how to make milk tea at home

Many people are curious about how to make milk tea at home. It's easy, really! Milk is boiled in water, sugar is added, and then the mixture is cooled with ice cubes. The result is a refreshing drink perfect for summer

Have you ever wanted to learn How to Make Bubble Tea? Here you’ll find everything you need to know to make this creamy, delicious, and surprisingly simple Bubble Tea Recipe right at home.

Pouring milk into a tall glass filled with cooked tapioca pearls, strong black tea, and ice.

With shops selling this hip and trendy iced beverage on practically every street corner these days, I thought it would be fun to share everything I know about Bubble Tea with you guys.

Whether you’re new to bubble tea, or you drink it all the time, you’ll find everything you need to know about making your own bubble tea in this post.

What is Bubble Tea?

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based beverage that goes by names such as, milk tea, pearl tea, tapioca tea, boba tea, boba nai cha, foam milk tea, and several others.

Invented in the 1980s, the exact story on who invented Bubble Tea is somewhat debated, however, it is believed that Ms. Lin Hsiu Hui of the Chun Shui Tang Tea Shop in Taichung, Taiwan, came up with the drink when she randomly poured fen yuan into her iced tea during a meeting in 1988.

Fast forward three decades and this discovery of milk tea mixed with tapioca balls as evolved into hundreds of different, fun and unique bubble tea flavor combinations. Bubble tea shops are seemingly everywhere these days (I know of at least three within two miles of my house) and the color varieties, thanks to all the different flavors (like green tea, strawberry, taro, and mango!) seem to keep getting cooler and cooler.

But, for today at least, I’m going to teach you how to make bubble tea at the most basic level- strong black tea, sugar, milk, and tapioca balls. After all, I highly doubt most of us would know what to do with all the different flavors, chewy (or QQ) additives, or multiple kinds of milk. But, you can read more about the different types of bubble tea here.

What is Boba?

Boba, often synonymous with bubble tea, are actually the little black balls that sink to the bottom of your bubble tea.

Boba is made from partially cooked tapioca flour- the refined starch extracted from the cassava root. Boba is gluten-free and, in its natural state, flavorless. Loved for its chewy texture, Boba can be added to both hot and cold drinks including hot teas or smoothies.

Bag filled with Black Tapioca Pearls

Ingredients in Bubble Tea

As I mentioned above, this is bubble tea at its most basic. There are actually several reasons why I love this version more than any other-

  • It isn’t too sweet. If you’ve ever been to a bubble tea shop you may have discovered that bubble tea can get super sweet, super fast. While the first sip may taste wonderful, much more and I feel sick the rest of the day.
  • The ingredients are simple. Aside from the boba, you probably have everything else you need to make bubble tea right from the comfort of your very own home.
  • It’s ready fast. The longest part of the whole process is making the tea and waiting for it to cool.

So what are these super simple ingredients?

1 | Tea. For this bubble tea recipe, I used a simple English Breakfast Black Tea. High in caffeine (how I like it), it’s what I had on hand and it worked perfectly. Oolong tea would also work nicely, or any other robust black tea. Don’t worry about over-steeping your tea since you will be adding milk (or cream) and some sugar.

2 | Milk. I like to use whole milk or half-and-half whenever I make this bubble tea recipe. Heavy cream is too heavy and low-fat milk doesn’t quite add enough creaminess that milk tea should have. Dairy milk and creamer, or full-fat coconut milk are my top picks, but other plant-based milk alternatives (soy, almond, walnut) will work, too.

3 | Sweetener. The benefit of making bubble tea at home is that you can add as much or as little sugar as you like. The total amount will vary depending on the type of milk you use, how long you steep your tea, and, most of all, personal preference. In this recipe, I used granulated white sugar, but simple syrup, honey, or agave would also work.

4 | Ice. Of course, these days bubble tea may come either hot or cold. However, in this case, you’ll need ice. Depending on how cool your tea gets will determine how much ice you’ll need.

5 | Tapioca Pearls. Finally, Boba. This is the boba that I used to make this bubble tea recipe. It is the fast-cooking kind, which means that they don’t take over an hour to cook. In fact, they take just 5-10 minutes. There is one very important thing to note about quick-cooking tapioca pearls- do not make them ahead of time. You will notice that after just 1-2 hours that they will start to stiffen and dry out (the complete opposite effect of what we’re going for).

Bowl filled with uncooked quick-cook tapioca pearls for bubble tea.

How to make Bubble Tea

Now that we know all about bubble tea and boba and a brief history about how this unique Taiwanese drink came to be, let’s learn how to make one ourselves.

1 | Prepare the tea first.

The first thing you want to do, before you do anything else, is prepare the tea. You don’t need fancy or expensive black tea. However, you do want a very strong black tea.

To accomplish this, bring approximately 6 cups of water just to a boil. Remove from heat and add your tea bags and granulated sugar (if using). For this recipe, I added approximately 1 tablespoon of sugar per glass of bubble tea. Feel free to add more or less to suit your own personal taste and preference.

Allow your tea so steep and come to room temperature.

If you’re worried about time and you want your bubble tea as soon as possible you may either prepare the black tea ahead of time or transfer the steeping tea to the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process. That said, you want to let your tea steep for at least 15-25 minutes.

Remember strong tea is a good thing when it comes to bubble tea.

Quick-cooking black boba on a glass bowl (tapioca pearls).

2 | Prepare the Boba (tapioca pearls).

Since we’re using the quick-cooking tapioca pearls, there’s no need to make them ahead of time. In fact, you don’t want to make them ahead of time otherwise you risk them drying out and stiffening.

So, approximately 15 minutes before you plan to serve your bubble tea, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the boba and stir well to prevent them from clumping and sticking together. Allow the boba to cook for approximately 5-7 minutes.

They should be floating on the surface and super chewy.

Drain and rinse under cold water – don’t worry, they won’t fall apart. You may transfer them back to the original pot or to a clean serving bowl.

3 | Assemble your Bubble Tea.

The final part is all about assembly!

Grab four glasses (any glass will work, just make sure they’re large enough to hold approximately 2 cups or so) and divide the cooked boba between them. Fill each glass with ice and pour approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups room temperature black tea into each. Add approximately 2-3 (or more) tablespoons of milk or half-and-half to each glass and stir well to combine.

Taste for sweetness. Is it sweet enough?

I like to add a little buffer to add extra sweetener just in case. After all, it’s better to have the option to add more, as it’s pretty much impossible to take it away once you’ve added it in there.

Serve with large boba straws or long spoons.

Tips and Tricks

  • First and foremost, be safe. Tapioca balls, while fun to chew, are also a choking hazard. Especially for kids. As such, I recommend serving with both a reusable straw and a long spoon which can scoop out all those delicious boba balls.
  • This bubble tea recipe is best enjoyed as soon as possible, or, at the very least on the same day.
  • If you want an extra cold bubble tea, combine the milk, tea, and a few ice cubes (but not the boba!) in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously (like you would if you were making a cocktail) and pour into a glass filled with boba and ice. This is actually the more “traditional” way of making bubble tea (shaking, rather than stirring, that is).
  • Have fun with other teas like matcha, green tea, or Thai Tea.

Three clear glasses filled with black tea, boba, and ice.

Bubble Tea Frequently Asked Questions

1 | Is bubble tea healthy?

Unfortunately, there is no yes or no answer to this question. So, in an attempt to make things a little easier for us all, I’m going to break down the good and the bad about bubble tea (please don’t hate me).

  • The good. Tea! at least the unmolested, natural kind, like the black tea I used in this bubble tea recipe. Also good? milk and other low-sugar plant-based milk alternatives.
  • The bad. The crazy amounts of sugar. According to Livestrong, one serving “may contain as much as 1/2 cup of cooked tapioca pearls, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/8 cup sweetened condensed milk”. Many of the mixes may also contain artificial ingredients and coloring.
  • Up for debate. Tapioca pearls. I know, what?! Aside from tapioca being what is considered an “empty” source of energy, some research now claims that these tapioca pearls contain trace amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) such as styrene, acetophenone and brominated compound. You guys, as with all claims take it for what it is until it is proven 100% accurate.

As a self-proclaimed “balanced foodie” I will continue to enjoy a glass of bubble tea every once in a while. Do I recommend drinking one filled with heavy cream and sugar every single day? Probably not.

Common sense.

2 | What is popping boba?

Popping Boba is completely different from traditional Boba. Popping Boba, unlike traditional boba, is NOT made from tapioca.

Instead, popping boba is made using a process that uses sodium alginate and either calcium chloride or calcium glucate lactate to shape a liquid into squishy spheres. This process is known as Spherification and the result squishy spheres that result look like roe (fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries).

Ingredients for passion fruit popping boba (as an example) include water, sugar, passion fruit juice, calcium lactate, seaweed extract, malic acid, FD&C yellow, passion fruit flavor, potassium sorbate.

3 | Where can I buy Boba?

I purchased the tapioca pearls used in this bubble tea recipe on Amazon, but you will also find it in most Asian supermarkets.

Milk being poured into a glass of bubble tea.

If you try making this Bubble Tea Recip, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.

For more Asian-inspired recipes check out,

  • Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
  • 10 Minute Garlic Bok Choy Recipe << reader favorite!
  • Sesame Ginger Shrimp Bowls with Asian Chopped Greens
  • Easy Korean Beef Bibimbap Recipe (Mixed Rice)
  • Ginger Garlic Noodle Soup with Bok Choy (Bok Choy Soup)
  • Kimchi Ramen Noodle Soup
  • Bulgogi Korean BBQ Beef Lettuce Wraps


Three glasses filled with bubble tea made with black tea and half-and-half



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