pearls From Scratch?
If you want to make boba pearls from scratch, it’s a long process, but the method is fairly easy. The general steps are to combine boiling water, brown sugar, and tapioca starch to make a dough. You knead the dough, shape it into little balls, roll them in more tapioca flour, and let them dry out.
Can I Prepare Boba in Advance?
Once you make bubble milk tea or another drink with boba pearls, it’s best to serve it immediately.
This is because cooked tapioca pearls continue to absorb liquid. This causes them to expand more and take on a gummy texture. Additionally, you may have trouble getting them through a straw (even a large bubble tea straw) if this drink sits for quite a while!
For the best flavor and texture, I recommend using boba immediately after making it. However, if you prepare extra tapioca pearls, you can store them in simple syrup in the fridge for up to 2 days.
More Unique Drinks to Try
How to Make Bubble Tea (Easy Boba Tea Recipe)
For the Boba:
- Add the water to a 5-quart pot, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the tapioca pearls and boil for 20 minutes. They will float to the top fairly early in the cooking process; when this happens give them a stir.
- After boiling for 20 minutes, reserve 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid, and then rinse and drain the boba.
- Put the boba back into the pot. Stir in the reserved 1 ½ cups of cooking liquid and the brown sugar. Cover the pot and let the boba steep for 20 minutes. Drain the boba except for 2 tablespoons of the liquid (this small amount of liquid will help prevent the pearls from sticking together).
For the Tea:
- While the boba is cooking, make the tea.
- Add the water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the water from the heat and add the tea bags. Let the tea steep until it cools to room temperature, and then remove the tea bags.
To Assemble the Bubble Milk Tea:
- Divide the ice between 4 glasses, and then add ¼ of the cooled tea, simple syrup, and half and half to each glass. Top each with ½ cup of boba.
- Serve immediately.
- How Much Boba This Makes: 1 ⅔ cups of dry black tapioca pearls cooks up to be about 2 cups of prepared boba. About ½ cup of prepared boba is a good amount for each drink, so you will get 4 drinks from 1 ⅔ cups of dry tapioca pearls.
- Simple Syrup: To make about ½ cup of simple syrup, combine ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ cup filtered water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and then boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before using. Feel free to add more or less to taste.
- Tea Strength: We want the tea brewed strong here, otherwise it will get too watered down because of the ice and the flavor will be diluted. I let the tea bags steep in the water until the water is cooled to room temperature. This takes about 20 minutes.
- Best Served Immediately: Cooked tapioca pearls continue to absorb liquid. This causes them to expand more and take on a gummy texture. Additionally, you may have trouble getting them through a straw (even a large bubble tea straw) if this drink sits for quite a while.
- Can I Prepare Boba in Advance? For the best flavor and texture, I recommend eating boba immediately after making it. However, if you prepare extra tapioca pearls, you can store them in simple syrup in the fridge for up to 2 days.