How to make Boba tea and its variations

Bubble tea, or called Boba tea, is a milk tea with Boba pearls that is chewy and sweet. It is originally from Taiwan but is famous around the world now. It is an addictive cooling summer drink, and there are a lot of variations of the famous tea. Most tea houses in Taiwan usually offer over 30 types of flavored teas on the menu. You can also customize levels of sugar and ice for each drink. Many of these drinks can actually be prepared at home easily. We will show you a few ideas to get you started.

Bubble Tea / Boba Tea

The typical Bubble teas are made of black tea, milk and cooked Boba Tapioca pearls.

Cooking Boba pearls

You can buy Boba Tapioca pearl online or at an Asian market. There are basically two types, traditional and instant ones. If it does not say Instant on the package, it is the traditional type.

For Instant cooking Boba, just follow the direction on the package. Boil some water first, add a handful amount of Boba pearls, and cook 2-3 minutes until it floats on the top of the water. Cover and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the cover on for another 5-10 minutes, or until desired softness. When it is soft enough, transfer all pearls into cold water to prevent overcooking and sticking together.

To cook traditional Boba, boil the water first and add the Boba pearls, cook until the pearls floating on the top, turn down the heat to medium and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. This will make sure it cook through but not overcooked. Taste and see if the Boba is soft and chewy, then transfer to cold water

Every brand’s package cooks differently so you just have to taste and adjust. If you want to save time, instant one is quick and fail-proof, but the traditional Boba tastes slightly better if you cook it correctly. When it is undercooked, it tastes hard in the middle and difficult to chew; when it is over-cooked, the pearls will become too soggy and sticky.

The Boba pearls taste best in the first few hours. It turns harder after refrigeration and does not taste as good after the first day. So don’t cook too much at the same time.

Black tea and milk

You can use regular tea bags and add hot water to brew your black tea. Or bring water to boil in a pot and add tea bags. Add sugar and fresh milk when the tea is cooled down.  

Add the cooled Boba pearls in the milk tea. Add ice if you like it cold. That’s it. Drink with a thick straw or spoon for the Boba pearls.

Homemade Bubble tea variations

For a homemade Bubble tea inspired drink, you are not limited to black tea. Here are some popular teas you can use: Green tea, Oolong tea, Earl Grey tea, and of course Black tea.

You also have many choices to add to your drinks.

  1. You can replace Boba pearl with smaller Tapioca, Basil seeds, or Chia seeds. Basil or Chia seeds are very healthy alternatives. They absorb the tea and swell up quickly, giving a special texture and taste. Do not add basil or Chia seeds to hot water to preserve the nutrition. You can also take out pearls in your drink. It's all personal preference.

  2. Add fruit or herbs in your drinks. Popular ones include Lychee, Taro (cooked and blended with tea), Lemon, Ginger, Red bean, Green bean.

  3. Add toppings such as pudding, jello, Chinese herbal jelly, froth milk.

  4. Tea can also be combined with coffee, or just use coffee instead of tea. They taste wonderful too. You can also play with adding chocolate instead of coffee.

  5. To add sweetness, you can use brown sugar, honey, or rock sugar. Try to keep sweetness to a minimum so it does not cover the flavor of the tea.

Ideas for the mixed drinks

Here are some ideas of making your own mixed tea drinks that are popular in many Taiwanese tea houses.

  1. Lychee + Oolong tea. If you can not find fresh Lychee fruit, there is a dried version called “Gui Yuan” in the Asian market. “Long Yan” is a similar dried fruit. After cooking it with water, it tastes the same as fresh one. This drink tastes good either cold or hot.

  2. Green tea + milk or milk froth + Boba pearls. Green tea Latte with optional pearls.

  3. Black tea + ginger + milk + brown sugar. Great for winter time. It increases blood circulation. Especially good for females with cold hands.

  4. Taro + Black tea + milk + Boba pearls. Milk tea and cooked Taro blended together. Add Boba or Tapioca pearls.

  5. Green tea + honey + Basil seeds or Chia seeds. It makes a refreshing and healthy cool drink.

Now it is your turn to make a custom drink. Just pick your favorite tea, add pearl, fruit, herb, topping, milk and sugar. There is no wrong way to do it. Just be creative and experiment.