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Up until recently, bubble tea was a mystery outside Asia. The bubble tea craze started in Taiwan about 30 years ago. Once it finally reached western countries, it didn’t take long for tea lovers to fall in love with one more drink. If you like sweet and unique drinks, bubble tea is a must try. No bubble tea shops around you? Learn how to make bubble tea at home.

Bubble Tea FAQ

What is boba tea?

Boba, pearl milk tea or bubble tea is a type of drink originating from Taiwan. It’s made with tapioca pearls and served with a wide straw. Bubble tea is actually a milk tea with the addition of tapioca pearls. The word “boba” means tapioca pearls, and both names are commonly used for this drink.

What are the ingredients in bubble tea?

Boba tea is all about flavor, texture, and experience. Even though bubble tea is called the tea, the main ingredient are not the tea leaves. The main ingredient are tapioca pearls. Bubble tea is always made with tapioca pearls or an alternative with a similar texture, like special flavored jellies. Bubble tea contains a milky component too, either a real milk, whipped cream, or condensed milk. It’s usually served hot or over ice. Other ingredients, such as fruit syrups, real fruits or real tea are used too.

What kind of tapioca pearls are used for boba tea?

While you can use different tapioca pearls or even flavored jellies for making bubble tea, the most commonly used ones are black quick cook tapioca pearls for bubble tea. They are available in Asian groceries shops and online. You can also make them by yourself at home. Regardless of which tapioca pearls you choose, you will need honey or simple sugar for soaking cooked pearls and for sweetening your drink.

What is sugar syrup?

Sugar or simple syrup is sugar, usually white, dissolved in water. Use about 100 grams of sugar on 50ml of water and dissolve over low heat. You can store it in the fridge for at least 1-2 weeks. A fun alternative to a regular sugar syrup is a flavored sugar syrup. You can make it using tea leaves too.  For making brown sugar syrup use brown sugar.

What tea is used for boba?

You can use any tea for making boba. However, the strong, broken types of tea are the best. Broken leaves will release much more flavor and color. For making bubble tea with black tea, Assam tea types are a top choice, but you can use others as well. If you want to make bubble tea with green teas, not all teas will work. For example, Dragon Well tea may not be the best choice because the flavor of the tea will get lost when blended with other ingredients. On the other hand, Gunpowder green tea is a great option. Most black teas will work well. You can use darker oolongs, strong herbal teas and rooibos, and even dark pu’erh as well.

What is the most popular bubble tea flavor?

The most common bubble tea is made with strong Indian black tea and black tapioca pearls. It’s similar to Hong Kong milk tea, but with added tapioca pearls.

Are there different types of bubble tea?

Yes, there are different types of bubble tea. As mentioned, bubble tea doesn’t need to contain any tea at all. The usual types are:

  • Milk tea
  • Hong Kong milk tea
  • Fruit milk tea

They all contain tapioca pearls, but other ingredients will be different. For example, regular milk tea is always made with milk, usually whole milk. Hong Kong milk tea is creamier, and it’s made with evaporated milk. They both contain real tea. Fruit milk tea, on the other hand, doesn’t contain real tea. Although you can add pure tea leaves too, it’s usually made with either fruit syrups, aromas or freshly blended fruits. Pure fruit bubble tea is very easy to make and is usually served over ice.

How to Make Boba Tea

To make boba tea with real tea you will need:

  • Tea leaves
  • Sugar syrup or honey
  • Evaporated milk, heavy cream, whipped cream, half-and-half, whole milk or dairy-free alternative such as cashew milk or coconut milk
  • Tapioca pearls
  • Water
  • Ice – optional
  • Different syrups, fresh fruits, culinary powders to add color or flavor

You can experiment with flavors and ingredients until you find your perfect match. First, to get familiar with bubble tea, try making a more “traditional” type. The best type? Black Assam tea. Assam tea often has a very strong flavor and blends great with milk. It’s used in chai and a common ingredient in breakfast blends, such as English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast. Besides broken tea leaves, you can use CTC type of tea or tea in tea bags. CTC or cut-tear-curl teas are teas with small pellet-shaped leaves.

If you want a caffeine-free drink, choose decaf black teas such as Decaf Assam or even Blackcurrant Black decaf tea. Another option is rooibos, a South African herbal tea with strong, earthy, smooth and sweet flavor.

cooked black tapioca pearls

Cooked black tapioca “boba” pearls before mixing with honey or sugar syrup

 


Boba Milk Tea Recipe (Bubble Tea)

This bubble tea recipe will give one serving of bubble tea and uses easy to cook black tapioca pearls. You can use different ratios of water to milk. We recommend starting from less milk and adding more if needed. The creamier the milk, the more indulgent your boba tea will be. Try evaporated milk, half-and-half, single cream or even whipped cream. If you want to serve your tea over ice, add a sweetener to hot tea, let it cool down for a bit and then pour ice.

Bubble tea recipe ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of hot water for steeping tea
  • 2-3 teaspoons of black tea or 1-2 tea bags
  • A few spoons of sugar syrup or honey
  • ¼ -1/3 cup of black tapioca pearls or about 50 grams per cup
  • Water for boiling tapioca
  • ¼ – ½  cup of whole milk or 1-3 tablespoons of a creamier alternative
  • Ice cubes – optional

Recipe

  1. Cook tapioca pearls following instructions on the packaging. Always cook the pearls right before serving.
  2. Use 10 cups of water per cup of tapioca pearls. Bring water to a boil and slowly add tapioca pearls. Once the pearls float to the surface, reduce the heat and cook on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. The longer you cook them, the softer they will be.
  3. Use a straining spoon to scoop them out of water and immediately put them in cold water for about half a minute. Strain and mix them with sugar syrup. You should get a sticky liquid with chewy tapioca pearls.
  4. To make tea, bring water to a boil. Use about 2-4 teaspoons of tea, depending on the desired strength. The more tea you use, the more caffeine it will contain. Steep the tea for 5-10 minutes in boiled water. Strain and pour into a pitcher or a teapot.
  5. If you like your tea extra sweet, you can add more sugar syrup. Add sugar or honey before tea cooled down.
  6. Add the tapioca pearls in syrup into a tall glass or cup. Fill the glass with ice. Add tea and milk. Serve your iced tea with a big straw or a long spoon.

homemade boba tea


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