Back to blog

Bubble Milk Tea: A Must-Try Boba Recipe

Bubble Milk Tea: A Must-Try Boba Recipe


Bubble tea or boba is on the rise and taking the world by storm. Boba shops are popping up all over the place, with thousands flocking to their doors to get their hands on this delicious, sweet drink.  


But did you know that you can make your own bubble milk tea at home at a fraction of the price? That’s right, you can craft bubble tea with your own two hands in your own kitchen, and all it takes is a few simple ingredients.


Let’s get started!

 

What Is Bubble Milk Tea?

Bubble milk tea is a concoction between milk, black tea, ice, and chewy tapioca pearls. It refers to an ice-cold tea that is sweetened with milk. The milk is often full of different flavors from tea, fruits, or syrups to make it even more delicious and refreshing. 


But the sweet milk and tea combo isn’t anything too out of the ordinary. What sets bubble milk tea apart is the delicious boba pearls. These tapioca pearls are a delightfully chewy and sweet treat. 


While there is no single confirmed story about how bubble milk tea came to be, the origin stories share some similarities – stemming from Taiwan in the 1980s. It has become a big staple of Taiwanese cuisine and is served at various celebrations. 


In the 90s, bubble tea started to become popular in China and Japan, and from there, it springboarded into the global market. Now, decades later, you can find boba shops all over Europe, North America, and across the globe. 


You’ll find many bubble tea shops in every major city that form a competitive market. This delicious tea from southeast Asia is everywhere! 

 

What Is Bubble Milk Tea Made From?

Boba, at its core, is made from only a few simple ingredients. The varieties of bubba tea are endless, and often don’t even include tea!


The “bubbles” are mostly tapioca but sometimes made with different jellies for unique flavors and textures. You can use all sorts of different teas, fruit juices, coffee, and creams. 


In addition, there are several toppings besides tapioca pearls that can be added to your bubble milk tea.

 

What Kind of Teas Are Used?

When it was first invented, boba tea was mostly made with black tea. But since then, the growing interest and preference have caused the selection to expand. 


Now, you can find boba with green tea, oolong tea, jasmine tea, and many others. But black tea tends to be the most popular. The strength and bitterness contrast the sweetness and creaminess very well, making for a drink with great depth of flavor.

 

What Kind of Tapioca Pearls Do I Need To Use?

The most common type of tapioca pearls that are used is made with brown sugar. The dark sugar gives them the distinct coloring that helps them stick out in contrast to the light colored milk and tea. 


Brown sugar is also a pretty versatile flavor that works well with most teas. In fact, many classic Taiwanese snacks, such as shaved ice, often use tapioca pearls.

 

What Does Bubble Milk Tea Taste Like?

The varieties of bubble milk tea are endless. The mild creaminess from the milk compliments the rich taste of the tea. And the tapioca balls bring a sweetness and texture that ties the entire drink together. 


And if you decide to add additional ingredients, you’ll have a completely different flavor experience. Maybe add a vanilla syrup for a mild sweetness. Or add fruit for even more texture and fresh flavor. 


For more variety, some of the classic toppings include sago, taro balls, popping pearls, egg pudding, crystal pearls (agar boba), grass jelly, and coffee jelly. 

 

What Supplies Do I Need To Make My Own Bubble Milk Tea?

When you are your own ‘bobarista’ of your bubble milk tea drink, you can fine-tune the ingredients to best fit your taste buds. Here’s what you’ll need.


Water

First, you’ll need some water for your tea mixture and tapioca pearls. For the pearls, you’ll need hot water. This is very important! 


The high temperature will help to make a chemical reaction in the tapioca flour that will make it form a nice chewy dough. 

 

Tea 

The two main components of bubble tea are tapioca pearls and the tea itself. Black tea is the most common type of tea used for bubble tea, but you can easily find the most common types used in stores and online. 


Taiwanese black tea is probably the best variety for boba tea, but if you don’t have any of that on hand, you can use pretty much any basic black tea or Matcha green tea, Jasmine, Hojicha,  Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Ceylon, and Lapsang Souchong.

 

Tapioca Pearls

You can buy these online or make them from scratch using tapioca starch among other ingredients. Making tapioca pearls at home can save you a ton of money and even allows you to customize their flavor. 


If you’re looking for alternatives to tapioca pearls or are interested in adding more toppings, you can include coconut jelly, adzuki beans, aiyu jelly, and oats.

 

Milk or Half & Half

Next, you’ll need some milk or half and half. This will give your drink a delightfully creamy texture and make it that beautiful tan color. Soy milk and condensed milk are also popular options in Southeast Asia. 


Sweetened condensed milk is also a great, easy way to make your bubble milk tea creamy and sweet. With just a couple spoonfuls, you can have really delicious bubble tea. It mixes into the tea quite well to make a great, uniform flavor.


Looking for non-dairy milk alternatives? Feel free to use almond milk or oat milk.

 

Sweetener

Another key component of bubble milk tea is the sweetener. For this recipe, we’re going to make a simple brown sugar boba. Our tapioca pearls will be flavored with a little bit of that rich sweetness, and we’ll cover them in a delicious brown sugar simple syrup for a bit of extra flavor. 


A Wide Straw

To thoroughly enjoy your boba milk tea, you’ll need a wide straw. Your straw should be wide enough to suck up all those delicious pearls, so choose a straw that is about ⅜ of an inch wide.

 

Saucepan

The saucepan is actually for cooking your tapioca dough. The dough will need to cook a little bit so that it becomes the exact right texture for your pearls. The hot dough will be soft enough to work with, and as it cools down, it will harden slightly to become that nice chewy texture we’re looking for.

 

Wooden Spoon

A simple wooden spoon will help to stir everything up. You’re going to need something to help stir the dough while it’s cooking in the pan, and a wooden spoon works fantastic.

 

Large Pot

The large pot is for cooking your boba pearls. You’ll need to fill it with a lot of water and boil it. This will make your pearls nice and chewy. 

 

Large Bowl

Finally, you’ll need a plain large bowl. This will be the final vessel for your pearls before you cook them up. Put a little tapioca flour in it to keep the pearls from sticking and you’re good to go.

 

How Do I Make Bubble Milk Tea?

Now that we’ve got all the things we need, it’s time to get started. Here is the official recipe for a delicious, homemade brown sugar bubble milk tea.

 

Make Your Pearl Ball Dough

To begin, we’re going to make our tapioca pearl dough. The first step is to add 60 grams of water to your saucepan and mix in 50 grams of dark brown sugar. Turn to medium-high heat, until the sugar is dissolved. If you’re adding matcha for color, add it now.


Once it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and add a few tablespoons of tapioca flour. Whisk it together until it’s incorporated, and then put it back on the stove on medium-low heat, making sure to not let the dough get too hot, otherwise it will overcook.


Whisk for another couple minutes until your mixture is kind of gelatinous. At this point, you can remove it from the heat and add the rest of your 100 grams of tapioca flour. Use your wooden spoon to fold it all together until you have a nice, shaggy dough.


Then, flour your work surface with a bit of tapioca flour and scrape your dough out onto it. The dough will be hot still, so be careful. Maybe throw on a pair or two of latex gloves. Then knead your dough until it’s nice and smooth and stays in a big ball. It should still be warm. 


Let your dough cool down to room temperature.

 

Form Pearls and Boil Them

Now it’s time to shape your pearls! There are a few ways to do it. You can cut the dough into one-centimeter squares and then roll them into spheres.


As you’re making your pearls, get your large bowl ready and put a couple tablespoons of flour in there. Add your pearls to the flour and toss the bowl around occasionally. Coating your pearls in flour will keep them from sticking together. 


Once you’ve got your pearls ready, it’s time to cook them. Get your large pot of boiling water and add your pearls, being careful to not add too many at a time. Stir continuously to keep them from sticking. 


After the pearls are cooked, remove them from the pot and put them in a cold water bath right away and your pearls are ready.

 

Make Brown Sugar Syrup (Optional)

If you want a nice and sweet boba tea with great brown sugar flavor, make some brown sugar syrup. Use about ¾ cup of brown sugar and a cup of hot water. Mix together until the sugar is dissolved, let it cool, and then you can add your boba pearls straight to the syrup.

 

Make Your Tea

Next, now’s the time to make your tea. Follow the instructions on the packaging. This will yield the best result. Once your tea is made, put it in the fridge to cool it down.

 

Mix Your Milk 

Now we need to make our milk mixture. Mix a couple spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk into your half and half, and you’re good to go. 

 

Combine and Enjoy

Just put the pieces together and you’ll be ready to enjoy. Put the boba in first, making sure to get some of that syrup on the side of the glass for visual effect. Top it off with your sweet milk mixture and you’ve got a delicious glass of refreshing boba.

 

How Long Does It Take To Make Bubble Milk Tea?

Making bubble tea all the way through is probably going to take you two or three hours. But the good news is that, if you make a large batch, you’ll have plenty of boba on hand so that you can make it quickly whenever you’re in the mood. 


Drying out your uncooked boba for about four hours and then freezing them will help keep them good for about six months. Now that the prep is done, all you’ll have to do is cook up your boba and pour yourself a glass.

 

What Can I Use To Sweeten My Tea Aside From Brown Sugar?

Brown sugar isn’t the only thing you can use to make your tea delicious. Of course, you can always use white sugar as well. This will make a transparent pearl and syrup, which can be a great look. 


But in general, changing the flavor of your bubble milk tea is as simple as making a different simple syrup to sweeten it with. Mango, banana, coconut, peach, pineapple, watermelon, coffee, chocolate, almond. All of these are popular flavors that you can have by just making a syrup for it. 

 

How Can I Get Creative With My Bubble Tea?

For starters, you can use different types of tea. Many people like using green tea or earl grey instead of black tea. In particular, matcha is a really popular option for a boba base. You could even use a fruit tea for a lighter, non-caffeinated version.


Taro is another great choice for your bubble tea. The taro root is an Asian plant that is similar to a potato. It has an earthy and slightly sweet taste. When blended up and put into bubble tea, it makes for a lovely lavender-colored milk. 


You could also use whole fruit to give your boba a little extra sweetness and flavor. You can dice fresh, whole fruit into pieces about the same size as your pearls.

 

Can I Make Bubble Milk Tea in Bulk?

Bubble tea can absolutely be made in bulk. It’s best to make your pearls in large batches so you can save some for later, like we’ve already talked about. 


You can also make your milk mixture ahead of time to save yourself a bit of time. You can also brew tea ahead of time and keep it chilled in the fridge. 


How Should I Store My Bubble Milk Tea?

Uncooked, dried pearls should be kept in an airtight container in the freezer. It’s best not to keep cooked pearls on hand because they’ll lose their chewy texture. 

 

The Bottom Line

Boba is one of those drinks that you try once and then you’re hooked. And there are few things more satisfying than enjoying your favorite drink crafted by your own hands. 


So get out there and make your own delicious boba!


Looking for the best ingredients for your bubble milk tea or any other Asian culinary creation? Head to Umamicart! We deliver right to your doorstep so you can cook all your favorite Asian foods without the stress.


Sources

Bubble tea strengthens Taiwan's presence in world beverage market | Swissnex 

Buckyball Boba Tea | American Chemical Society 

Cheaper alternatives for store-bought boba | The Gargoyle | University of Illinois 

More Recipes!