How to Make Your Own Bubble Tea at Home
Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, first appeared in Taiwan but has recently exploded in popularity in the US. It’s made with tea, milk, sweetener and tapioca, and there are so many ways to personalize each cup! Here’s how to make bubble tea.
Move aside juice and smoothie bars, bubble tea is here! This tea-based drink, made with chewy tapioca pearls, is sure to give you a caffeine boost with a flavorful twist.
What Is Bubble Tea?
Bubble tea, also known as boba tea, is a Taiwanese tea drink flavored with milk or fruit (or sometimes both) with marble-sized tapioca balls at the bottom. It can be made with all sorts of tea—from plain black, jasmine or oolong tea to fruity herbal tea like strawberry, melon or mango. It’s most known for its iconic bubbles (also known as pearls, boba or tapioca) that are soft, chewy and a little sweet. People enjoy other unexpected add-ins like grass jelly (similar to Jell-O) or cheese foam (which resembles whipped cream).
Bubble tea has all the health benefits of drinking tea, too.
What Are the Ingredients in Bubble Tea?
Use any tea you have on hand, like black tea, jasmine, oolong, matcha or even fruit-infused teas. Steep as you would a normal bag of tea, then chill. Here’s our guide to making the perfect iced tea at home.
Add a bit of creaminess to your drink by adding condensed milk. Or use whatever milk you have on hand, like whole milk, oat milk, soy milk, almond milk or hemp milk.
Megan Barrie for Taste of Home
These can be found premade in Asian markets in the packaged goods aisle often near the teas. Because they come dehydrated and vacuum sealed you’ll need to cook them to enjoy. You can also find them on Amazon or Weee! and while you’re at it, you can get a boba straw which allows you to slurp up the large tapioca pearls. You can also make your own tapioca pearls with a combination of tapioca flour, water and sugar (see instructions below).
Just as you might add sugar or honey to coffee, you can customize your drink with a sweetener of choice. Typically when you get bubble tea at a boba cafe, they add a simple syrup made from brown sugar or honey for sweetness unless they’re using condensed milk. You can choose to use something simple like honey or agave, or make your own simple syrup.
How to Make Bubble Tea, Step by Step
Megan Barrie for Taste of Home
- 1 cup tapioca pearls
- Loose leaf tea
- Brown sugar or sweetener of choice
- Milk of choice
Step 1: Prep the tapioca pearls
Most brands sell tapioca pearls uncooked, so you’ll need to boil or soak them. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, then add 1 cup of pearls. Let them cook until they float to the top, then allow them to cook about 1 minute more. This will make enough for 2-4 drinks, depending on how many tapioca pearls you like.
Editor’s tip: Be sure to check the package directions for best results, as some brands may have larger or smaller pearls.
Step 2: Brew your tea
Next, brew the tea a little stronger than if you planned to drink it plain, following a 1 teaspoon to 1 cup ratio, tea to water. Steep for about 5 minutes, then discard the tea leaves. Chill tea in the fridge until cool, or if in a rush, pour the tea over ice. (This will dilute the tea, but that should be OK if you over-steep.)
Step 3: Add flavor
Megan Barrie for Taste of Home
Place the cooked tapioca pearls in a tall glass. If you want sweetened boba tea, add honey or agave, or make a simple syrup and coat the glass.
Pour your chilled tea 2/3 of the way up the glass. For a creamy tea, add a splash of your favorite milk. Give the glass a stir with your straw to combine sweetener and milk and enjoy!
Popular Bubble Tea Flavors
- Black Milk Tea or Hong Kong Milk Tea: The classic bubble tea includes black tea (standard Lipton works fine) and condensed milk.
- Taro Milk Tea: Use taro root powder and milk for a creamy, delicious and refreshing tea.
- Thai Milk Tea: Use Thai tea leaves, condensed milk and tapioca pearls for a sweet caffeine kick.
- Strawberry: Use strawberry-flavored tea and garnish with fresh strawberries.
- Matcha: Use matcha green tea powder.
- Brown Sugar Milk Tea or Tiger Milk Tea: Use a brown sugar simple syrup in the drink to give the milk a sweet, molasses-y toastiness.
Tips for Making Bubble Tea
How do I make tapioca pearls?
If you want to make homemade tapioca pearls, mix 2 parts tapioca starch with 1 part boiling water. Mix together until you achieve a dough-like consistency. Form the dough into small pearls, then boil over medium-high heat. When the boba reaches your desired consistency, remove them from the pan and add to the tea.
How do I keep boba soft and chewy?
Just as you don’t overcook pasta, you want to keep an eye on your boba as it cooks to make sure it maintains that nice chew. Once they float to the top, let them cook 1 minute more and then strain immediately. Give them a rinse with cool water, and immediately transfer them to a bowl or jar with simple syrup. Adding them to the simple syrup keeps them soft and chewy while also adding a nice sweetness.
Can I make a dairy-free version of bubble tea?
Bubble tea can be made however you’d like it, including dairy-free options using alternative milks like oat, hemp, almond, soy or rice milk. The tapioca pearls are naturally vegan since they’re made with tapioca flour, which is derived from the cassava root.
Is bubble tea healthy?
You can make your bubble tea as healthy or indulgent as you’d like, just like coffee! Adding sweeteners or fruit juices will increase the amount of sugar consumed. The tapioca pearls are made from cassava, which contains no fat or cholesterol, though they’re high in calories and carbs. For a healthy tea beverage, check out Thai tea.
Can you make bubble tea ahead of time?
You can make bubble tea about a day in advance, but any longer and your tea may start to get too strong, and tapioca pearls can get soggy and lose their chew. Be sure to store the tapioca pearls in the fridge submerged in simple syrup if making ahead, and discard tea leaves once your tea has brewed so it doesn’t oversteep.
When making simple syrup ahead, store this in a sealed jar for over a week and it should stay fresh. And if you love boba tea, mogu mogu may be your next favorite drink.
Tea Recipes You Haven’t Made Yet
My family loves this comforting chai tea latte recipe, especially on cold days instead of cocoa or when they’re feeling under the weather. I simplified this chai tea recipe by using the filter basket of our coffeepot. It’s delicious and great after dinner! —Julie Plummer, Sykesville, Maryland Go to Recipe Whether you’ve seen it at the beach or on your favorite Instagram account, the Starbucks Pink Drink is still one of the most beautiful beverages. Create your own healthy version of the strawberry refresher at home. This pumpkin chai latte is so good that we enjoy it year-round. It’s fabulous because it features bold chai, spicy ginger and sweet almond milk for an easy, healthy latte option! —Courtney Stultz, Weir, Kansas I enjoy coming up with new ways to use my slow cooker in the kitchen. If it’s going to take up space, it needs to earn its keep! Serve this refreshing blueberry iced tea over plenty of ice and garnish it with blueberries if desired. For fun, freeze blueberries in your ice cubes. —Colleen Delawder, Herndon, Virginia I grow mint in the garden on my balcony. For this tea, I blend two of my favorite beverages—Moroccan mint tea and honeydew agua fresca. —Sarah Batt Throne, El Cerrito, California Sweet tea and cherry limeade are two of my favorite summer libations, so I decided to combine them—the results are wonderful. —Renee Page, Rochelle, Illinois The sweet aroma of this tea wafting from a slow cooker warms the dreariest day. My daughter served it for a holiday open house, and coffee drinkers were instantly converted. I bring it to the office to spice up our break room beverage selections. —Carole J. Drennan, Abilene, Texas I came up with this recipe because I’m not a fan of regular iced tea. This tea has the perfect combination of freshness and sweetness. The orange blossom water gives it a distinctive flavor. People often request the recipe after just one sip. —Juliana Gauss, Centennial, Colorado I love an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day. I also love sweet tea, so one day I got the great idea to mix the two. Wow! It was absolutely delish. I experimented with different flavorings, and this combination was my favorite. —Kelly Williams, Forked River, New Jersey Take summery iced tea into fall and winter by stirring in pear nectar and adding a fresh pear slice to each glass as a garnish. A little honey provides an extra touch of sweetness. Beautiful basil and fresh raspberries lend bright color and refreshing flavor to this grown-up iced tea. You’ll love the fun fizz and make-ahead convenience for parties. —Laurie Bock, Lynden, Washington This recipe makes a gallon, so it’s a great choice for a springtime party when you have a medium-size crowd. It freezes well, so feel free to make it ahead of time. —Arlana Hendricks, Manchester, Tennessee You can’t have a summer gathering around here without this sweet tea to cool you down. It’s wonderful for sipping while basking by the pool. —Angela Lively, Baxter, Tennessee Sweet iced tea is a southern classic, and this is a fabulous recipe for tea lovers or for a party. The concentrate will make 20 servings. —Natalie Bremson, Plantation, Florida I grow mint on my balcony, and this refreshing beverage is a wonderful way to use it. It combines two of my favorite drinks—Moroccan Mint Tea and Honeydew Agua Fresca. For extra flair, add some ginger ale. —Sarah Batt Throne, El Cerrito, California Forget sugary (and boring) sodas for your next potluck and treat your family and friends to a refreshing homemade punch. —Crystal Bruns, Iliff, Colorado A pinch of baking soda eliminates bitterness in this smooth and easy-to-sip tea and it has just the right amount of sugar so it’s not overly sweet. —kelseylouise, Taste of Home Community Member A wonderful sweet and spicy aroma wafts from the slow cooker as this fragrant and flavorful chai tea cooks. —Crystal Jo Burns, Iliff, Colorado Cinnamon and honey really perk up the flavor of basic lemon tea. Add a splash of lemon extract to take this drink delightfully over the top. —Adeline Russell, Hartford, Wisconsin You need only a handful of ingredients to stir together this refreshing spring sipper. Its brilliant color and smile-fetching flavor will make a popular thirst quencher as the weather turns warm. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen I got this delicious tea recipe from a friend and make it about twice a week. It’s such a refreshing drink. —Tammy Griffin, Frankston, Texas Looking for something new and special to serve to guests? Let a soothing green tea simmer while you concentrate on preparing other dishes for your gathering. You’ll ge lots of requests for the recipe. —Alexandra Marcotty, Cleveland Heights, Ohio This delightful recipe makes teatime special. Dress up this homemade fresh mint tea with spices and a bit of honey if you like. —Ione Banks, Jefferson, Oregon Our Test Kitchen experts sure know how to brew a great cup of tea! Infused with basil and lemon, this oh-so-drinkable recipe tastes as good as it smells. I like to garnish this iced tea with some of our sweet Hawaiian pineapple. —Beverly Toomey, Honolulu, Hawaii Brew a batch of this fragrant, flavorful tea in a slow cooker for your next family gathering. —Irene Helen Zundel, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania A frozen orange or lemon slice in the glass looks pretty and helps keep this refreshing punch nice and cold. Using honey instead of sugar adds a sweet touch. —Sheila Bradshaw, Columbus, Ohio Frozen raspberries lend fruity flavor and lovely color to this pretty iced tea that’s good throughout the year. The recipe calls for just a few common ingredients and offers make-ahead convenience. —Lois McGrady, Hillsville, Virginia We have a large family, so we go through beverages quickly at our house. This thirst-quenching tea is simple to mix together and has a sparkling citrus flavor we all enjoy. —K. Kitell, Lenexa, Kansas This calorie and caffeine-free tea has a delightful rosy color.—Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Greendale, Wisconsin My children always appreciated a hot cup of this beverage after walking home from school. The tea is refreshing and tasty, and it warms you up. For about half the year, warmth is something we can always use more of around here! —Sally Mueller, Loveland, Colorado
How to Make Your Own Bubble Tea at Home
Learn how to make bubble tea at home with tea, milk, sweetener and tapioca pearls. We also explain how to customize this popular drink.