How to Make Bubble Tea (Boba Tea)

How to make a classic Taiwanese-style Bubble Tea (Boba Tea) at home from scratch! Try this easy and delicious bubble tea recipe with step-by-step photos.

bubble tea with glass straws on marble surface

Bubble Tea

Bubble tea has finally arrived in Switzerland and I couldn’t be happier to be reunited with my favourite beverage from my student days!

It feels like the bubble tea shops all opened overnight here in Switzerland (especially in Zurich), and many Asian restaurants have also taken advantage of the trend by selling bubble tea onsite.

And to coincide with this trend, many Asian grocers now also stock dried tapioca pearls, so you can skip the long queues and make your own bubble tea at home!

milk bubble tea in glass with glass straws

Homemade Bubble Tea

The advantages of making your own bubble tea is that you can control the sweetness. Some bubble tea shops allow you to choose the sweetness of your tea, but even that can be gamble; on the whole, many shops use syrup to sweeten and flavour their teas, and I find them overly sweet for my taste. Many don’t even taste like tea – they taste simply like cordial or diluted syrup.

But making bubble tea at home means you can add as little (or as much) sugar as you like, as well as brewing the tea to your desired strength.

Homemade bubble tea also ensures that the tapioca pearls are at their freshest – soft with an addictive chew.

Homemade bubble tea is also a more environmentally-friendly option. As much as I love the experience of buying bubble tea, I always feel regret at the amount of plastic that is used to serve these drinks. It is now easy to find thick glass straws online and in some shops, and you can serve the bubble tea in any tall glass.

milk boba tea in glass with glass straws

How to Make Bubble Tea

Making bubble tea at home requires two basic steps:

  1. Cooking the tapioca pearls
  2. Brewing the tea (or skip this step and use your favourite fruit-flavoured iced tea)

How to Cook Tapioca Pearls

When making bubble tea at home, I like to use dried tapioca pearls. They take a bit longer to prepare than “instant” tapioca pearls, but I find they have a nicer taste and texture, and they also keep for longer at room temperature.

You can find dried tapioca pearls at many Asian grocers. They can come in various sizes, but I generally buy tapioca pearls which are about the size of large peas. You can find them in sealed plastic bags, or vacuum-sealed to help keep their shape and freshness.

Always check the package instructions to make sure that you have bought the right kind of tapioca pearls. Some tapioca pearls only require about 5 minutes of total cooking time – which is great if you are pushed for time – but I find that these pearls don’t have the same nice, chewy texture of the ones which require a longer cooking time.

dried tapioca pearls on white plate

Bubble Tea Recipe

The following bubble tea recipe is loosely based on the package instructions which will come with most dried tapioca pearls, plus a few tips I have picked up since making my own bubble tea at home.

Depending on the size of your tapioca pearls, you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.

Simply cook the dried tapioca pearls in boiling water over medium heat for 30 minutes. During this time, stir frequently to separate the pearls and to make sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Take the pan off the heat and set aside for a further 30 minutes.

Drain the cooked tapioca using a large colander.

how to cook tapioca pearls

While you are waiting for the tapioca pearls to cook, make the sugar syrup by dissolving equal parts sugar in boiling water.

how to make simple syrup

Add the cooked and drained tapioca pearls to the sugar syrup and stir gently. The tapioca pearls are now ready to serve.

bowl with cooked tapioca pearls in simple syrup

What Type of Tea to Use

Bubble tea is traditionally made with a strong black tea with a distinct tannin flavour. My preference is Jasmine tea or Chinese breakfast tea, but you can also use Ceylon or Assam (or an equal blend of both). English breakfast tea is also a good option.

For a milk bubble tea, simply add enough milk to taste.

I like it when you can actually taste the tea flavour in bubble tea, but I know many who prefer a more fruit-based drink, especially young kids.

For young kids, I typically use a fruit-flavoured iced tea, which means that all I have to cook are the tapioca pearls.

tapioca pearls in tall glass with glass bubble tea straws

Making Bubble Tea for Kids

Bubble tea is traditionally served with thick straws which allow you to eat the tapioca pearls as you drink.

If you’re not a seasoned bubble tea drinker, these thick straws can actually pose a choking hazard as the tapioca pearls can suddenly become lodged in your throat if you sip too quickly. For this reason, I avoid giving these thick straws to children – we’ve had other choking incidents in the past so I am extra careful on this point!

When making bubble tea for my kids, I serve it to them in a small glass (the tall glasses are usually too big for them anyway) with a regular straw for sipping the tea, and a teaspoon for eating the tapioca pearls. They are completely happy with this method, especially since the spoon allows them to eat the tapioca pearls more quickly.

how to serve bubble tea for kids
{Serve bubble tea to children in a small glass with a regular straw and a teaspoon to avoid any choking hazard.}

Make-Ahead Tips

Making bubble tea at home requires a little bit of planning. The tapioca pearls need about 1 hour to prepare and, during this time, you should also brew and cool your tea.

Tapioca pearls are best served on the same day that you cook them, and generally within a few hours.

I keep the tapioca pearls in the sugar syrup at room temperature.

The longer you keep the tapioca pearls, the harder they will become (they will start to harden after about 4 hours or so). If you keep the tapioca pearls in the fridge, they will harden quickly and not be very pleasant to eat.

Indeed, if you take a long time to finish you prepared bubble tea drink, you might notice the tapioca pearls gradually harden while sitting in the cold drink, especially if you use ice.

boba tea in glass with glass bubble tea straws

More Asian Recipes

If you are looking for more Asian recipes to eat alongside your bubble tea, you might also like:

Popcorn Chicken

Steamed Bao Buns

Sticky Pork Bao Buns

Print

Homemade Bubble Tea (Boba Tea)

5 from 3 reviews

  • Resting Time: 30 mins
  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4
  • Category: Beverage
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Asian

How to make a classic Taiwanese-style Bubble Tea (Boba Tea) at home from scratch! Try this easy and delicious bubble tea recipe with step-by-step photos.

Ingredients

For the Tea

  • 4 teabags or 4 tablespoons of loose-leaf strong black tea (see Kitchen Notes for what type of tea to use)
  • OR your favourite fruit-flavoured iced tea

For the Tapioca Pearls or Boba

For the Simple Syrup

For the Bubble Tea

  • milk, to taste
  • ice, optional

Instructions

To make the tea

  1. Steep the tea bags in 1 litre (4 cups) of boiling water for about 5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. I like to do this in a large measuring jug.
  2. Let the tea cool completely.
  3. Alternatively, use your favourite fruit-flavoured iced tea.

To cook the tapioca pearls

  1. Bring the water to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Add the dried tapioca pearls.
  3. Cook the tapioca pearls on medium heat (gentle simmer) for 30 minutes. Stir frequently during this time to separate the pearls and make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Take the pan off the heat.
  5. Leave the tapioca pearls in the pan for a further 30 minutes.
  6. During this time, make the simple syrup.

To make the simple syrup

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Take the pan off the heat.
  3. Add the sugar.
  4. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Set aside to cool at room temperature.

To sweeten the tapioca pearls

  1. Drain the tapioca pearls using a large colander.
  2. Place the tapioca pearls into a large bowl.
  3. Pour the simple syrup over the tapioca pearls until they are just covered.
  4. Give everything a gentle mix.
  5. Set aside for about 15 minutes, or until the tapioca pearls have cooled to room temperature.
  6. Once cooled, the tapioca pearls are ready to use. They are best eaten within a few hours of cooking.

To assemble the Bubble Tea (Boba Tea)

  1. Use a small slotted spoon to place 2-3 tablespoons of tapioca pearls into a tall glass.
  2. Pour the tea into the glass.
  3. Add milk to taste.
  4. Add some simple syrup (from the tapioca pearls) to taste.
  5. Add ice, if using. 
  6. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Notes

WHAT TYPE OF TEA TO USE
* Bubble tea is traditionally made with a strong black tea with a distinct tannin flavour. My preference is Jasmine tea or Chinese breakfast tea, but you can also use Ceylon or Assam (or an equal blend of both). English breakfast tea is also a good option.
* For a fruit tea version, simply use a ready-made fruit-flavoured iced tea.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS
Tapioca pearls are best served on the same day they are made, and generally within a few hours. As they cool, they will harden. So if you place them in the fridge, the pearls will harden very quickly. I recommend keeping the cooked tapioca pearls in the sugar syrup at room temperature for up to 4-5 hours.

CONVERSIONS
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.

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10 comments

  1. Amy 16 September 2021

    I was so excited to see your recipe for bubble tea! I bought a packet of tapioca pearls ages ago but there were no instructions. I just cooked the pearls now and they taste great! I’m so excited. Can’t wait to prepare the tea and taste my first homemade bubble tea.

    Reply
  2. Susan Long 16 September 2021

    Omg thank you for the clear instructions on how to cook the tapioca pearls. You always make everything look so easy with your photos. I love bubble tea!

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 17 September 2021

      Hi Susan,
      Thank you for your lovely comment. Hope you will enjoy this recipe!

      Reply
  3. Dave 16 September 2021

    Saw your newsletter and decided I needed to make bubble tea asap. Great easy to follow recipe. Do you have any tips on how to make flavored iced tea? I bought some fruit flavored syrup which they sold next to the dried boba but not sure how to use them. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 17 September 2021

      Hi Dave,
      Making a fruit-flavoured iced tea it is a bit like making cordial. Brew your tea (but not too strong) and let it cool completely, and then sweeten it to taste with the fruit syrup. How much syrup you add is up to you, and some syrups are sweeter than others. My kids love lychee and passionfruit flavoured tea, so I make this at home for them sometimes when we make bubble tea. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Rebecca 16 September 2021

    What is caster sugar? Can I use brown sugar for making the syrup?

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 17 September 2021

      Hi Rebecca,
      Caster sugar is superfine white sugar. I like to use caster sugar in cooking and baking because it dissolves more quickly. If you can’t find caster sugar (or superfine sugar), normal granulated sugar is fine too. I recommend using white sugar when making the simple syrup for this bubble tea recipe to give the right kind of sweetness. But please feel free to experiment!

      Reply
  5. Love to feed people 19 September 2021

    which Asian shop in Zurich did you purchase the tapioca balls at? Or did you order them online?

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 21 September 2021

      Hello,
      You can find dried tapioca balls at the Asia Store at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, and also at Lien Hua in Wiedikon. Hope you will enjoy this recipe!

      Reply