Homemade Bubble Tea with Cold Foam (Boba Milk Tea)

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Yes, bubble tea can be made at home! Get easy step-by-step directions on how to make this delicious boba tea recipe with black tea, brown sugar, chewy tapioca balls, and decadent cold foam.

Milk tea with tapioca balls in a tall glass with black straw.

What is Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea is a cold drink made with tea, milk, sugar, ice, and chewy tapioca balls — it’s an iced milk tea with tapioca balls.

It originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and today, bubble tea can be found all over the world.

The black tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink are called boba. It’s made from tapioca starch taken from the cassava root. It’s served with a fat straw that’s big enough to suck up the tapioca balls while drinking the tea. 

Bubble tea is also called boba, boba tea, boba milk tea, and bubble milk tea.

RELATED: Easy & Delicious Bubble Tea Recipes

Recipe Highlights

  • Most bubble tea shops use powders that are loaded with chemicals and sugar. This recipe is made with real tea and brewed perfectly so that the tea flavor really comes through.
  • A trick to making bubble tea really good is to use warm tapioca balls! Don’t cool down the tapioca balls completely — put it into the drink while they’re still warm. They’ll be soft with a nice little chew in the center.
  • Delicious cold foam that makes the drink decadent and creamy is made using a handheld milk frother.
  • This recipe uses brown sugar instead of regular white sugar to sweeten the boba tea which gives it a deeper flavor.

RELATED: Taro Bubble Tea

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients to make bubble tea at home.
  • Black tea
    A strong black tea like Assam (which is what I used) or English breakfast tea is best to make a classic bubble tea. Use loose tea or tea sachets instead of tea bags.
  • Filtered water
    Better water will make a better tasting tea.
  • Tapioca pearls
    The package says it’s ready in 5 minutes but that’s a LIE. 
  • Brown sugar
    I’m a fan of brown sugar since it gives a deep, rich flavor, but you can swap the brown sugar with white sugar.
  • Half & half
    To make the cold foam topping.
  • Granulated, white sugar
    To sweeten the cold foam.
  • Ice
    To keep the drink nice and refreshingly cold.
My Tapioca Balls Pick

Photo Credit: amazon.com

Plump with just a bit of a chew! This is the brand I use to make bubble tea.
SHOP NOW

Step-by-Step Instructions

Four photo collage showing steps to make bubble tea.

For full ingredients and instructions, scroll down to see the recipe.

  1. Steep tea in hot water.
  2. Dissolve brown sugar in hot water to make brown sugar syrup.
  3. Cook tapioca balls.
    Follow directions on package but generally, all that’s involved is boiling tapioca balls in hot water for a few minutes.
  4. Whisk together half & half and granulated sugar.
    A handheld milk frother or a French press makes great cold foam.
Assembling a bubble tea drink in a glass, shown in 4 photos.
  1. Put tapioca balls in brown sugar syrup into a glass.
  2. Add ice.
  3. Pour in tea.
  4. Top with cold foam.
    Serve immediately. Stir before drinking. Use a wide straw to drink. 

RELATED: Brown Sugar Bubble Tea

Expert Tips

  • Do not make tapioca balls more than 1-2 hours ahead of time. After 4 hours, they’ll start to harden. The drink is the best when assembled and served right before drinking.
  • Bubble tea can be made with all kinds of tea. All you need to do is add tapioca balls to a drink and it instantly becomes boba tea! Try making it with jasmine green tea, Thai tea, or matcha.
  • If you prefer weaker tea, use 2 teaspoons of tea per serving.
  • Each serving of this recipe is 16 ounces (2 cups), which is a Starbucks grande drink size.
  • If you don’t want the trouble of making the cold foam, just add 4 tablespoons of half & half to each serving instead. 
  • The tea, brown sugar simple syrup, and cold foam can all be made ahead of time and stored separately in the refrigerator. The tea keeps for 4 days at the most, the syrup for up to 2 weeks, and cold foam for up to 2 days. Just the tapioca balls can’t be made ahead.

RELATED: Jasmine Bubble Tea

Questions You May Have

Is there caffeine in this drink?

Yes! There’s caffeine in black tea so there’s caffeine in this bubble tea.

Can I make a caffeine-free bubble tea?

To make it caffeine-free, use herbal tea like chamomile, rooibos, or butterfly pea flower instead of black tea.

I don’t have loose tea, can I use tea bags?

Instead of 2 tablespoons of loose black tea you can use 3 tea sachets or 6 tea bags.

How long are tapioca balls good for?

Working with tapioca balls can be a little tricky since they’re only good for about 4 hours after making them; after that they’ll harden and get rubbery which won’t be fun to eat.

How can I adjust the sweetness?

To adjust the amount of sugar that goes into the drink, strain out the tapioca balls from the brown sugar simple syrup when assembling the drink. Add the simple syrup after the drink has been made to see how sweet you want it.

Bubble tea in a glass cup.

Related

Did you make this? Please leave a star rating below or a review in the comments section.

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Homemade Bubble Tea (Boba Milk Tea) with Cold Foam

Author: Jee Choe
Decadent, delicious bubble tea drink made with tapioca balls, brown sugar, and milk tea.
4.6 from 136 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Steep Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Drinks
Yield2 servings

INGREDIENTS
 

Black tea

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons black tea

Brown Simple Syrup

Tapioca Balls

Cream Froth

  • ¼ cup half & half
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

MAKE TEA

  • Boil water.
    Boil 2 ¾ cup of water. If using an electric kettle with a temperature setting, set the water to 208°F. Use filtered water if possible.
  • Steep tea in hot water for 5 minutes.
    Combine tea and 2 ½ cups hot water and steep. (The leftover ¼ cup of hot water is to make the brown sugar simple syrup.)
  • Strain tea leaves and let tea cool.
    Using a teapot with an infuser makes straining the tea leaves super easy.

MAKE BROWN SUGAR SIMPLE SYRUP

  • Stir together hot water and dark brown sugar until sugar dissolves.
    Take the remaining ¼ cup hot water and stir in ¼ cup brown sugar.

COOK TAPIOCA BALLS

  • Boil water and add tapioca balls.
    Boil water in a saucepan on the stovetop then add tapioca balls. Cook on medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    (Follow directions on your tapioca ball packaging if you're using a different brand than the one I’m using.)
  • Drain tapioca balls.
  • Combine tapioca balls and brown sugar simple syrup.
    Stir in dark brown simple syrup into the pot with the strained boba. Let cool slightly so it's warm but not boiling hot.

MAKE COLD FOAM

  • Lightly whip half & half and sugar.
    Use a handheld milk frother and whip until it starts to thicken.

ASSEMBLE DRINK

  • Divide each component into two cups.
    Spoon tapioca balls in brown sugar simple syrup, add ice, then black tea, and top with cold foam. Stir together before drinking.

NOTES

  • Make sure your tapioca balls are still warm when you assemble the drink. They’ll be nice and soft with a little chew.
  • Instead of loose tea, you can use 3 tea sachets or 6 tea bags.
  • If you want less tea, use 4 teaspoons of tea which is 2 tea sachets or 4 tea bags.
  • Use an extra wide straw to drink your bubble tea.
  • Do not make tapioca balls more than 1-2 hours ahead of time. After 4 hours, they’ll start to harden. The drink is the best when assembled and served right before drinking.
  • Bubble tea can be made with all kinds of tea. All you need to do is add tapioca balls to a drink and it instantly becomes boba tea! 
  • If you prefer weaker tea, use 2 teaspoons of tea per serving.
  • If you don’t want the trouble of making the cold foam, just add 4 tablespoons of half & half to each serving instead. 
  • The tea, brown sugar simple syrup, and cream froth can all be made ahead of time and stored separately in the refrigerator. The tea keeps for 4 days at the most, the syrup for up to 2 weeks, and cold foam for up to 2 days. Just the tapioca balls can’t be made ahead.
  • To adjust the amount of sugar that goes into the drink, strain out the tapioca balls from the brown sugar simple syrup when assembling the drink. Add the simple syrup after the drink has been made to see how sweet you want it.

NUTRITION

Calories: 427 | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 60mg | Potassium: 59mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 437IU | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 1mg
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20 thoughts on “Homemade Bubble Tea with Cold Foam (Boba Milk Tea)”

  1. This all sounds so wonderful, but my search was for a recipe to actually make my own boba peals as I have read many articles about the chemicals that the bought ones contain. I find absolutely nothing but believe there is a way to use tapioca but have no idea what else.

    Reply
  2. Hi, I want to try this recipe and was wondering if Bascom’s Imported Small Pearl Tapioca would work the same way. I would think they are, but maybe not since there’s different kinds of tapioca. Do you think it would be fine for this recipe?

    Reply
  3. I had bubble tea for the first time with you. I can’t even remember how many years ago that was…..
    Your recipe sounds delicious.

    Reply

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