Yes, bubble tea can be made at home! A delicious boba tea recipe made with black tea, chewy tapioca balls, and topped with a decadent cream froth.
Bubble tea is an iced drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. It’s made with tea, milk, sugar, and chewy tapioca balls.
Bubble tea goes by a few names. It’s also known as:
- Boba tea
- Boba milk tea
- Bubble milk tea
- Pearl milk tea
To drink bubble tea, you need a fat straw that’s big enough to suck up the tapioca balls while drinking the tea.
If you love bubble tea, try making it at home. My recipe tastes just like the real thing! IT’S FREAKING DELICIOUS!
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The tapioca pearls/balls at the bottom of the drink are called boba. It’s made from tapioca starch taken from the cassava root.
Working with tapioca balls can be a little tricky since they’re only good for about 4 hours after making them. They’ll harden and get rubbery which won’t be fun to eat.
Raw tapioca balls can take up to an hour to make but there are partially-cooked pearls that take about 15 minutes. I used the partially-cooked pearls for this recipe.
The Secret to My Bubble Tea
I had amazing bubble tea in South Korea and the secret was in the tapioca balls — they were still warm in the iced drink!
The warm tapioca balls were so light and soft and had a nice little chew in the center.
So, in this recipe, I’m doing the same by just cooling down the tapioca balls just a little bit, not cooling them down completely.
This should go without saying, but please don’t use hot tapioca balls since you don’t want to burn yourself.
My Tapioca Balls/Pearls Pick:
Bubble Tea Tips
- The tea and the brown sugar syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. The tea keeps for 3-4 days and the syrup for a 3-4 weeks.
- I used 1 tablespoon of tea for each serving since it’s in a very large cup. If you prefer a weaker tea, use 2 teaspoons of tea per serving instead.
- If you don’t want the trouble of making the cream froth, just add 3-4 tablespoons of half & half instead.
Free Tea Brewing Guide
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What I Use to Make Bubble Tea
- Black tea
- Tapioca pearls
The package says it’s ready in 5 minutes but that’s a LIE.
- Dark brown sugar and regular sugar
- Heavy cream
- Filtered water
I used these ice cube trays.
- Large (18 oz) glass cups
- Extra wide bubble tea straws
I got a couple of different straws and this one is just the right size for bubble tea.
- Glass teapot with infuser
- Handheld milk frother
This brand I got on Amazon has excellent customer service.
- Electric kettle
I use mine almost every day to brew tea to the right temperature.
How to Make Bubble Tea at Home
There are three components to this bubble tea.
- Black tea brewed nice and strong.
- Boba in a dark brown simple syrup to sweeten the tea and tapioca balls.
- Cream froth which takes my bubble tea to another level.
STEP 1: Boil water.
Bring 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil on the stovetop or do what I do and use an electric kettle with a temperature setting, setting the water to 208°F.
The best tasting tea is made with the best tasting water so use filtered water if possible.
STEP 2: Combine tea and hot water in a teapot.
Brew a strong pot of black tea using 2 tablespoons of black tea in 2 1/2 cups of water. (We’re saving the leftover 1/4 cup hot water for the brown sugar simple syrup.)
STEP 3: Cover teapot and steep for 5 minutes.
STEP 4: Strain tea leaves and let tea cool.
I’m using this teapot with an infuser so straining the tea leaves is super easy. I just pull out the infuser and let the tea cool in the teapot.
Make brown sugar simple syrup.
STEP 5: Stir together hot water and dark brown sugar until sugar dissolves.
Make tapioca balls.
STEP 6: Boil water and add tapioca balls.
The tapioca balls will start to float to the surface in a couple of minutes. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Stir every once in a while so that the boba don’t stick together.
If your tapioca balls are different from the brand I’m using, follow the direction on the packaging.
STEP 7: Strain tapioca balls.
Drain the water out and you should be left with plump boba.
STEP 8: Combine tapioca balls and brown sugar simple syrup.
Take the dark brown simple syrup we made earlier and pour it into the pot with the boba. Stir to combine.
The dark brown simple syrup will sweeten both the bubble tea and the tapioca balls.
Let cool slightly.
Make Cream Froth
STEP 9: Lightly whip heavy cream and sugar.
To make the cream froth, which is a lightly whipped heavy cream, use a handheld milk frother and whip for 10 seconds.
Don’t overwhip until you get soft peaks. If you do, just stir in a little more heavy cream.
Assemble bubble tea
STEP 10: Divide each component into two cups. Spoon in boba in brown sugar simple syrup, add ice, then black tea, and top with cream froth.
Start assembling the drink by spooning in tapioca balls in brown simple syrup.
Pour in the cooled down black tea. Leave a little room for the cream froth.
Top off the drink with the cream froth. Watch the cream make its way down the glass. So pretty!
Use an extra wide straw to drink. Stir before drinking so you’re tasting all the components together.
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablepsoons black tea
Dark brown Simple Syrup
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 cups water
- 3/4 cup tapioca balls
- Boil water.
Boil 2 3/4 cup of water. If using an electric kettle with a temperature setting, set the water to 208°F.
(Use filtered water if possible.)
- Combine tea and hot water in a teapot.
Use 2 tablespoons of black tea in 2 1/2 cups of water. (We're saving the leftover 1/4 cup of hot water for the brown sugar simple syrup.)
- Cover teapot and steep for 5 minutes.
- 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 1/4 cup hot water you have left over and stir in 1/4 cup dark brown sugar.
MAKE TAPIOCA BALLS
- Boil water and add tapioca balls.
Boil 4 cups of water on the stovetop then add tapioca balls. In a couple of minutes, they'll start floating to the surface. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
(Follow directions on your tapioca ball packaging.)
- Strain tapioca balls.
- Combine tapioca balls and brown sugar simple syrup.
Take the dark brown simple syrup we made earlier and pour it into the pot with the boba. Stir to combine. Let cool slightly.
MAKE CREAM FROTH
- Lightly whip heavy cream and sugar.
Cream froth is a lightly whipped heavy cream. Use a handheld milk frother and whip for 10 seconds.
ASSEMBLE BUBBLE TEA
- Divide each component into two cups. Spoon in boba in brown sugar simple syrup, add ice, then black tea, and top with cream froth.
Stir together before drinking.
- Make sure your tapioca balls are still nice and 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.