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Homemade Boba Tea Recipe Is So Easy (And Cheap) With Just 5 Ingredients

Mix-and-match your favorite flavors when preparing this sweet, milky iced drink!

Iced tea is delicious. Chewy, gummy treats are delicious. Iced tea combined with a chewy, gummy treat? You guessed it: delicious. If you want a snack and a drink in one convenient package, boba tea (also called bubble tea) might be the treat for you. You may have seen boba tea drinks popping up on your social media feed and wondered what this wildly popular beverage is all about. Keep reading to learn more about the sweet, creamy tea drink filled with pleasantly chewy little spheres — and find out how you can have it at home!

What is boba tea? 

Traditionally, boba tea consists of sweetened iced black tea with small balls of plain or flavored tapioca (similar to the kind used in tapioca pudding). The tapioca pearls are placed at the bottom of the cup before they’re topped with the tea. In each sip, you get milky and chewy textures — which is what makes boba tea unique. While these drinks cost around $5 to $6 at boba tea shops, you can make your own version using just 5 ingredients.

Where bubble tea originated from

Boba tea is believed to have originated in a tea house in Taiwan in the ’80s. Employee Lin Hsi Hsi was eating a tapioca dessert and drinking tea when she decided to mix them together. It became her regular treat and quickly gained popularity among other staff members. When the shop owner saw how much everyone enjoyed it, he added the drink to the menu, and it became a hit, eventually becoming popular worldwide. 

The popular ingredients found in boba tea

There are four key components to bubble tea: steeped tea, milk, flavored powders or syrups and any additional mix-ins. These ingredients can be mixed and matched to create a tea that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Below, the Pickled Plum food blog lists out some of the most common ingredients for boba tea — all of which can be found online or in specialty stores.

1. Tea flavors

Jasmine, oolong, white, green or earl grey 

2. Milk

Dairy or non-dairy, including sweetened condensed milk 

3. Flavored powders or syrups

Peach, mango, kiwi, rose, maple, lychee, pineapple, caramel or taro (a sweet, tropical purple root native to Southeast Asia, and my personal favorite!)

4. Popular mix-ins

Tapioca pearls, tapioca noodles (the same as pearls, but in strands instead of sphere shapes), fresh fruit, jellies (aloe vera jelly or Chinese grass jelly) or popping boba, which are juice-filled balls made from seaweed extract that explode when bitten. Whereas regular tapioca boba are relatively flavorless, popping boba come in fruit flavors like strawberry, mango and lychee.

Watch this video from Plant Based Jess to see how a standard bubble tea drink is made.

Easy trick for a stronger-flavored bubble tea drink

Achieving a strong and robust tea flavor in your drink starts with adjusting your brewing time and tea measurements. “I like to double the amount of leaves and do a nice long steep to extract all those deep, nuanced flavors,” Mimi Nguyen, founder at Cafely (a Vietnamese coffee brand), says. Aim for a maximum brew time of 5 minutes, otherwise more of the tea’s tannins (or compounds) will be released and create a bitter drink.

How to make boba tea

This Homemade Bubble Tea recipe from Lisa Lin, creator of food blog Healthy Nibbles and Bits, is a yummy introduction to the drink. She uses premade flavored tapioca pearls as a convenient shortcut for including those chewy bites in the sip. Pantry staples like black tea, whole milk and sugar are also used to make this sweet drink without breaking the bank! (Give more of your favorite foods a twist with these recipes for Smash Burger Tacos, Bubble Pizza and Buffalo Egg Rolls.)

Homemade Bubble Tea

Boba tea
Bhofack2/Getty

Ingredients:

  • 8 bags black tea or 3 Tbs. loose-leaf black tea
  • 4 cups hot water
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking tapioca pearls (preferably black sugar flavor)
  • Whole milk (or milk of choice), to serve
  • Simple syrup (or choice of sweetener), to serve

For the simple syrup: 

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions: 

  • Yield: 4 drinks
  1. Place 4 cups water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and add tea. Steep 3 to 5 minutes before letting cool completely.
  2. If using simple syrup, stir water and sugar, heat on medium-high until sugar dissolves; remove from heat and let cool completely.
  3. Boil tapioca pearls in remaining 4 cups water, stirring until they float to water’s surface, then cook another 5 minutes. (Test for desired softness and continue cooking if not sufficiently tender.)
  4. Remove pearls with slotted spoon, rinse, transfer to bowl, and mix with a few Tbs. simple syrup.
  5. Divide cooked tapioca pearls, tea and ice among glasses in that order.
  6. Stir in 1½ Tbs. milk and 1½ Tbs. simple syrup, adjusting to taste. Use jumbo-sized straw for maximum boba retrieval. If you don’t have large enough straw, use spoon to eat boba out of cup. Enjoy!
    Note: For those who don’t serve the pearls immediately after boiling them, Lin advises leaving them in their hot water (instead of draining them). The hot water will help keep them soft. 

For more refreshing sips, give these recipes a try!

Homemade Coffee Milkshake Recipe: Secret Ingredient Makes It Extra Creamy + Dreamy

Korean Banana Milk Is the Ultimate Sweet and Creamy Sip — Here’s How To Make It

3 Grapefruit Drinks Guaranteed To Revitalize Your Health All Season Long

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