How to Make Bubble Tea (Boba Milk Tea)

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Bubble tea goes by many names, including boba, milk tea, and boba milk tea. See how easy it is to make boba at home and get my tips to making it delicious.

Bubble Tea, or Boba Milk Tea, in a clear glass with a wide, black straw.

What is Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea is a cold drink usually made with tea, sugar, ice, and tapioca balls. Tapioca balls are also called boba and they’re the “bubbles” in bubble tea.

Tapioca balls are made from tapioca starch from the cassava root. Normally, tapioca is white, not black, but the black color in tapioca balls comes from brown sugar or caramel coloring added to the cassava. This makes the boba sweeter than it would be otherwise.

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

Originally from Taiwan, boba was created in the 1980s.

The reason a wide straw is served with boba is so you can enjoy some tapioca balls with each sip of the tea.

RELATED: Taro Bubble Tea

Homemade Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is surprisingly easy to make at home.

The tea part of bubble tea is just tea with milk and sugar. The bubble part of bubble tea is tapioca balls, which is sold dried, and just needs to be cooked in water to plump them up.

RELATED: Brown Sugar Bubble Tea

Recipe Highlights

  • A classic boba recipe made easy with store-bought tapioca balls and black tea.
  • A lot of bubble tea shops use powdered tea and powdered milk but this homemade recipe uses real brewed tea and any milk of your choice.
  • This bubble tea is made with brown sugar, which gives the drink a deeper, richer flavor than regular sugar since it has notes of molasses and toffee.
  • My tried-and-true secret to making the best bubble tea is to use warm tapioca balls. That perfectly soft and chewy texture of boba you’re looking for is when they’re still warm.

RELATED: Strawberry Bubble Tea

Ingredient Notes

Bubble Tea or Boba Milk Tea ingredients on a table in measuring bowls and cups with labels.
  • Black tea
    Any black tea can be used. Tea doesn’t need to be the highest quality, so you can use tea sachets or tea bags.
  • Tapioca balls
    Store-bought boba only requires them to be boiled in water for a few minutes. It’s the quickest and easiest way to make boba at home.
  • Brown sugar
    Brown sugar gives the drink a deep, rich flavor, but you can use regular white sugar if that’s what you have.
  • Milk
    Any kind of milk can be used but it’s especially creamy with whole milk or half & half.
  • Water
    Tea always tastes better when made with filtered water.
  • Ice
    Use filtered water if possible to make ice.
My Tapioca Balls Pick

Photo Credit: amazon.com

The tapioca balls I use to make bubble tea at home.
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Step-by-Step Instructions

First 2 steps in making bubble tea at home.

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

  1. Steep tea in hot water.
    Strain tea leaves. Stir in brown sugar. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cook tapioca balls in brown sugar and water.
4 photos showing steps to assemble bubble tea.
  1. Put tapioca balls into a glass.
  2. Add ice.
  3. Pour in tea.
  4. Top with milk.
    Serve immediately. Stir before drinking. Use an extra wide straw to drink. 

RELATED: Strawberry Matcha Latte Bubble Tea

Recipe Notes

Tapioca balls should be quite warm, but not too hot.
To keep the boba soft and chewy, add warm tapioca balls into the drink. The ice will cool it down a bit but make sure you don’t use piping hot tapioca balls that can burn your mouth.

It’s ok to use tea bags.
Tea bags contains the lowest quality tea, but since it’s going into a drink with sugar and milk, you don’t need to use the best tea.

Adjust sugar with simple syrup if needed.
If you like your drink sweeter, add brown sugar syrup or plain simple syrup so that it mixes in well with the cold drink. Sugar will just sink to the bottom of the cup.

Any type of tea can be used.
Black tea is used in a classic bubble tea, but you can use any kind of tea you like. Try making bubble tea with green, white, or oolong tea instead of black tea.

Pouring half & half into a cup of boba milk tea.

Expert Tips

  • Unfortunately, tapioca balls need to be made within just a couple of hours of serving them. They can’t be made the day before since they’ll harden.
  • Cold brew tea can be used instead of hot tea that has been cooled down.
  • The tea can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Don’t add the milk until you’re ready to serve the drink.

Questions You May Have

Does this bubble tea contain caffeine?

Yes, since this drink is made with black tea, which naturally contains caffeine.

How long do the tapioca balls last?

After the tapioca balls have been cooked in hot water, they’ll last about 4 hours. They’ll start to harden and get difficult to chew.

Is bubble tea healthy?

Not really. Tea itself has a lot of antioxidants but bubble tea is made with sugar and milk so it’s not the healthiest drink.

Homemade bubble tea in a glass.

Related

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How to Make Boba Milk Tea (Bubble Tea)

Author: Jee Choe
See how easy this classic bubble tea is to make and customize.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving (16 ounces)

INGREDIENTS
 

Milk Tea

  • 1 tablespoon black tea (or 2 tea bags)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup milk or half & half

Tapioca Balls

  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup tapioca balls
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

INSTRUCTIONS
 

MAKE TEA

  • Steep tea in hot water for 5 minutes.
    Set the water temperature to 195°F if you're using an electric kettle with a temperature setting. Use filtered water when possible.
  • Strain tea leaves. Stir in brown sugar.
    Set aside to cool.

COOK TAPIOCA BALLS

  • Boil ¾ cup of water and sugar in a saucepan. Add tapioca balls.
    Combine brown sugar and ¾ cup of water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. When you see big bubbles (2-4 minutes), add tapioca balls. Keep boiling for 8 more minutes on medium-high heat. Cool slightly, until tapioca balls aren't too hot to eat. They should still be quite warm.

ASSEMBLE DRINK

  • Add warm tapioca balls in brown sugar syrup into a cup. 
Add ice, tea, and milk.
    Serve immediately and stir before drinking. Use an extra wide straw to drink.

NOTES

  • Brown sugar gives the drink a deep, rich flavor, but you can use regular white sugar if that’s what you have.
  • Any kind of milk can be used but it’s especially creamy with whole milk or half & half.
  • Black tea is used in a classic bubble tea, but you can use any kind of tea you like. Try making bubble tea with green, white, or oolong tea instead of black tea.
  • To keep the boba soft and chewy, add warm tapioca balls into the drink. The ice will cool it down a bit but make sure you don’t use piping hot tapioca balls that can burn your mouth.
  • Unfortunately, tapioca balls need to be made within just a couple of hours of serving them. They can’t be made the day before since they’ll harden.
  • Cold brew tea can be used instead of hot tea that has been cooled down.
  • The tea can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Don’t add the milk until you’re ready to serve the drink.
  • Tea bags contains the lowest quality tea, but since it’s going into a drink with sugar and milk, you don’t need to use the best tea.

NUTRITION

Calories: 310 | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 55mg | Potassium: 149mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 39g | Vitamin A: 99IU | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 1mg
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