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Boba Tea: How to Make Bubble Tea at Home!

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What is Boba Tea?

authentic Chinese beverage boba tea
Brown sugar boba tea from INCHA (印茶) in Shanghai

Boba tea, also known as bubble tea or pearl milk tea, is a popular and refreshing beverage that originated in Taiwan in the 1980s. It has since gained widespread popularity across the world, particularly in Asia and North America. The drink is characterized by its unique combination of tea, milk (or non-dairy alternatives), sweeteners, and chewy tapioca pearls.

There are usually 5 essential components in boba tea:

Tea: brewed tea is typically the base of boba tea. The most common ones are black tea, green tea, oolong tea in the order of popularity. The choice of tea affect the flavor profile of the drink.

black tea leaves
Assam tea from India

Milk: Many boba tea variations incorporate milk or creamer to create a creamy and rich texture. However, there are also dairy-free options that use coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, or other alternatives.

Sweeteners: Sweeteners like sugar, syrup, or honey are added to the tea to provide a pleasant level of sweetness. The amount of sweetener can be adjusted based on personal preference. In most Chinese boba tea shop, the sweetness level can be adjusted to 30%, 70%, or full. 

sugar syrup for commercial use
Commercial Sugar Syrups

Tapioca Pearls: The defining characteristic of boba tea is the chewy tapioca pearls, often referred to as “boba.” These pearls are made from tapioca starch, which is derived from the cassava root. They are typically dark in color and have a slightly gummy texture. The pearls are cooked and then soaked in a sugary syrup to give them a sweet flavor.

homemade boba (frozen)
homemade boba (frozen)

Flavorings and Add-ins: Beyond the basic ingredients, boba tea can be customized with a variety of flavorings and add-ins. This might include fruit syrups, fruit chunks, fruit jellies, aloe vera pieces, or even small pieces of boba-filled pastries.

To prepare boba tea, the process generally involves brewing and cooling the tea, cooking the tapioca pearls until they reach the desired consistency, and then assembling the drink by combining the tea, milk, sweetener, and any additional flavors or add-ins. The mixture is typically shaken or stirred to mix the ingredients thoroughly before being served in a cup with an extra-wide straw that allows you to enjoy both the drink and the chewy tapioca pearls.

Boba tea comes in a wide range of flavors and variations, making it a versatile and customizable beverage that can suit various taste preferences. It has become a cultural and social phenomenon, with dedicated boba tea shops and chains offering diverse menus of flavors and combinations.

Boba Tea Toppings

Various toppings can be added to boba tea to enhance the flavor or texture of the drink.  Here is a list of toppings that are often used in Chinese boba tea shops.

boba tea topping options

My all-time favorite topping for boba tea or any milk teas is milk tofu. Quite similar to Chinese milk custard, but with a texture of soft tofu. It is sweet and very milky, made with milk, cheese, and agar-agar powder.

homemade milk tofu
Homemade Milk Tofu

Let's Make Boba Tea at Home

We have already covered the basics of bobo tea background and the components. Now, let’s learn how to make delicious boba tea at home. The preparation and assembly process takes only about 15 minutes, while making boba could take over 30 minutes. But, the good news is that you can make a lot of boba at once and freeze them in a fridge for later use, then you could enjoy your 15 minutes homemade boba tea.

Ingredients
  • Boba ingredients
  • Brown sugar 30g
  • Water 75g
  • Tapioca starch 100g
  • Brown sugar 80g
  • Water 400g
  • Milk tea base
  • Milk 100g
  • Evaporated milk 100g
  • Fructose syrup 20g
  • Black tea leaves 10g
  • Water 300g
  • Ice cubes 100g

Brown Sugar Tapioca

Add 30g brown sugar and 75g water to a small pot, and bring it to boil on low heat. After boiling, turn off the heat immediately.

While it’s still hot, scoop 2 spoons of tapioca starch into the pot and stir it quickly with the spoon. After stirring for a while, add the remaining starch, stir it well.

Then, knead it into a ball with your hands while it is hot.

Put it on the table, cut it into 3 parts, take one part and twist it into long strips, and cover the rest with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Cut it into small pieces with a knife after rubbing it well.

homemade brown sugar topioca

Then, knead it into rounds one by one. Sprinkle some tapioca starch on a plate, and put the pearl balls on the plate, shake them a few times to prevent the pearl balls from sticking together.

brown sugar tapioca perl

You can preserve a portion of boba in a freezer for later use. Now, add 400g water and 80g brown sugar into a pot, bring it to a boil, then add boba to cook for around 30 minutes, depending on the size of your boba.

Then, turn off the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes before taking them out into a bowl.

brown sugar pearl

Prepare Black Tea

You can buy bottled unsweetened pure black tea, such as this 0 calorie Eastern Leaf Tea Drink to make this recipe more convenient.

eastern leaf black tea

But for optimal experience, I suggust to make the black tea yourself. Plus, you are in control of the strength of your tea.

Steep 10g black tea leaves in 300g fully boiled water for 10 minutes (preferably in a thermal cup).

Pour the tea through a filter into a bowl to remove any tea grounds, then add 200g ice cubes.

Final steps

In a cup, add 100g milk, 100g evaporated milk, 20g fructose syrup, and 200g black tea. Stir it well with a spoon or coffee stirrer. Finally, add the boba in the cup.

homemade brown sugar boba tea

Enjoy the creamy and chewy boba tea if you have follow the guide to this step. Let me know your thoughts in the comment below.

Lilith Wong
Lilith Wong
Lilith Wong is a blog writer, food lover, and the founder of Exotic Food China. She lives in a beautiful village in Sichuan with her two cats.
lilith wong

Lilith Wong

Lilith Wong is a blog writer, food lover, and the founder of Exotic Food China.

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