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Bubble tea and tapioca pearls

How to Make Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is a godsend, any way you look at it. Though the health benefits of tea have been enjoyed for thousands of years by emperors and common folks alike, never has the world seen such a mouth-watering iteration of tea. Truth be told, it’s a treasure trove. And everyone can agree. If black tea’s greater shelf life makes it the better version of green tea, bubble tea trumps them all in the ‘delicious’ department’ — much like the iPhone 12 Pro today makes the original iPhone (released by Steve Jobs himself in 2007) look like a dinosaur.

Indeed, the cult-like following that boba tea gained since the 2000s speaks volumes on the massive appeal of the dessert-like nootropic beverage that Taiwan gave to the world. Given its taste, it’s no accident that you could long for more. What’s more, all it may take is but one glass of the cold, milky tea drink complete with odd gummy balls at the bottom to get the habit. And be a certifiable bubble tea buff in the process.

So, the million-dollar question now is how do you make bubble tea for yourself when you’re at home. All the many versions of boba tea can surely confound you. And while ordering one from your nearest bubble tea station can be a wonderful tea experience all its own, it isn’t always an option. Learning to whip one at home means you afford the whole family with one of the world’s most delicious health drinks (assuming you keep a close watch on the sugar) anytime, every time. Without even having to hop in the car and going out of your precious abode. Read on to find out exactly how.


bubble tea

Ingredients and Preparing the Pearls

Don’t be confused. Bubble tea has been dubbed a lot of names. The top of the list is boba tea, in reference to those little tapioca edible balls at the bottom of the drink. Aso, it’s called pearl milk tea with the pearl referencing those same balls. Moreover, the Taiwanese call it traditionally QQ tea, alluding to the unforgettable chewiness of those balls. Other names used for boba:

  • Black pearl tea
  • Tapioca ball drink
  • Pearl ice tea
  • Pearl shake

And yes, the product itself originated in Taiwan in the ‘80s. It was accidentally formulated by combining a tapioca-laden dessert with black Assam tea. At its core, tapioca and tea are the most basic ingredients of bubble tea. Though milk has become a widely accepted ingredient in the drink, you can still have bubble tea without milk. The most widely used milk for bubble teas are:

  • Sweetened condensed milk (Thai tea, usually for traditional Boba tea)
  • Coconut milk (fruity bubble teas)
  • Non-dairy creamer and milk (e.g., soy milk, almond, popular choice)

Technically, you can use just about any tea type: white tea, green tea, black tea, or oolong to whip a boba. Though, over the years black tea has become the most common tea used. Also, there’s bubble tea served hot — though it’s not as popular as those served with ice.

Never forget that bubble tea comes in many forms. As the most customizable beverage in the world, you can have ingredients that suit your tastes. Sometimes, tea connoisseurs even experiment with sago instead of tapioca balls. Thus, the most common options for your pearls include:

  • Jelly cubes (usually for green tea)
  • Taro balls (made from taro root)
  • Popping boba (tapioca pearls that pop inside your mouth)
  • Tapioca pearls (traditional)
  • Sago balls (alternative but more pricey option)

Moreover, other ingredients (mung bean, azuki bean, jelly) have also been utilized by ever-so-curious foodies. Add a host of flavors (konjac, lychee, honey lemon) and you could get lost in all the possibilities.

Right from the onset, be warned. As much as possible, choose healthy ingredients to make up your boba. Too much sugar taken at any time isn’t healthy at whatever drink you put it in. The same holds true for bubble tea. If you have to indulge, limit your sugar, or if you have to add additional sugar, limit your servings to twice or thrice a week. If possible, use real fruits instead of fruit syrup flavors.
The first step in any homemade bubble tea is to cook the tapioca right. It’s important that you observe the steps as assiduously as you would want to enjoy your super- delicious boba. Here’s how to do it:

  • Heat 8 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Only then should you add your pearls in. Gently stir until all of them float to the top.
  • Next, turn the heat down to medium for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally every once in a while.
  • Remove your saucepan from heat. Cover it and let it sit for 20 minutes. Drain the balls and voila, you can now mix the honey or syrup or whatever sweetener you choose. Let cool for 5 minutes before using.

For portions, 150 grams (or approximately 1 cup) of uncooked tapioca balls equals about 240 grams of cooked boba. That’s about enough for 4 servings assuming you use 60 grams per glass.


Most Popular Bubble Tea Recipes

Surely, it will take some time before you settle into your fave boba combination. So you might want to take a look at the most popular bubble tea concoctions from the world over. Below are five:

Before you do this recipe, make sure you have your tapioca balls ready to use and your choice sweetener (syrup, honey). To come up with two servings of this much sought-after classic bubble tea, you need:

  • 5g Assam tea or any loose black tea (or 2 black tea bags)
  • Hot water (450 ml)
  • Milk (150 ml of almond or non-dairy kind)
  • Sugar syrup (50 ml depending on your tastes)
  • Cooked tapioca pearls, preferably black (120g)
  • Ice (cubes)
  • Tea preparation. Steep tea (loose-leaf) in prepped hot water, then let cool until water is lukewarm. If, however, you’re using tea bags, put them aside before you go to the next step.
  • Equally, divide the tea between your two glasses. A strainer should be handy for loose tea. Add milk and syrup to suit your taste. Gently stir until you have a good mix.
  • Distribute the cooked tapioca pearls equally to the two glasses.
  • Add ice cubes.

Called also Kesar doodh, the Indian Saffron is an Indian drink. Not only is it much celebrated for its exquisite taste, but the saffron milk itself exhibits a slew of medicinal properties. Instead of the traditional dessert, taste this bubble tea version. Take note this is for two servings of the drink. To do that, prepare:

  • 5g Assam tea or any loose black tea (or 2 black tea bags)
  • Hot water (180 ml)
  • Sweet condensed milk (70 ml)
  • Semi-skimmed milk (300 ml)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Ground seeds of green cardamom pods (2 to 3 only)
  • Cooked black tapioca pearls (120 g)
  • Tea preparation. Steep tea (loose-leaf) in prepped hot water, then let cool until water is lukewarm. If, however, you’re using tea bags, put them aside before you go to the next step.
  • Mix the ground cardamom, condensed milk, milk, and saffron in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat for about 15 minutes. The cardamom and saffron should be infused during this time. Stir regularly to prevent the milk from getting burnt. Remove from heat and let cool. The mixture should be yellowish in color, like that of custard.
  • Once saffron milk cools, add the tea to the mix (only the tea, strain loose leaf and remove tea bags). Stir.
  • Distribute tapioca balls between two glasses. Add to the mix the saffron milk tea, get your wide straw, and enjoy!

Below is a classic twist of the boba drink from the Middle East. You should be wowed by the exotic rose fragrance adding lots of fun to this sought-after drink. To get to two servings you'd need:

  • hot water (450 ml)
  • 5g Assam tea or any loose black tea (or 2 black tea bags)
  • Milk (150 ml of soy or dairy milk)
  • 1-2 drops of rose water every serving
  • Cooked tapioca pearls, preferably black (120g)
  • Whipped cream
  • Ice (cubes)
  • Tea preparation. Steep tea (loose-leaf) in prepped hot water, then let cool until water is lukewarm. If, however, you’re using tea bags, put them aside before you go to the next step.
  • Transfer the tea concoction into a glass. For loose-leaf, use a strainer. Pour in your milk and sweeteners (sugar syrup). Also, put drops of rose water. Stir slowly.
  • Put in the mix of your cooked tapioca pearls.
  • Add ice cubes and top with a stunning swirl of the whipped cream. Put in dried rose petals and if you want slivered pistachios.

Almost every tea in Japan is green tea. So it’s no accident we have Japanese matcha as one of the most ordered cups in the Asian nation. Japan’s love for Matcha can be seen in its cakes and chocolates. For two servings of this boba, you’d need:

  • Matcha green tea (2 tablespoons)
  • Double cream (4 tbsps.)
  • Milk (500 ml of soy or dairy milk)
  • Sugar syrup (2tbsp.)
  • Cooked tapioca pearls, preferably black (120g)
  • Ice (cubes)
  • Tea preparation. Put the milk in a jug. Afterwhich, add your matcha powder to the mix. Whisk vigorously until your matcha powder has been dissolved. Stir into concoction you double cream.
  • Sweeten by adding sugar syrup. Taste to your liking.
  • Put in the mix your cooked tapioca pearls.
  • Pour over your prepped matcha latte. Add ice to cool.

Rio is a haven for life. It may well be the capital of South America. To note, mojitos have been a classic cocktail coming from Brazil. The alcohol-free boba recipe below should quench your thirst. To have two servings, you will need.

  • Loose black tea (5 g)
  • Hot water (300 ml)
  • Lime juice (40 ml.)
  • Coldwater (200 ml)
  • Fresh mint leaves (15 g)
  • Sugar syrup (40 ml.)
  • Cooked tapioca pearls, preferably black (120g)
  • Ice (cubes)
  • Lime slices
  • Tea preparation. Steep tea (loose-leaf) in prepped hot water, then let cool until water is lukewarm. If, however, you’re using tea bags, put them aside before you go to the next step.
  • Transfer the tea concoction into a glass. For loose-leaf, use a strainer. Pour in your lime juice and sweeteners (sugar syrup).
  • Crush the mint leaves a bit and add them to the concoction. Stir for a bit then leave for a minute or two.
  • Pour the resulting mixture into two glasses. Make sure you strain out those mint leaves. Add cold water then pour in the tapioca and cool some more by adding more ice cubes.
  • Garnish using a sprig of your prepared fresh mint and one slice of lime.


Most Common Bubble Tea Flavors

Boba tea is as delicious and refreshing as it is unique. As there are many tweaks you can do for your bubble tea, it may take some time before you bump into your most irresistible version. However, fret not. Below are 8 of the most in-demand flavors to get you started right, plus a recipe to make one of the best (if not the best) boba on the planet:

Taro (colocasia esculenta), a tropical root vegetable with edible corms common in Asia, is the defining factor in this boba. Commonly used in many savory, sweet dishes, taro is like potato or cassava (where tapioca comes from) but with some nutty earthiness. Its taste could be similar to cookies and cream for some while a few would insist it’s more like a vanilla latte. One thing’s certain, this milk tea made with taro is one of the most sought-after.

But there’s no need to grind pure taro corm into mushy bits to come up with this flavor. Taro is available in powder form. Thus, you can prep your own boba by dissolving said powder in water. Add the usual ingredients of choice (milk, sugar, tapioca, ice) to your choice tea, and voila.

By nature, taro isn’t actually purple. But usually, the taro powder comes with coloring to boost the tea drinker’s appetites.

Distinguishing mark: Purple-colored bubble tea

Right off the bat, this flavor is one of the most popular. If you want your bubble tea to taste more like tea, then you can’t get wrong with jasmine milk tea. Flavor-wise, this milk tea is creamy with subtle hints of sweetness.

Truth be told, this boba concoction is widely available in many tea shops all over the world. That tells you how popular this bubble tea is. Even better, you can order jasmine milk tea mixes for your own good, serving at home.

Distinguishing mark: Smells like jasmine flowers

Who can resist strawberries? It’s one of the Western world’s much-loved drink companions, from punches to wines. The dark red fruit is a delight to behold. But it’s also a great addition to boba tea. The slightly tangy flavor of strawberry complements the milk and sugar combination best. What you’ll get is a fruity beverage that’s full of life. Add the tapioca pearls and you have one drink that’s hard to resist.

As much as possible, use real fresh strawberries. But with powder mixes, just add water to your powder. After mixing well, put in your prepared tapioca and serve cold with ice.

Distinguishing mark: Pink in color

Right off the bat, this is one of the easiest boba to prepare. That’s because everything is all set as the flavor comes in powder form. Even better, most Thai tea powder mixes are complete with creamer and sweetener. So, no need to sweat it. All you have to do is to blend the powder mix with water, put in the pearls, add ice and you’re good to go.

As this usually uses Ceylon tea, this milk tea usually comes in cool orange colors. And true enough, many tea buffs have come to love its sweet and creamy taste, not to mention its tons of healthy benefits.

Distinguishing mark: Orange Color

Green tea is the mother of all tea. Small wonder its use can be traced back thousands of years ago. And matcha is one of the most widely-used green teas in town. Additionally, matcha boba is also one of the most popular, truly an all- time classic.

To make this one, obtain a matcha powder mix (you can buy online) or you can also use green tea from those tea bags (minus the bags, of course). Put in the mix almond milk with honey plus the usual ingredients of choice according to your liking.

As this is matcha, you avail yourself of not only a highly delicious drink here but also a most nutritious one. Green tea is a great source of polyphenols and antioxidants. That’s good for the heart and overall well being. Top of the list is the much-ballyhooed epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) which also is known for its anti-cancer benefits.

Distinguishing feature: Use of green tea

This one’s another stunningly refreshing drink. If you choose to have a milder- tasting boba, this milk tea should be it. Just a warning though: your drink may taste more of the tea as the flavor is not as strong.

As for the taste, Honeydew fruit is a combination of melon mixed with sweet honey, though overall the sweetness never bites. For best results, use fresh fruits. Honeydew should provide you with tons of nutrients with vitamin C leading the way.

Distinguishing mark: Usually greenish in color

Another favorite choice. For fruit lovers, the mango bubble tea is just perfect for you. However, if you really want to make your drink as healthy as can be, nix powder mixes. Instead, use real mangoes in their extract form (puree). Add the usual ingredients (cream, sugar, ice, water, tapioca) to your fave tea, and voila!

A glass of ice-cold mango milk tea should make your sizzling hot summer days more bearable.

Distinguishing mark: Yellowish color

Many agree this version of boba tea is the most famous of them all. Dubbed as tiger milk tea, this concoction has been popularized by Tiger Sugar, a Taiwanese bubble tea company. As this fad became a certified trend, the drink has become one of the most Instagrammable sips in town with people showing off the unique tiger stripes on the drink’s transparent glass.

And it didn’t take long for this drink’s fame to spread from Taiwan to the biggest cities on the planet (e.g., New York, Los Angeles). Just watch out for the sugar as it’s part of the main ingredient to whip this one up.

Distinguishing mark: Tiger stripes on the bubble tea glass


How to Make Brown Sugar Milk Tea at Home


  • 1 cup muscovado sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bags of loose leaf black tea (4 tea bags)
  • 1 ½ cup oat milk
  • Cocktail shaker

    Home-brewed Fruit-flavored Bubble Tea

    If you want to treat yourself to a really nutritious drink, using fruit as a topping in your bubble tea should be top of your list. You can enhance the flavor with a fruit syrup to make it all ever so delicious. And as fruit is naturally sweet, you won’t have to worry about overindulging in sugar.

    What’s amazing is you can experiment with lots of fruits. You can even combine them to get the result you want. Add to the equation your choice of milk and tea, and once again the extremely customizable nature of bubble tea comes to the fore. The choice is yours but some of the most common fruits mixed with boba are:

    Strawberries Mangoes Grapes Watermelon
    Bananas Honeydew Peach Avocado

    And you might ask why not apple? Well, the best way to answer that is to make one with an apple as a topping.

    Here, we’re going to show you how to make your fruit-flavored bubble tea. Know that you can also use fruit syrups to emulate the taste of the fruit. But given a choice between fresh fruits and syrups, the answer is obvious. Not only are fresh fruits more nutritious, but also they make your boba tea more delicious.

    Of course, commercial bubble tea stations are bound to prefer fruit syrups. For starters, they are cheaper than stocking fruits in the store. Secondly, fruits are bound to go bad faster than any syrup loses its taste.

    Now, here’s a sample of fruit-flavored bubble tea. You can, of course, use any fruit of your liking instead of what we have here. But the process should be the same. Take note that you will have to use a blender to mix all the fruits up.

    How to Make Fruit Bubble Tea at Home


    • 1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit (for this one, we used a mix of blueberries, mango, and strawberries)
    • 1 1/2 cup milk (oat milk)
    • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
    • Ice cubes (for fresh fruit use 4 to 5 cubes of ice only)
    • Ready-to-mix tapioca balls
    • 2 bags of loose leaf black tea (4 tea bags)

    Take note that many foodies choose to enjoy this fruit/tapioca mix without the tea. That is also possible. But technically, that takes away the tea from boba. In that sense, that may not be true bubble tea.

    As we speak, many foodies are experimenting with their fave boba mix, (especially now that the virus is still hounding us). But that speaks volumes on how ever-so-wonderful bubble tea really is.

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