How to Make the Best Bubble Tea (Boba Tea, Bubble Milk Tea)

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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.

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

About Bubble Tea

  • Bubble tea is a cold drink made with tea, milk, sugar, ice, and chewy tapioca balls — it’s basically 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.
  • Bubble tea is also called boba, boba tea, boba milk tea, and bubble milk tea.

Why This Bubble Tea is the Best

  • Warm tapioca balls
    It’s amazing what a difference warm tapioca balls make! 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.
  • Made with real tea
    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.
  • Brown sugar
    Brown sugar gives boba tea a deep and complex flavor with caramel notes you won’t find in regular white sugar.
  • Topped with a decadent cream froth
    A lightly whipped cream that elevates this drink from a basic bubble tea.

Try making more popular cafe drinks at home like Matcha Bubble Tea, Thai Iced Tea, and Iced Matcha Latte.

Ingredient Notes

Bubble tea ingredients in individual plates and containers.
  • 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 and black tea but you can swap the brown sugar with white sugar.
  • Heavy cream
    To make the whipped cream topping.
  • Regular sugar
    Sweetens the whipped cream.
  • Ice
    To keep the drink nice and refreshingly cold.

My Tapioca BallS Pick:

Tapioca Pearls

Photo Credit:

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

Steps to Make Bubble Tea

Four photos with steps to make bubble tea.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps to make this drink. 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. Make tapioca balls.
    Follow directions on package but generally, all that’s involved is cooking tapioca balls in hot water for a few minutes.
  4. Make cream froth topping.
    A handheld milk frother is my trick to making whipped cream toppings for drinks in seconds.
  5. Assemble drink.
    Spoon warm tapioca balls in brown sugar syrup into a cup, pour black tea, then top with cream topping.
Six photos with steps to assemble the drink.

Serving Suggestion

I’m using a 17 oz. cup which is a little bigger than a Starbucks grande (16 oz.).

Use an extra wide straw to drink. Stir before drinking so you’re tasting all the components together.

Notes & Tips

  • 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.
  • Don’t want to use dark brown sugar? Make simple syrup using any kind of sweetener like honey, date syrup, or coconut sugar. Stir together equal part hot water and sweetener to make a quick simple syrup.
  • If you don’t want the trouble of making the cream froth, just add 4 tablespoons of half & half to each serving instead. 

Make-Ahead & Storage Tips

  • The tea, brown sugar simple syrup, and cream froth can all be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. The tea keeps for 3-4 days, the syrup for 1-2 weeks, and cream froth for up to 3 days.
  • Do not make tapioca balls more than 1-2 hours ahead of time. After 4 hours, they’ll start to harden.

Questions You May Have

Is there caffeine in this drink?

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

Can I make a caffeine-free bubble tea?

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

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.

What are tapioca balls?

The tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink are called boba. It’s made from tapioca starch taken from the cassava root.

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 big is a serving for this recipe?

Each serving is 17 oz., which is a little bigger than a Starbucks grande (16 oz).

How do I drink this?

To drink bubble tea, you need a fat straw that’s big enough to suck up the tapioca balls while drinking the tea. 

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 with a black straw.

More Delicious Tea Recipes

Bubble Tea Cheat Sheet

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How to Make Bubble Tea (Boba Tea) with Brown Sugar

Author: Jee Choe
Decadent, delicious bubble tea drink made with tapioca balls, dark brown sugar, and milk tea.
4.6 from 130 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Steep Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Drinks
Yield2 servings


Black tea

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons black tea

Dark brown Simple Syrup

Tapioca Balls

Cream Froth



  • 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.
  • Steep tea in hot water for 5 minutes.
    Combine tea and 2.5 cups hot water and steep. (We're saving the leftover 1/4 cup of hot water for 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.


  • Stir together hot water and dark brown sugar until sugar dissolves.
    Take the remaining 1/4 cup hot water and stir in 1/4 cup brown sugar.


  • 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 if you're using a different brand than the one I'm using.)
  • Strain 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.


  • Lightly whip heavy cream and sugar.
    Cream froth is a lightly whipped heavy cream. Use a handheld milk frother and whip for 10 seconds. Cream should thicken slightly and should be pourable.


  • 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 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.


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
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ohhowcivilized and use hashtag #ohhowcivilized!

18 thoughts on “How to Make the Best Bubble Tea (Boba Tea, Bubble Milk Tea)”

  1. 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?

  2. 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.


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